My first real relationship started at the ripe age of 12.
He was cute. His jaw was chiseled.
His teeth were whiter than the blank sheet of notebook paper that sat in front of me on the second day of school in the sixth grade.
But, I didn’t have a pencil. It was the second day of school, and I didn’t have a pencil.
So, what do I do? I asked the cute boy, of course.
“Hey Bob,” I said. “Can I borrow a pencil?”
He responded, “My name's not Bob. My name is Michael.”
I would never forget his name again as long as I lived.
I would like to say I fell in love with him instantly, but I’m still sorting through the feelings I have now at the age of 20, almost eight years later.
We became the best of friends.
He told me everything, including what girl he was talking to, what his parents would fight about and what kind of Pop-Tart he packed in his lunch for the following day.
We once talked on the phone for five and a half hours straight without an ounce of silence.
It was fast. It was careless. It was hot and heavy.
Sometimes, it was cold.
At first, it was harmless. But, it wasn’t love.
There was so much absence, and there was no foundation for love.
Here are the reasons why:
1. We didn’t know ourselves.
In terms of self-knowledge, the two of us were still rocking Pampers. We hadn’t even reached a premature level of self-awareness.
We tried so desperately to flourish together and to water each other’s seeds. So sometimes, we blocked the radiant sunlight from reaching our own needs.
When one of us had any kind of growth spurt, we'd become envious.
We didn’t want each other to grow because we didn’t want anything to change.
We wanted to stay those foolish kids, skipping eighth-period study hall to smoke cigarettes and make out behind the parking garage.
Young “love” is like that.
It's a drawn-out moment of infected innocence.
But eventually, moments become memories that you can review and rectify for next time.
2. We didn’t know the impact we were making.
We didn’t know how the heat of our actions were singeing the very bone of our youth.
Our decisions were affecting each other greatly, but we didn’t have the maturity to be mindful about them.
He didn’t realize cheating on me with one of my best friends would scrape the very core of my trust in everything around me.
I didn’t realize going away to college and limiting our contact would push him even further into self-loathing and depression.
We didn’t realize spending every single waking moment together would inhibit us from feeling the natural need to be alone, thus tarnishing individuality of any kind.
We used each other as crutches. We were so completely unable to stand alone.
So, we crashed.
I like to think we’re burning together.
3. We only felt high during our lowest of lows.
We didn’t know how to be happy together, and this wasn’t for lack of trying.
We would go to concerts, parties, movies and family functions. We would laugh here and there.
But, we were never truly and presently happy in those moments together.
Sure, seeing Eminem in East Rutherford, New Jersey made us both happy, but not a united happy.
It wasn't the kind of happy that screams, “I’m so happy you’re the one standing next to me in this moment.”
It was more of a, "This is awesome, and I would enjoy it this much if there was a complete and utter stranger next to me."
The happiest time in our relationship was when everything around us was in a downward spiral, and we got to play superhero.
We got to give each other advice and sift through each other’s broken pieces until the other one felt whole again.
It was in negativity that we’d strive to be prominent to the other partner.
Only in moments of complete despair and hopelessness did we swoop in to fix everything for each other, all to reach some deeper level of importance within ourselves.
4. We loved too selfishly.
The core of a mutually beneficial love is appreciation.
It's the appreciation of everything, from a partner’s mannerisms to the way he or she acts when he or she wakes up in the morning.
It’s appreciating each other’s dreams and allowing each other to chase those dreams, even if it means you go to sleep lonely.
It’s recognizing dependability makes love tarnish, and developing individuality makes it sparkle.
It’s understanding you can't be the center of another person’s world every single moment of every single day, and you shouldn’t want to be.
For when that occurs, the world becomes flat. There is no dimension and no growth.
We couldn’t see that.
We smothered each other so immensely and so incessantly, we couldn’t even function alone.
It was purely because we didn’t appreciate or respect each other’s space.
It wasn’t as selfish as it was just downright unhealthy.
At first, I felt like a callous soul for not feeling anything at all after I finally had the courage to break it off.
I’ve since come to realize I was too busy saturating my soul in everything I had missed about myself.
There is a sense of self-awareness that gets fogged and lost in any relationship.
You don’t realize it’s missing until the skeletons have made their home in your closet, and you begin snoozing through your own day-to-day life.
But once that sense of self returns to you, it comes like a wave of peaceful adrenaline and Sunday morning coffee.
If you’re zombie-walking through a toxic relationship, I’d love to say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but there isn’t.
You have to make light of the situation.
Clarity doesn’t come from flailing around in the dark.
You must be strong enough to sit down with the lowest, spider-webbed, gut-wrenching and cruelest of realities and say, “I’m going to clean this up.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but progress can be.