When you were young, the boy on the playground was your everything. You spent hours rehearsing words in your head just to say hello. You blushed bright pink when the two of you made eyes. When he was your partner in science class, you kept having to wipe your hands on your skirt so they wouldn’t get all sweaty. He made your heart jump wildly, unexplainably—even so young, you could feel love in your bones.
When you were young, she was your world. You picked all the prettiest dandelions to give her at recess. You shared the last apple slice from your lunchbox just to see her smile. You mustered up all your pubescent courage to ask for her number, hoping, praying, wishing on every single start that she would send you a text. You spent all your money just to take her to a fancy dinner on her birthday.
When you were young, love was inherent and infinite.
You believed in it without questioning, without wondering, without doubting or hesitating or thinking about whether or not you would get hurt.
You were terrified to reach for her hand, but you never wondered what other hands had held it before. You were so nervous to kiss his cheek, but you never feared that he would pull back or turn away or that tomorrow exchange lips with someone else. You never rested all your faith on that single moment, thinking that it could crush you forever. Because you hadn’t learned that was a possibility.
When you were young, heartbreak hadn’t scarred you, loss hadn’t changed you, hope hadn’t left you. You loved to love, and you gave everything because you hadn’t yet learned how not to.
You grew up. You started having real relationships. You were taught to play games, to toy with emotions, to give only bits and pieces of yourself, to be guarded. You held people to too high of standards. You compromised yourself. You learned that love is not always the same between two people. You learned that some beginnings have endings. You learned that forevers cannot always be promised.
You learned to be careful in love, not carefree.
You fell for him, for her, and watched that person shift before your eyes, saying one thing and doing another, letting you down. You started to shift yourself—becoming more closed off, more hesitant, more timid and less open.
The more you push people away, push love away, the emptier you feel. The more you keep people at arm’s length, the more alone your life becomes. The more you resist, the farther you fall from love. And in the end, we all need human connection to survive.
So please remember how it was when you were young and the days stretched on endlessly. Remember the Valentine he wrote you, saved in the back of your binder. Remember the loopy handwriting on the note she passed you in the middle of fifth period. Remember the jump in your chest when he called your house phone, asking if your parents could drop you off at the movie theater around 8PM.
Remember all the giddiness, the lightness, the freedom you felt when you were young and in love. Where nothing could go wrong, where no one could fathom leaving, where promises were kept and kisses carried weight and problems were less heavy.
Remember how you loved with abandon, how you shared your world, your last piece of chocolate, your answers to the extra credit homework problem. Remember how you wanted to wear your favorite shirt just because you knew she’d see it, or pull your hair to the side, just because he said that was his favorite.
Remember how your whole world shifted when that person walked into the room. How every second felt limitless. How every memory was imprinted in the back of your mind when you fell asleep just after curfew.
I hope you remember how you loved when you were young—foolishly and fully—never worrying about getting hurt, never wondering what could go wrong.
I hope you learn to love like that again. To let go of your fear, your hesitation, the questions milling about in the back of your mind. I hope you let people in. I hope you walk forward into their arms. I hope you don’t shy away from telling someone how you feel, but unfold your heart and hand it to them in your open palm.
I hope you remember how it felt when you woke up to a text from that eighth grade crush, when you danced to the slow song in your prom dress, when you kissed that girl after sneaking out on a school night—the excitement, the bliss, the wholeness you felt in that moment.
I hope you learn to love like that again, naïvely, beautifully, completely—just as you did when you were young.