I remember the first time I said, "I love you." The word 'love', in this particular context, was a romantic kind---an unconditional, uncontrollable kind. I said it when I was seventeen years old to my boyfriend at the time. I said it because I thought it was real. I said it before I even knew what it meant. A good friend of mine asked me the other day, "How do you know you didn't mean it? I asked you this because you seemed to really like him." It's true. I did like him, but we had only dated for three months. Yes, we've been good friends for a whole year; however, it still didn't feel right. I know people always say that these things vary by circumstance, but knowing me at the time, I was too young, too naive. I was incapable of understanding the significance of such a term. Lack of experience, I like to call it. So why did I even say it in the first place? The answer to that is this: at the time, it felt right. It felt effortless. If anything, it kind of just slipped. Looking back, I can say with great confidence that I had no idea what I was talking about. That's not to say that I didn't take what we had seriously because I did. Everything that we experienced consumed me in such a way that every memory of us brought back some sort of emotion, tears, etc. But it has been a long time, my friend.
Initially, I spent a couple of months missing what I had lost. But a great amount of time and reflection has allowed me to realize how much I've gained from that experience. If anything, I learned that in life, one of the best things to do is to simply Frozen it and "let it go." Let go of what brings more tears than happiness. Let go of someone who no longer challenges you. Let go of something that no longer serves you. Let go when that piece of puzzle no longer feels right. I'll tell you this. All of these revelations has also allowed me to devote more of my time to one of my favorite types of love: self-love.
I've been working out endlessly. Seeing the results on my body is just a fine testament of hard work and consistency. I've been going out with my girl and guy friends every weekend. I've danced on tables, traveled, fallen in lust, and soaked in all of the beauty that comes with being completely committed to myself. I am everything I've always wanted to be and every day takes me one step closer to the person I know I'm capable of being. This is what enjoying my twenties is all about. Meeting new people, getting to know them, and seeing what I like and what I don't. Luckily, it doesn't take me long to figure out who I want to keep in my crazy world. It's the people who are unapologetically themselves. It is the people who brings out the best in me, even when I don't feel up to par.
Having said, I have had someone in my life and my best friend just brought it up to my attention that this person is a few weeks shy away from the half year mark. Wow, time really does fly, doesn't it? But up until this point, everything has been pretty relaxing. No expectations, no stress, no pressure. It is probably one of the more carefree aspects of my life. That is until this past week when he dropped the L bomb on me. I remember hearing it in person that evening, but completely dismissed the idea until I read those words out loud later that night. "Thanks for visiting me, baby. I love you <3"
I completely freaked out. "What am I supposed to do now?" I thought to myself. The old me would have immediately replied back out of courtesy with an "I love you too." However, I'm not bound to have history repeat itself; especially when I know better. In the words of Steven Denn, "You can never make the same mistake twice because the second time you make it, it's not a mistake. It's a choice." What we have at the moment is good, but it's platonic. No more, no less. So that night, I decided to do what I felt was the right thing to do and wished him a good night. He's a smart man. I knew right away that the simplicity of my message spoke for itself.
As I continue to embark on my journey of self-love, I've learned that I am incapable of letting anyone else in until I am happy with all of me. The good and the ugly. While it does upset me to know that I've probably hurt someone else's feelings, I do believe that honesty is the best option here. And it's no secret. I'm selfish. There are still places I want to see, things I want do, people I want to meet. I want to hear people's stories. I want to grow with them. The list goes on. And when the time comes (most likely in a couple of years), I'll say those three words to the man who brings out that very best possible version of myself. Until then, 'like' will have to suffice.