I can't help but tip my hat to the people I see in love.
But, I have sympathy for the person in the relationship who is even slightly more in love than the other because I imagine he or she will be the one who will likely get hurt in the end.
I was once naïve and carefree about matters of the heart. I gave it my all, like I do with most things in life, but I didn't realize in that moment of sacrifice what I would lose and who it would lead me to become.
I went into love as most do: unexpectedly. It was a night out at a club, and I had complained to my friends about missing the Notre Dame championship game. I sipped away at a pregame, both bitter and envious of my family members at the game, but I couldn't vocalize my unhappiness.
I was in Europe and my childhood dream was coming true.
Enter: handsome guy. We gravitated toward each other and he handed me a drink. The next thing I knew, I was in over my head and my heart took over. I went with it, despite the danger I knew danger awaited me.
There was something fun about the risk, like placing a bet on a roulette wheel, knowing you will lose. But, you play, anyway, because we all like games. Then, you begin to win and get a little cocky at the thought of where this can take you.
Next thing you know, your pockets are empty and you have nothing left.
I am no gambler and didn't think I would be with love, either. Upon meeting him, I knew I would get hurt, but I closed my eyes and followed him into the dark abyss.
When you invest your own money into a game, the only advice that matters is your own. The only moves that matter are the ones you make yourself, and the only person you can blame when you lose is yourself.
At first, my winning came slowly, in the forms of slow dances, fancy dinners out, doors open and chairs pulled out, late nights and later mornings. Every called was answered.
There were castles and rose gardens, walks along the river, kissing on the forehead and fights at 2 am that only made making up even sweeter. But, the time came when I had to walk away from the table.
When it was happening, I didn't realize how much I had lost in the game and it was only when I dug deep into my pockets that I discovered how empty my pockets really were.
I searched deeper and deeper and realized looking up at me was a coy smile of a tall handsome man. He had reaped the benefits of my loss and he was going home with what was no longer mine.
Those glimpses of winnings and smiles, as I jumped for joy at the good that came briefly, were quickly replaced with nights crying myself to sleep on the bathroom floor.
The wonderful thing about friends and family, though, is that even when they know your gambling habit will ultimately destroy you, they are there to pick you up off the floor without saying, “I told you so.”
As I look back at the game I lost, I walk away with knowledge of how naïve I really was. In time, I collected small winnings that allowed me to stand on my own two feet again.
But, will I ever have as much as when I first walked into this cruel game called love? Never. It's impossible to ever be as whole as you were before your first love.
I tip my hat to the people who got it right. They learned early on what I now know. Despite my inability to invest in love the way I once did, I know it does exist.
I learned not to invest everything when stepping up to the table to place a bet — only offer what you can afford to lose. It is my wish for everyone in love to invest just enough; if it doesn't work out, there will still be something left.
The cruelest game you will ever play is the one in which you know you will lose, but you play, anyway, for the fun. And, even if it's fun at first, there is nothing fun about losing it all and losing yourself in the process.