Getting Engaged At 19

We had planned a pink and brown wedding. We certainly planned a lot of things, and I swear that I never just blindingly nodded my head to her dreams. They were my dreams too. I can safely say that the hardest thing I’ve ever done was break up with her. Insert joke about it being better to have “loved and lost”; insert heartfelt, nauseatingly optimistic assertion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Now cross them out and try looking your mistakes in the face. Embrace them, thank them, and love them in the way you never loved your ex-girlfriend. While you still have that love inside you it’s obvious that no one has received it.

Where we started was fantastically familiar territory for me. The weeks after our first kiss were a barren tundra of unrequited love, begging me with empty promises of satisfaction from strife-ridden devotion. But alas! She was not so scared of my total abandonment of reason. She too believed in song lyrics and Christmas decorations. She believed my blind optimism that yes, indeed, love could conquer all. Love could even conquer my own doubts. And let me tell you, dear reader: it can.

From there we spent several blissful years attached to each other’s hip. Together we learned a great deal about growing up. Renting an apartment, buying groceries, playing bills, abandoning our friends; sacrificing so many things that we wanted in favor of what the other wanted. We breathed in compromise, unaware of an alternative. Hand in hand we stepped ourselves into the recently discovered shoes of adulthood. We lived together, in so many senses of the word that I felt more at peace when I was with her than when I was alone. We practically became halves of one whole, scarcely able to function independently.

And then we found them: the careers we’d been searching for. So much of our time that was once occupied by whatever jobs we could find in order to make the month’s rent was now occupied by the opportunity of a promising future. Career paths. Attractive coworkers. That strange look on someone’s face when you mentioned your fiancée and the naggingly suspicious tone when they asked, “how old are you again?”

While the “straw” of a crush which broke the camel’s back was exactly the one which I pursued not days after our tear-streaked, tumultuous break-up, there was more to my change of feelings than a pretty face. For the first time since before we’d met, I realized the potential to shape my own future; free from anyone’s controlling hand. I started to see just how big the world was. An inkling of life’s possibilities was inside me and I could only stare our commitment in the eyes for so long until turning away.

And so I turned. In an admission of failure rife with any underlying embracement of finding inner peace, I emerged from the cocoon of our engagement as a fully formed individual. I didn’t need ‘us’ anymore. Finding love from then on would never be about finding a ‘half’ to pair perfectly with my own. The concept of yin and yang does not involve two complementary fractions. The happiness of love has nothing to do with submission, complication or pride. You’ll know it when you find it but you’ll know it even more when you give it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Jeff Belmonte

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