Accept that people you love are going to leave you. Sometimes intentionally. Sometimes unintentionally. Accepting it doesn’t mean you’re not terrified at the very idea. It just means you’d rather love them and lose them and let your heart be torn out, as opposed to never knowing them at all.
Sometimes we love people romantically and they don’t love us back. Sometimes we love people romantically and they do love us back, and it’s even more terrifying than if they didn’t. Because now your love has a chance to grow and flourish and become even stronger. Which means it’ll only hurt that much more if you lose them.
Often we love parents and grandparents and siblings and mentors and teachers and friends, and they have to leave us too, to go onto another place that we don’t quite understand yet. A place we will never be able to comprehend or imagine until we go there ourselves. Going isn’t the scary part. It’s the being left behind that makes you feel so vulnerable. It’s being left behind with an empty space in your heart that’s so painful and gut-wrenching.
Being vulnerable means putting yourself out there – to be judged or critiqued or observed or talked about or laughed at. But most of all, being vulnerable means opening yourself up to the risk of being hurt.
It hurts to apply for a new job and to get turned down, over and over and over again. It hurts to try a new creative venture and open yourself up to the criticisms of those sitting in the audience. It hurts to admit you want something, and then to go after it with the chance of failing, while everyone around you is watching.
But more than all that, it hurts to love someone, knowing that you could lose them at any moment. It’s scary and frightening and sometimes you can’t help but obsess over it.
You don’t want to be vulnerable, but you also don’t want to live your life without them, just because you’re afraid of getting your heart stepped on or crushed or torn apart.
At some point you just have to accept that you can’t really be happy unless you’re vulnerable too. If you’re going to open your heart up to love you also have to open your heart up to pain.
And the older you get, the scarier it gets. Because people do start leaving you more often. Grandparents pass away and parents get older and mentors get sick. Death can happen at any time. But it seems to come more often as you become an adult.
Heartbreak is the same way. You’re devastated when your one-month relationship ends in middle school, but you get over it eventually. Your friends write you funny notes and they bash your ex and you move onto the next person. But as you get older your feelings for someone get a lot deeper a lot faster. You’ve lived more and experienced more and so have they. It becomes harder to bounce back after things end, especially because you feel like they now have a permanent piece of you that you can never have back.
There’s no life lesson here. There’s no way to protect yourself and there’s no way to keep from being vulnerable. It will happen no matter how much you fight it. You will be hurt no matter how much you try to plan around it. The only thing you can do is to give in to your vulnerability completely. Let yourself try things and open yourself up to new experiences and, most of all, let yourself feel things. Because if you’re going to get hurt anyway, you might as well enjoy yourself along the way.