Falling in love.
The wording is strange, almost like it's something you should avoid. When you are young, you're taught how to walk, how to step one foot in front of the other and how to keep standing.
You're taught how to keep yourself up. How not to fall. We're taught how to recover from injury. How to stop crying and how to hold ourselves together when something gets too much. We don't let ourselves fall.
Yet, to fall in love is so different. It's not supposed to be painful. Or a mistake. It's not something you quickly try to brush off, like little bits of gravel that spiral up and down your legs.
To some, it's a goal. The pinnacle. To some, it's been their dream from when they were seven and trotting around their bedroom with a pillowcase trailing down their back and freckles of glitter sparkling in their innocent eyes.
But I didn't experience that. I knew of marriage, relationships and happiness, but I didn't dream of them.
I don't think I wanted to fall in love.
I'm now 23. I've broken up with partners, avoided dates, let perfectly honest and beautiful people walk in and out of my life and never stopped to look back. I never looked back to see what I had left behind or what I let go of. I never looked to see what could have been.
I think I was afraid. I know I was afraid. I was afraid of committing myself to someone. I was afraid of letting someone get that close to me, so close they could smell the wisps of nerves cobwebbed on my skin. I was afraid they could feel the delicate droplets of uncertainty on my lips and taste the is-this-really-happening-I-don't-think-I'm-ready-for-this on my tongue.
I convinced myself I was fine alone. I would enjoy my own company and be satisfied with sitting alone at dinner. It would be routine to pick up coffee for one and wait at the bar alone on a date with myself. I was content with my own space. It made me feel strong. Made me feel independent. Like an adult.
But, with that sense of maturity, it made me lonely. Loneliness has a way of washing over you all of a sudden, like a crashing gulf smothering sand and shell, thrashing over and swallowing it down whole. As my eyes began to creep around rooms populated with people, couples and laughter, I began to notice that maybe I didn't want to be alone. Maybe I did want someone to share my life with.
My independence felt strong and powerful when I was happy, when I felt fulfilled. When I was achieving bold footsteps in life without having to hold someone's hand. It felt good to go places alone, to have the confidence to be by myself.
But amidst all of this, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. I had no one to share my highs with. No one to console my lows. No one to hold my hand in the night when I would wake, shaking and frightened of everything and nothing at all.
It's important to feel grounded and complete as a person before anything else. Partners aren't crutches to build you as a person. They aren't extra bricks for your walls. Your foundation needs to be there, built by you.
But maybe now I am ready to fall.
Maybe the thought of committing myself to something other than coffee and crosswords and my mismatched desire to be alone isn't so frightening. Because really, what is frightening about being in love? About having someone hold you, look at you and love you? Someone to be there with you when everyone else has gone home?
I don't need a partner. But if I happen to find someone who feels like they could be the finishing touches to my life, the person who I could share all my coffee and crosswords with, who could accept the laughter in my stories and the tears in my problems, then really, how could anyone be afraid of falling in love at all?