I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once”
– John Greene
At 27 years old, I’ve been in my fair share of relationships. I did the High School thing; can’t live without your boyfriend or you will just die without him, yet the next minute you hate him and never want to talk to him again. Yeah, I stayed in that phase for six years. After I finally shook free of that mess, I found another type of relationship. One that is just as destructive but in a less obvious way. I found myself a man who would do anything for me. I know that sounds like every girl’s dream but, as I soon found out, that can become very dangerous. I literally could do no wrong in his eyes, there were no consequences to my actions. I saw myself becoming a monster, someone I didn’t recognize. I was selfish and uncaring because I knew that no matter what I did or said, there was no way he was leaving me. Thankfully, I realized what a disastrous path I was headed down and ended the relationship after three years of destructive behavior (on my part). I feel sorry for the way I treated that man, who was a very good person, and I have to live with that shame.
Then, I found him.
After that failed attempt at a relationship, I tumbled through life with men whom I spent fleeting, meaningless moments. I finally found something to ground me and it was in the last place I expected. I became a manager at a popular retail store soon after college graduation. The managerial staff at this company is generally very young. I think the median age of my co-managers was 23 and we managed employees from age 17+. There was one employee in particular whom I enjoyed talking with during my shifts because he seemed like someone I could rely on. He always worked hard and offered the managers help wherever we needed. He wasn’t the most skilled worker but he soon became one of my go-to associates to the other manager’s bewilderment. His name was Ryan.
During this time, I wasn’t attracted to him in a romantic way but I did tell him everything that was going on in my life and he told me what was going on in his. This is where we made our connection. After months of working together, subtle flirtations and running innocent errands together, I invited him out to lunch. Honestly, I meant it to be a friendly lunch but of course these things have a way of escalating, don’t they? Our lunch ended up turning into a movie date running late into the evening. During the movie, I became aware of a closeness between us. Something I hadn’t planned on feeling, something that had been developing for weeks, was finally making it’s way to the surface. I remember as I looked up at him, my heart was racing and I was afraid that taking our relationship any further would cost me our friendship. As he leaned down to kiss me I hade to make a split second decision, to let this happen or to stop it. My heart won and as our lips touched, I felt electricity run throughout my entire body. The kiss was exciting and new but at the same time familiar, as if something deep inside knew that this man was what I needed all along.
With Ryan, I feel like I finally understand what it is to be in love. I believe people when they say, “you’ll know it when you feel it.” There is something about having a connection to another person that nobody but you two could possibly understand. Love is not selfish. Love is not about making yourself happy all the time, love is about learning to make each other happy. Love allows you to know your worth and the worth of others. Love is about being better because you want to be better for your partner. I’ve learned all of this by allowing myself to love and be loved by a wonderful human being. He teaches me the beauty in adversity and the value of perseverance. Most of all, he has helped me grow up. Together we are navigating the exciting world of love and relationships and what we have come to realize is that you never know where you will find the one you are meant for. It comes as a surprise and often where you least expect it.