I've always been obsessed with reading. When I was little, I would read book after book, taking in one fantasy world after another. Not much changed as I grew older. I continued to read everything I could get my hands on, and I loved every minute of every story.
One of the many cliches that stuck with me through almost every single story had to do with romantic endings. The protagonist wins the love of their life, a perfect kiss comes after a perfect date, the "big" fight is resolved in their singsong relationship, and they live happily ever after. Maybe I was naive and young to fill my head with fantasies of my own Knight in Shining Armor.
I was never the girl who dated in middle school or junior high. I had too much to do, I was surrounded by my friends, and I had my books—I didn't need anyone else. In high school, though, it started to bother me. Why wasn't I getting asked out like everyone else? Why was I the only person in my friend group who hadn't been kissed, who went to the dances alone, who pretended like it was totally fine? I found myself wondering why I wasn't smart or pretty enough, wondering if I was too fat or too outspoken and opinionated for anyone to ever come and sweep me off my feet.
I'm still learning that none of that is true, and I work to convince myself of it every day. I still do not understand why it all happened like that, why I never had a relationship in high school, why I never had those "high school moments" that were supposed to shape me and prepare me for the big, wide world that is college.
When I got to college, nothing changed. I was still the one who was alone in my friend group. When we went to social events, they all got hit on while I stood in the back against the wall trying not to bring the group down. I didn't get it. I still don't, if I am being entirely honest.
I look around at my world and see all the dating apps, all the social media statuses, every single way of having a "relationship," but in every single instance...the intimacy and honesty of dating seem to be missing.
Is romance really dead or am I still stuck in my books? I know now that I don't need a knight to rescue me—I am perfectly capable of saving myself, thank you very much—and I certainly do not have to be in a relationship in order to define my worth or my identity. Even through this recently acquired self-assurance and confidence, I still question the world and what a relationship really means anymore.
Is it about the likes on your new profile picture together? If they Snapchat you every single day? Is a relationship about compatibility or convenience? Does it have to be all about the sex? If that's what you want, then power to you! But why does that have to be the new default box to check when we enter a room full of strangers, of potential partners?
It is not that I really think romance is dead—not entirely, at least. I see it in my parents and in the little things that they do for each other. From my friends in healthy relationships who talk about the late night talks and the sweet nothings that mean absolutely everything. Romance is still out there; it's just really hard to find.
I go through my life, living how I want to live. I will never allow someone else to determine who I am to love or how and when I am to do it. I will stay here waiting for the one to come along who sees the world as I do. We don't all need expensive dinners or fancy clothes or for our latest Instagram photo together to reach 300 likes. Just sit on the roof and watch as the stars go by. Watch a movie together and watch the movie. Nothing more. Laugh at your mistakes and do silly things at 2 AM in Walmart just because you're young and wild and reckless.
Romance has changed as we have changed, and maybe it has many more definitions than it once did. It might be for the better or for the worse, depending on who you ask. Either way, let it live on and do not settle for less. Get what you want, and do not let anyone keep you from reaching it. Find your happily ever after on your own terms. You can slay your own dragons, and you can find someone who will gladly stand behind you while you do. You deserve happiness. Don't let our world take that away.