Having just began reading Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love, I’ve began to wonder, what do I know about love? At 22, one would think you know at least an amount enough to write about it, but what is love? How do I define it and how is that completely different to how anyone else would? When you first fall in love, you think that’s it and you have life all figured out. You get a boyfriend at 17, which is just the right age to be called ‘teenage sweethearts’ without verging on being that couple-that-are-just-together-because-they-always-have-been. You embark (foolishly) into a life that centres around your partner. You make a conscious effort not to become too centred though, or then you’ll be known as that couple that have no friends. Love, it seems, is a projection of what you think society wants it to be - the first-time round, anyway. But then, this love you thought would last forever, doesn’t. And the person you thought you would be with forever, isn’t. And that’s when you move on to the next chapter of your life. Heartbreak is undoubtedly one of the few things in life that truly shapes a person. Without heartbreak, you will never reach your full potential. It’s an experience that catapults you from what you thought you were and what you thought you should be to who you are and what you should be. You mature in ways you could never imagine. you stop becoming a people pleaser and begin pleasing yourself. And the most peculiar thing about this is, you will become the envy of who you used to be. She would look at you and dream of living her life in the way you do. People will leave your life. Friends will become foes because they do not like the shift in self you have had. You would wade through the negativity of these people like wading through molasses in a pair of flip flops. Something you thought was normal, suddenly becomes something you never want to associate with, and so does your first love. Your first love shows you what you want; what you don’t; things you like in a partner; things you don’t. They teach you love that the love little girls are programmed to want, exists. But what they also show you is that this programming should never have been there in the first place. I come from a divorced family, so love, in partnership form, was something I convinced myself I absolutely needed to have. I longed for it. Because my parents love didn’t last forever, I presumed it was never there in the first place. Of course, through the demise of my own first love I found this to be untrue. Just because it doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it was never true. They teach you how to love in such a way that your world seems to never be the same – and it isn’t. You may look back in a few years and think it wasn’t really love because of what you now experience. The truth is, it was true love. It was love for what you knew it to be and for what you needed at that time in your life. For that you are eternally grateful. And honestly, your first love gives you a shitload to write about. Without love, would there be any story to tell – ever? It makes the world go around, or mine at least.
After your first love, you start to begin a quest for your second love. Although, I don’t think it should be defined as love. You find, what I have decided to define as, your limbo-loves. Those ones where you sort of convince yourself that they are great because its sex, attention and inconsistent replies, and isn’t that what every girl just dreams of – not. You’re searching for what you had with your first love (and failing, miserably). These are hard ones, and ones where you might get hurt. They teach us lessons we need to learn. They teach us about betrayal, about drama, and they teach us that not everyone will have the same heart as you. We grow the most with our limbo-loves. We now know when to become closed, careful, cautious and considerate (something I have always struggled with as I’m very much a heart-on-my-sleeve type of gal). Potentials that were never right for you, but you became attached to nonetheless because in this desperate time in love-limbo, you were working on a love that you never had before – a love for yourself. I think being in love with someone can sometimes make us a bit insecure. I was single for a good year and a half, and I can hand on heart say that it was the most formative of my life. Even though we indulge in these limbo-loves, we aren’t completely invested in them, or at least I wasn’t. I was too busy figuring out who I was and what I truly wanted out of life. I was working on my insecurities and becoming single was probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. I feel like perhaps your first love stunts your self-love a little. You’re far too invested in the other person to realise that you don’t even know yourself all that well. I digress, but something that really rung true with Dolly’s analogy of love was the love that we have for our friends. Partners may come and go, but what we often forget is who stays during these times to pick you up and wipe your tears, and that’s your friends. People who are with you no matter what, in sickness and in health, quite literally until death do you part. They’re the ones who hold you up during your darkest hours, celebrate your achievements as if they were their own, and who gets so drunk with you that you all wake up with a skyrocketing level of impending doom – that’s the truest form of love. You pick your friends, and if you’re lucky, you’ll pick them well and wind up having love to last a lifetime.
I don’t really think that your third love could be counted as third, it’s more like your second real shot at love. I read something once that your second love is better than the first because they teach you that you are capable of loving again. Your third love will come blindly, when you’re least expecting it, and probably with someone you least expect. I never went looking for my third love, and maybe that’s why I finally got it right. My new year’s resolution this year was to stop pursuing love and be totally single. Well, that clearly didn’t work out because what did I do straight after the Hogmanay bells chimed? Got talking to who is now my third love. In this third love, you now know who you are and have absolutely no intentions of changing. You can put up any wall, and they will break it down. You care about them, and it comes naturally. You hide absolutely nothing from them, and they hide nothing from you. And never once do you doubt their intentions with your heart. You love them in such a way that you doubt you could’ve ever actually been in love before. You truly love them for everything they are, and they love you truly the same in return. It’s actually one I find hard to explain in words, because like the true love I have with my friends, it just feels so natural that there isn’t much else to say about it. It’s sort of just there and feels like it always has been.
Sometimes, I think life is simple. That we should make choices and then never look back on them. But then, I think reflection is important. It is important to understand what has happened in our lives; what’s went right; what’s went wrong – and how you grow from that. Like life, when love is right, it too is simple. Love shouldn’t be a complicated thing to talk about. True and unconditional love comes with no complications. I realise this all sounds a bit outlandish because at 22 I’ve scarcely lived. What I know about love, thus far, is that love comes in many forms and it may come and go. But love is above all else in life and I need it as much as I need the air I breathe. It’s taken some time, but I finally love myself for exactly who I am, and that, is exactly what makes loving easy.