Love can make a fool out of all of us - can leave us winded, heartbroken, and hesitant to move forward with other relationships whether platonic or romantic. Love is both euphoric and completely devastating in more ways than can be counted. Many people make decisions based on their feelings for another person and it can quickly become a tragedy that hits you in the gut and leaves you breathless.
I loved a boy through most of my high school years. It was a kind of love that felt like it was constantly suffocating me and leaving me with nothing but my skin and bones. It left me with puffy eyes, runny noses, and a grief so strong it almost resembled mourning. The love I felt for him hurt me more than it soothed me and I fell deeply in love with him.
I gave up a lot for him, even though he never asked of it. I gave up my morals, my dignity, my damn sanity...he was infiltrating every blood vessel and cell in my crumbling body and convinced me he was filling the cracks and keeping me standing.
But, the hard reality is that he wasn't. He considered me a friend, a dear one at that, but he also saw me for my sexual potential and used it to his advantage. Now, let me be clear in saying that everything we did together was completely consensual. He broke my heart in other ways, in ways I will never be able to forgive him for. He shattered a 19-year-old, tenderhearted person who was completely and tragically in love with him - and he knew it.
I did anything he asked because I wanted him to feel for me the way that I did for him, but I've come to realize that you can't force people to love you. Forced love is never worth it and will always come back to haunt you. And his presence in my life still haunts me years later.
He was supposed to be my everything, and for a while, he was. I was infatuated with him and it was borderline obsessive. The love I had for him was not healthy and was toxic for both of us, I assume. I saw him in my present, in my future, in my life. I saw myself marrying him, giving him children even though I never held the desire for them, and growing old with him. Most of all, I saw myself loving him for the rest of my life. I convinced myself that one day, loving him wouldn't hurt anymore and he'd be able to love me back.
I was wrong, though, and when we parted ways, the weight of our friendship ending because of a betrayal hung over me and forced me to think about it every moment I could. I lost my ability to trust others, and I found myself recklessly trying to be intimate with anyone who would let me simply because I wanted to feel something. Anything was better than nothing. Anything was better than the constant heartache and sadness.
I could never bring myself to go far with other people after him because I felt vile. I felt disgusting and worthless for being intimate with him in the first place. I regretted it, and I still do, because I swore off of love and intimacy with others in an attempt to stop being destructive to myself. I swore off marriage. I swore off affection. I swore off the chance to let myself live and connect with others.
At the end of it all…I swore off happiness.
My trust issues were so bad that I found it hard to let people in and I especially found it hard to put trust in myself to have my best interest at heart. I was miserable and suffering. I was grieving a fantasy I had created for myself, and I was grieving the loss of a friendship.
And then…they walked into my life.
They took me by surprise, but not at first. They had walked into my support group for LGBTQ+ folks on Eastern Michigan University's campus and sat down next to me.
We didn't say a word to each other.
I was too quiet, too shy, and too angry about my identities to properly speak in the support group for the first few meetings.
I don't remember much about my time in the support group. I have an awful memory and often experience lapses in my own timeline, but I distinctly remember their laugh. I remember when they first caught my eye - when they walked in with a shaved head and a smile that could outshine the sun.
I knew that smile. I had experienced it a couple of times when I cut my hair. The relief, the happiness… the feeling of taking my life back with some form of control. Cutting my hair gave me the chance to start fresh - to let go of some of the weight that was burdening my fragile shoulders.
I saw myself in them, and it was heartwarming. It was gentle and it was sweet and it was the first time a smile made my heart rate speed up.
The support group came and went, but I saw them in one of my winter classes and, once again, we sat next to each other. Our relationship grew from there and we spent more one-on-one time together.
I don't know when it happened, but it happened suddenly. It was out of my control and at first, I wanted nothing to do with my feelings of affection for them. They were going through an awful breakup and I was still hesitant and terrified.
But, this type of feeling was different. It was soft, lukewarm, and made me feel good about myself. In many ways, it still does. Being with them feels good, it feels right. They don't expect anything out of me, and I don't expect anything from them. The love I feel isn't like the ones I've felt before; I don't feel like I'm suffocating under the weight of my emotions and I don't feel like my chest is caving in when I look at them.
I grew up knowing love as burning, as abusive, as deadly, and as painful. I was under the impression that I was destined for that kind of love, that I'd grow up and find someone and then spend our lives hurting each other. But, I was wrong. I was so wrong and I had never felt better being wrong.
I don't know where this will go, in all honesty. I don't know anything, but I'm finally content with that knowledge. I'm happy spending my time with them and feeling loved when they're around. I know that I don't want it to stop, though, and that I've never felt this happy with someone.