It was 2001 and I was eleven years old, when I first fell in love. Or whatever you want to call it at that age. His name was Peter T and he was everything I’d ever envisioned falling for. That is, after seeing the back of his head 500 metres away across the school oval. But who needed to see the front of someone’s face, when their soul had already percolated through yours? He was the Nick Carter clone-of-my-dreams and I knew It was meant to be…until it wasn’t.
You see, Peter T and I – we came from different worlds. For one, he was sixteen going on seventeen. For two, I was just entering secondary school and clearly living in delusions of grandeur. I did what any self-respecting eleven-year-old would do: I serenaded (poor) Peter with sheets and sheets of paper, stained with my deepest feelings and written eloquently upon the only stationary I had access to back then. That’s right, it was scented Disney Princess paper and it was hella expensive too. Alongside these letters (the envelopes also had princesses on them), I’d present a teddy bear from my personal collection. Okay fine, I stole them from my Dad’s study where he had 200 bears all wearing t-shirts with the name of the bank he was working for at the time. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.
Alas, unsurprisingly to no one but me, Peter and I never worked out. I moved countries and he probably moved to get a court order. I spent the next year delicately writing a book of poetry in honour of my first ever heartbreak and entitled it: ‘The Flow of Truth’. A rather unfortunate name for a young girl to have as the title of her book as she approaches puberty. Still, over 70 poems across the year later, it was printed. If there was anything great that ever came out of this story, it was that my grandfather had a copy of that same book kept under his mattress with pride, every day until the day he passed. He’d truly believed in me, just as I’d truly believed in the feels I’d had for Peter T.
Since then, I’ve had many and more brushes with both love and lack thereof. Some have been nothing short of pure elation and joy, and others have left me weak at the knees for all the wrong reasons. As we reflect on all things mindfulness this month, I’ve been taking some time out to unpack what each of those stories and moments have meant and marked in me so far.
Here’s thirty lessons I’ve uncovered for myself by thirty, about love and heartbreak:
1. You’re going to love who you love. Even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, you will. And then you’re probably going to lie a lot about why you like them and hide things, but it’s fine. You’ll learn.
2. You will mistake infatuation and obsession for love, more than once. This includes even when you know better. It also includes even when you don’t want to.
3. Unrequited love feels much more comfortable than a stable one when you haven’t worked on yourself. It’s not ‘the chase’ if that’s all you’re doing, sweetie.
4. Admitting your feelings will seem like the scariest thing in the world – until you do. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Think of it like Zumba.
5. Changing yourself for anyone but yourself, is a total and complete waste of time. I’ve been there and done this one, one too many times. There’s no amount of weight you can lose or bands you can pretend to like that’ll keep someone there. It’s either a fit or it isn’t.
6. Speaking of: quit fearing rejection. This is a really easy one to type, but a really hard one to actually live through. I used to be the kind of person who would’ve rather swallowed a sword whole, than hear someone say they didn’t like me the same way. But then one day, I told them and they didn’t. Did it hurt? Hell yes. But let me tell you – nothing hurts worse than delayed disappointment. Rip that bandaid, heal that wound.
7. Your identity and value are not determined by the amount of people OR specific person who wants to date you. No but really, I never got this, until I did. Unless you’re showing up all kinds of messy, you don’t need to have an existential crisis every time someone chooses not to be with you. You choose you, not them.
8. You will meet a ‘great love’ and it may not work out. Unlike Carrie or Charlotte, I don’t think we only get three ‘great loves’ (better not, otherwise I’ve used up my quota), but I do know that at times, they don’t work out. It’ll be really magical and whimsical too, but it doesn’t mean it’s yours to keep forever. I’ve learned it’s best to enjoy those moments as they come, rather than try and forcefully bottle them into a package to keep for later. You can’t catch sand and you can’t keep a lover that wants to go.
9. Don’t settle for something that doesn’t feel real. Real doesn’t mean perfect, just the way in which you need.
10. You will fall for just words, when you never expect actions. When someone cares about you, they will do, not just say. I once had a guy take a 6-hour train in a snowstorm to come see me for a night on my birthday. He also broke my heart after that, but you get the point.
11. Nothing kills a relationship faster than ‘the potential’. I could’ve been with Peter T (literally never would’ve happened), but I’m not. Living in the hope that it might, won’t suddenly make it happen. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…but did ya? Nope, then keep it movin’.
12. Being single can suck at times, but be amazing during others. Do I want to eat alone every day and have no one buy me nice things? No. Do I also love the freedom of doing whatever I want? Yes. Always.
13. Self-work will change your life. Do the therapy or at the very least, read a book. You can literally Google your attachment style. If I say the words ‘MBTI’ and you say ‘I didn’t go to that University’, please swipe left even if you’re standing in front of me in real life.
14. On that note, no one is coming to save you. Help you? Yes. Save you? No.
15. It’s okay to want what you want. I spent many years forcing myself to quicken the pace of relationships or bend to the needs of others. If you don’t like a grey area? Don’t settle for one. If you don’t want to rush things? Take it slow. You don’t have to feel guilty for owning what you want.
16. If they want to, they will stay. We’ve all read the Instagram quotes about how the people in your life who want to be there, will find a way to be there and those who don’t, will find a way to leave? Turns out R.M. Drake is quite the psychic, because this couldn’t be truer. It’s easy to doubt this one. I know I have. But when you do, look around at the people who could’ve gone from your life that didn’t. If they could stay, so can the love of your life. And they will.
17. Good people can also do toxic things. Bad people can and will do toxic things, but the point is – not everyone is a narcissist or a sociopath or a terrible person. Some people just make a lot of mistakes. Does that mean you need to stick around to hurt from their mistakes? No. You go make your own, thanks.
18. It’s totally fine to want to work on a relationship rather than walk away. We’re a little obsessed with only having the ‘best’ in our modern millennial culture. Relationships don’t have formulas and sometimes they need work. It’s okay to want to stay and fix things, as long as they’re not hurting you further.
19. Listen to your gut. It’s telling you what’s up. Or at least listen to your best friend, who literally cannot say the same thing any more times before you still don’t get it.
20. It doesn’t mean it’s the ‘wrong’ relationship if you have to have the ‘what are we?’ talk. I don’t know who magically decided one day, that when you meet the ‘right’ person, you’ll never need to talk about anything or discuss what any of your feelings mean because it’ll just feel ‘right’. There’s is no right or wrong, only what works for you. Don’t delay asking where you stand because you’re convincing yourself that ‘you’ll just know’. Sometimes, you won’t. So, open your mouth, say the words.
21. The words ‘I love you’ aren’t as life-altering as you think they are. Hollywood will have you believing this little phrase can undo your entire being, but really, it’s not that hard to say when you actually do love someone. Like Rachel said on F.R.I.E.N.D.S – who doesn’t like hearing this?!
22. Finding love can feel hopeless at times. But it’s really not. The more you give to yourself and stick to what you know you want, the more the Universe will conspire to bring it towards you. Just gotta keep the faith.
23. There are some heartbreaks that you feel you’ll never heal from. There will always be people we meet that leave not just a mark, but a permanent tattoo on our hearts. They’ll be the ones that we sob for, crave for, hurt for and wish for – in ways we’ve never desired anyone else. But the thing to remember is, much like the tattoo one gets when inebriated after a night out on holiday, we may not ever be able to erase their imprint. BUT, we can slowly learn to accept this and cover it up with a sweater.
24. You won’t always feel relief or celebration at the end of a relationship that wasn’t good for you. This one is a little heavy, but hey, heartbreak is messy business. Sometimes we know certain situations or people just aren’t feeling right any more, but you loved them once and it’s okay to want to hold on to a part of that. As long as it’s not hurting you to do so, you’re allowed to let go on your own terms.
25. You WILL drunk-text your past loves / exes. It’s death, taxes and drunk-texting someone you’ve had the feels for. They’re truly the three constants and guarantees in life. Sometimes you may also drunk-text your therapist after messaging your ex. There is no shame in either. Although, there is often more tequila than wine involved in one than the other.
26. Dating apps will make you think there are a billion options out there. But then you swipe left on the same Patrick, with the fish photo, and the New York Times rating in his bio like, fifty-thousand times – only to get hit with ‘there are no more matches in your area’. Come on algorithm, work with us here.
27. Many (if not most) people will not know how to date, much less date you. I once had a guy show up to a date and rap an entire song to the tune of ‘Bananas in Pyjamas’ whilst standing on the bar. True story. True trauma.
28. You can still meet people the ‘old-fashioned’ way. Just go sit in a bar and wait for a handsome stranger. Also just note, that person might be hot, but kind of murder-y. Or Instagram. That’s an old app now right?
29. You only need one. Much like a cast iron skillet, you only need to find the right one, once. That one person who gets it, who gives it, who feels it, who connects it, who wants it and who shows up the way you need them to. It just takes one.
30. There is no greater feeling on earth than love. Including with yourself. It’s the most selfless, warm, fuzzy, pure feeling and the more of it you emit, the greater the return it’ll always draw back towards you. The best part? It’s free and you can access it any and as many times as you want. Just give it, to get it.
Et fin. Now I think it’s time for me to get started on my next book of poetry…
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