The one thing I didn't expect growing up was how often I needed to unlearn toxic thinking. When I think back to my childhood, I picture a slow-motion video of me running past the camera. I have the biggest smile on my face, and the sunlight glimmers through the trees and casts a soft golden hue on me. Instrumental music plays as I turn to face the figures in the background, my hair whipping around my face, everything still in slow motion. These people are just blurred in my mind, but I know in my heart they're the face of friends and family. I picture my childhood as naive innocence.
Fast-forward to today, and my slow-motion video is not so pure and innocent anymore. I grew up. The more I learned how difficult life is, the less enthusiasm my smile held. I run past the camera not in youthful joy but rather with unbridled confusion. You can no longer see the sunlight because everything is encased in shades of black, white, and gray. My music turned chaotic, matching the beat of my thoughts in my head. My blurry figures are friends and family, still, but sometimes they're out of reach. Sometimes they fade away, even if I don't want them to. This is what it feels like to grow up and learn that all the beautiful things you believed in as a child are not always true.
Here's a cold hard truth that I had both the blessing and curse to learn: love does not, in fact, fix everything.
Out of all the harsh realities I had to face growing up, this was the most difficult to accept. I have written about love a dozen or so times, so it is safe to say I am a big fan of it. I was an avid reader growing up, and I practically lived on romance stories where someone's love triumphs over every obstacle. Her love soothes the anger in his heart and wipes away the years of abuse. His touch clears away the skies of depression. She swears she can never love, that she is too damaged. He gives her his heart and suddenly she has never seen such a beautiful soul. That sort of thing.
I am a soft person. I feel things deeply. I enjoy hearing people's stories and unraveling the strings that tie them together. I would smother my friends in love and affection if they let me because I want everyone to be happy, even if I am not.
But this is where that cold hard truth comes into play. I cannot heal a person's anguish because I love and care for them, and no one can heal me either. Love cannot fix people. I cannot love away someone's mental illness or destructive behavior, no matter how much support and comfort I offer. I cannot change someone into a better version of themselves.
As much as I hate to admit it, this need to give love to everybody sometimes becomes my biggest flaw. I may not consciously think to myself "I will fix this person with love," but my actions say it all. I forgive people who do not deserve it, and I brush off too many things that hurt me. I make them gifts for no reason just because I want them to have something special, though I may be nothing but a silhouette in the background of their life.
Right now life just feels like one big learning lesson after the other. This realization about love is only one of many I am bound to have in the future. I know that despite how disheartening they are, they will benefit me in the future. I know everything feels chaotic at this age, so I am just trying to find my way back to the happy-go-lucky girl I once was.