When I was a junior in high school, my french teacher had us read Le Petit Prince. Even though it's a children's book, the entire story is filled with really valuable lessons (leading me to believe either French children have the emotional maturity light years beyond their actual), but the one lesson in the box that really stuck out to me was when the little Prince befriended a fox. The little boy didn't want to befriend the fox because he knew he wasn't staying in one place for long, but the fox told him how important it was to make real, genuine connections even if it means getting hurt. The fox said:
"Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become present, means accepting the risk of absence.”
As an angsty seventeen year old, reading this really affected me. At this point of my life I didn't have an rock-solid relationships outside of the ones in my family. I didn't put my trust into anyone because I was so scared to care about someone to the point that they could hurt me. I kept all of my friendships at arms-length.
I was more concerned about maintaining a certain control over my feelings then I was about making genuine relationships that I could rely on. The idea of giving someone the power to hurt me terrified me.
But I wanted to be like that fox in the book. I wanted to love people without the fear of them leaving. I didn't want to be held back by my fear of relying on someone else. So I made a conscious effort to let go of the thoughts that held me back. I made myself promise that I would put faith in other people to not hurt me, and even if they did, at least I was allowing myself to be emotionally open.
Then I made some really good friends. Like really, really good friends. They were kind, fun and put up with all my quirky habits. I didn't have to think about everything I did and said when I was with them, and every time we hung out, I left with a smile on my face. It was the first time in a long time that I wasn't scared to admit I really, really cared about someone (or in this case, multiple people). And three years later, they're still some of my best friends.
Since I started allowing myself to love with my whole darn heart, I've been a lot happier. I have really great friends both at home and at college. I have friends I know I can rely on and trust. I'm able to tell someone I love and care about them without being scared they don't feel the same way about me.
I'm not scared of being hurt. Yes, I've been hurt. Yes, I've cared about people who didn't give me that same care in return. But I've survived, and if anything, it made me realize how great it is that I'm so loving and open to others.
I used to think caring about a someone "too much" would leave me feeling vulnerable and weak, but now that I care and love people as much as I want, I've never felt more free. If I had one thing to say to seventeen year old me, I'd let her know the fox was right; making genuine connections is always worth it.