Something I've slowly learned about myself over the years is how I've gone from being an open idealistic lover to a more closet romantic woman.
Most people find the small changes in themselves. “I used to like the color pink—now I can't stand the thought of it.” or “The taste of shrimp disgusted me, when I was a kid. I eat them at least once a week!” and, the ever popular, “I never believed in ghosts, until one haunted my bathroom after I moved into that creepy cabin.”
I'm kidding. No one ever stops liking the color pink.
I'm happy to report I'm not quite the cynic I once became after my college experiences. I was quite the innocent, growing up with parents who taught my brother and I well. Not that he and I weren't little shits (and that we still aren't), but we took our parents' word as truth.
Don't do drugs, they can screw up your life. Good friends will have you smiling at the end of the day. A clean room instigates a clean person (we both didn't follow this last rule until closer to the more 'now' time; it's mostly true).
But one of the most we held true to our hearts was the importance to be with the ones we love, and never settle for less.
I can freely say that this was what changed with me most, was how I went about their advice.
At first, I lived in a Disney-esque state. I lived in a small town, and dealt with small matters. But I dreamt big, and, in the face of what I thought was considered animosity, I stood for justice. We didn't have much to go against in our tiny town, at least, not in my eyes. And I had the hardest time understanding what seemed to be the simplest of matters, such as why someone would take the time to be a bully.
I remember a distinct moment in which we were all standing in line for lunch, and a small group of the said “popular” crowd started picking on one of the boys for wearing a Spice Girls shirt. During lunch time, there were only two lines, and our lunch periods collided for 5th graders all to 9th graders; we were in 8th grade. This meant that there were well over 100 spectators, watching either in silence or snickers, while three kids who were meant to be looked up to mercilessly insulted their classmate for wearing a shirt with a girl-band on it. I was with two of my friends, who ignored the scene and talked with each other. I muttered darkly as the boy tried to ignore them, failing miserably, his cheeks getting redder and hotter as the bunch continued with their banter. He opened his mouth a couple of times to say something, but then stuck his hands in his pockets and faced forward instead. The anger in my heart couldn't take it any longer.
“What, is that bugging you?” I asked, my voice barely louder than their rambles. They glanced over at me, then shrugged it off and went back to it. “So, what, is it because of his shirt?”
“It has five girls on it,” one of the boys, Jeff, said.
“So? I like the Spice Girls.”
“You're a girl. If he likes them, it's gay,” he sneered. This was during the time when we didn't really know what gay meant, but the term was thrown about like we did. All we truly knew was that it was considered derogatory, and it was looked down upon.
“So, him wearing that. It's affecting you in some way? To a point that you need to tease him, make fun of him?” I jerked my thumb at their victim. My voice had gotten louder, and some people had stopped talking to see what was happening. “As far as I can tell, you're only making yourselves look dumb.”
“Like anyone will listen to you.” It was true, I was considered an outcast at this point.
“Like anyone will listen to you.” It was true, I was considered an outcast at this point.
“At least I'm not the one everyone wants to shut up. And that's what you should do.”
The boys tried to laugh it off, but the crowd had turned slightly against them with my words. My friends growled at how they were jerks, but I was still angry. I was angry at how the three popular kids had such power that they could tear down a boy, and cause a crowd to ignore their incessant idiocies. I was angry that no one else in the crowd had been willing to say something. And I was angry knowing that my words hadn't changed a thing in their demeanor.
When I got to the counter to hand over my lunch ticket, the adult manning the counter said, “I saw what you said and did there. Good job.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, but, in that moment, I was angry at her, too. She was an adult, and she didn't do anything to stop it either. I had been the only one who took the cards that were dealt, whereas everyone else passed.
These are the things I learned at school in my small town. As I explained the situations that didn't make sense to me while growing up to my parents, they'd press their lips together. These are the things that don't change, unfortunately, they'd tell me, and maybe a bit to themselves.
I was lucky, and relieved, to leave after my sophomore year of high school to my arts school. Most kids would be devastated to move during this time, to have to leave their friends and life. I, instead, was content with the knowledge of not dealing with the people in that school again. And that's where I learned more about the grey areas of life.
My most favorite people in the world (still to this day) did drugs. The teachers and adults treated us as equals, rather than children to scold and send on their merry way so they wouldn't have to continue to be dealt with. And I found that not all things depicted in movies weren't exaggerating about our world.
And it was where I had my first dashes at the idea of love.
You see, at my other school, the thought of being at all romantic with any of those, for the lack of the better word, jerks, made me want to hurt someone. But my new school? It was filled to the brim with people who were different than anyone I've ever met. Artists, in every single person, and they weren't afraid to show it. The school encouraged everyone to be themselves. And it was amazing.
I won't divulge into any details, as I'm sure my stories aren't as exciting as the next, but I had my few dashes with boys that got me realizing that love wasn't as easy as I'd anticipated. I'm unsure whether it was because of my small town, but I didn't have too many crazy families to deal with. I didn't know too many divorced parents, and the ones who happened to be were very civil. And I didn't know any parents who fought, either. Not any fights that weren't unhealthy, anyway.
I have a theory about these things. People who I know who have had horrible things happen to them, they have a choice in life—to either make it worse, or better. I have been innumerably lucky to know the people who have chosen to make their lives better. The ones who were too poor to have enough food to go around, the ones who came from houses with parents who didn't care if they were home or not, the ones who were abused emotionally...physically. Tragic back stories that these unbroken people decided to change to brilliant futures.
But I got lost in these stories. The chipper girl who was ready for adventure and life, she faltered at how possible it was for her to take on the world when it turned out to be just as big as she'd hoped.
The chances I had at love, I wasn't ready for. I knew because I learned from other people's mistakes. I watched while people got insipidly drunk, would make out with a random person, then later lament to me about the woes of how it was all going wrong. I was told the stories by my guy friends who would purposefully lead a girl on, use them, then toss them aside, laughing the whole time. Some girls weren't much better. For college, it was considered a time to experiment without any ramifications—no one thought the consequences could touch them, the immortality of a young adult.
Perhaps I took too much of a protective stance for myself. All I knew was that I didn't want to be placed in that same category, looking pathetic and weak all because I wanted to feel as if I'd had some connection with someone. Because that's what I saw in those girls after they finally sobered up, realized what they did last night, and tried desperately to justify their actions and make it all okay.
Their actions didn't mean anything to me, but I knew what I wanted. I didn't want the one night stand people would giggle over having. I didn't want to have the bragging rights people smugly spoke of having due to the amount of people they hooked up with the night previous. I didn't want to deal with the drama my friends consistently had on whether a kiss was just a kiss—or if it meant something more.
Because, somehow, deep inside, I knew that it shouldn't be that difficult.
As the years went on, I became more cynical of how love was, and less impressed with my generation's attempt at finding it. I became who I wasn't. I mean, I became not who I intended to be. I was hidden behind a mask because it seemed too difficult for me to grab the world and see how I could change it for the better anymore. I couldn't seem to fit in.
This past year, I had a more official coming back to roots. I was lost in three separate phases, growing up, but it took me until now to finally pin down what it means to be myself, and what it means for me to love. Always a work in progress, being me (I am so far from perfect, if it were a scarf, it'd be labeled infinity long...if that makes any sense at all), but I feel at home where I used to feel chaos earlier. I can love as I wish.
I'm not as open as I once was about it. Before leaving my lovely (/sarcasm) school, I used to gush about the type of love that transcended time. About connection, and how there is one person for everyone.
But now I'm wiser. I still believe love transcends time, for friendship and otherwise. And I believe that everything is connected, that people connect and should listen to their soul more on where they should be, who they should be with, in life. But I also believe, now, that there are certain people for certain times in your life. The opportunities we are given, especially in love, are to guide us in life, to teach us how to become even better than we are now. I've had connections with people who have been my friend for years now, and I've made quite a few more connections this past summer that are only going on a couple of months. There has even been a connection with someone that only lasted a week, and I would never give those moments back, as I was able to place a piece of my puzzle together on how I can better love someone. Love is easy, really. When in doubt, love. You don't need a definition, you don't need to perfect the rubik's cube that is love before attempting it, you just...do it.
So, maybe I'm not as open about it. I still find myself shying away from situations, or balking from sharing. Particular moments from this past year has gotten me more comfortable with myself, that balance between my roots and how I want my future. There were no mistakes in my eyes, just life. The romantic core I have has survived, and I intend to feed it.
But not before I feed my other love, adventure. Because that was another thing I once gave up.