The first time I fell into full-throttle, adult love, I was in my very early 20s. I had definitely experienced teenage love before, which is absolutely REAL love.
In fact, it just might be the purest love of all.
It's before you become consumed with the pressure of attaining heaps of money, and having a perfectly cohesive lifestyle to one another and the ugly judgment of who does what for a living. It's a beautiful love.
But it's not the same as grown-up love. Grown-up love runs deeper in a vastly different way.
It doesn't have the forbidden thrills and chills of a young and reckless love, so it's founded on something far more real. It attains accountability. It's built on more than freewheeling hormones and a newly discovered sex drive.
I'm a sucker for romance. I'm a passion addict. I've been an insatiably sexual creature since a young age, and my body is always burning, craving to be touched by an attractive entity.
I'm the Queen of Indulgence. I luxuriously soak in feelings of being tortured by unattainable lust. I love to be hell-bent with sexual prowess and sick with desire. I could easily sext my way through an eight-hour workday if left to my own devices.
Yes, I'm one of those dramatic girls who is addicted to high-stakes and fantasy.
I see the world through a softer lens when I'm in the throes of “love.” The trials and tribulations of pesky day-to-day tasks seem more manageable and less overwhelming when I'm amidst a requited crush.
One might say I have a history of using lovers as fillers for empty spaces within myself.
That being said, when I fell into the silken arms of my first grown-up love, I breathed a massive, deeply loaded sigh of f*cking relief.
“Oh the hard work is over now, right?”
After all, I had done my time. I spent what felt like years, and years and years holding my own hand through some arguably difficult circumstances.
I moved away from home to Hollywood at a very young age. I was tossed into adult life before I was an adult. I navigated the great expanse of the grown-up world alone, with little tools for survival. And the tools I did have I didn't know how to use.
I tried to stave off the coming-of-age blues alone. I tried to satiate my hunger for incessant reassurance alone.
I tried to cultivate a genuine foundation of self-esteem alone. Nights spent solo in my studio only seemed to only magnify my pressing loneliness.
It wasn't that I was unstable. I was doing a pretty damn good job of taking care of myself. To the outside world, I was a living, breathing, thriving girl creature.
But I hadn't yet embarked on the project of loving myself. I didn't understand the utmost importance of being my own best friend. I didn't get that even when you're in the healthiest relationship in the stratosphere, you are still essentially all you have.
So every little effort, every seemingly endless car ride down the Pacific Coast Highway felt sorely empty. Every trip under the cold fluorescent lights of the neighborhood grocery store felt isolating. The relentless rejections from daily auditions made me feel increasingly small.
Have you ever felt like such a tiny speck of dust, you feel like your disintegrating into nothingness?
There were all these looming voids scattered about my life. I wanted someone to come and fill them for me. I didn't know I was supposed to be filling them myself.
And then, finally, out-of-the-blue, it happened.
One mid-January night, I met the sweetest looking person I'd ever laid my honey-speckled eyes upon. She was holding court behind the bar.
Mix me a drink, and I'm forever yours.
Her smile was wicked and warm, and she had saucer-like eyes, the most magnetic I'd ever born witness to.
That breed of person who is infuriatingly charming without an ounce of effort. A rare gem in this calculated day and age.
I was young and drunk off white whiskey and lust.
I loved her instantly. I'm one of those doomed people who fall in "love" at first sight (or at first perfectly crafted mixed drink), and it all too often works to my detriment.
A bottle of cheap champagne was poured, bubbles sweetly sifted down my throat, and phone numbers were exchanged. Our first date was the next night.
It was the kind of date displaced New Yorkers dream of: a soul-baring session at a dirty dive bar, complete with Jameson shots and first kisses.
Again, I'm a total f*cking sucker for unconventional romance and wild juxtaposition.
Before I knew it, we were in f*cking deep. Attending parties with tightly interlocked fingers, eyes magnetized, sleeping with intertwined legs. Sharing the same breath, twisted in sweaty sheets. Every. Single. Night.
She was very caring. She loved to take care of me. And in those dire days, I was happy to let her take care of me.
All the hard work I had previously endured as a single girl learning how to be a grown-up woman was instantaneously squashed by my new relationship.
I believed, from the bottom of my heart, that her love was enough to sustain me.
I was convinced that when someone loves you, your individual journey of self-growth is over. If you are to grow, “you grow together.”
How wrong 22-year-old, little old me was.
The truth is just because somebody in the universe has bestowed his or her love upon you, doesn't mean you’re suddenly rescued from the life-long project of learning to love yourself -- outside of your relationship.
We talk ad nauseam about the value of self-love when we're single. Articles are endlessly written (many of which I've penned) about the poignant lessons we will learn about ourselves when living the single life.
For we frame newfound singledom as a shining, golden opportunity to finally get to know your real self. It's the time to invest in cultivating authentic self-worth.
You're encouraged to explore your vast array of interests to the fullest capacity:
Take that yoga class. Climb the f*cking mountain. Travel the great expanse of the big and beautiful world with a slew of your fabulous and single girlfriends. Hungrily read every single self-help book ever written. Take yourself out on dates. See a therapist. See a hypnotist. See a life coach. See an “intuitive reader.”
It's no secret that being single serves as a prime opportunity to nurture yourself, but what happens when you fall in love with someone else? Do all the missing pieces, all the broken parts, fall magically into place?
Nah, save it for the fairy tales and the trite rom-coms starring basic bitches. It doesn't work like that.
I should know. I tried, and it served as the detriment of my relationship.
All of the unexamined traumas, festering insecurities and teeming anxieties were still lurking beneath the surface of my skin, even though someone loved me.
I thought love was like a strong vacuum that can suck the mess and the self-hatred away. But the trouble is a lover is just a lover.
A lover isn't to be used as a Band-Aid. And even if a lover was a Band-Aid, a Band-Aid isn't designed to last forever. Eventually, you have to tear off the adhesive and treat the infection, even though it might sting at first.
If you don't continue to treat the wounds that exist in your life while you’re in love, the pain will transfer into other areas of your life -- like your relationship.
Because I stopped working on myself while in a relationship, I became convinced that my lover was my lifeline. I lost confidence that I could even survive without her. This creates a very, very dangerous co-dependency.
All of my self-esteem was reliant on her. No amount of compliments in the world, even if they're coming from the lips of the person you love the most, can replace genuine confidence.
I'm not saying you need to break up and dramatically tear away from the one you love because you don't feel whole by yourself yet.
What I'm saying is this: The love you’re receiving from your partner, while absolutely precious and beautiful, doesn't replace the love you need to garner from yourself.
“We” is wonderful, but “I” is powerful. “I” is everything.
Don't let the throes of love stop you from engaging in the greatest relationship of your lifetime. The one you have with yourself.
True happiness isn't in the arms of another person. A relationship, love, romance -- they're amazing outside additions to your life. But another person doesn't define your life. You define your life.
A relationship is not a shortcut to happiness. There are no shortcuts to happiness.
It's not okay to walk away from yourself because you're walking toward someone else.
Because, at the end of the day, you will never be as connected to another person as you are with yourself. You have you for life. Make that relationship your most healthy and loving relationship.
Because it's the one thing no one can ever, ever take away from you.