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Updated: May 4, 2022

"How could I know what love was? I had never learned to love myself." - Brandi Harvey

The first time I fell in love, I was seventeen years old. I met this young man while in high school, and I thought he was the funniest and most charming person alive. I lived for our nightly talks on the phone. When we both went off to college, we ran up the most astronomical phone bills talking for hours as he was in one state and I was in another. We lived just to hear each other breathe. Our love was naïve. Our love was dramatic. Our love was catastrophic when it ended. I vowed never to love another person like that again, and I have not.

The second time I fell in love was different. He was much older than me. Looking back, his love felt paternal. I was a young college student missing the connection of my Father and found so much comfort in the arms of an older man. He took care of me. He listened intently as I talked about my life and offered me great advice. He forced me to grow up. He insisted I listen to myself, trust my instincts and move unapologetically through the world. He reminded me of my worth. Our love was soulful. Our love was a symphony. Our love had to end, for my life to begin.

These two relationships anchored my thoughts and philosophies about love. When I was a teenager, I thought love had to be hard. I believed there had to be drama present for love to peek its way through. The movies didn’t help as I watched love demonstrated in verbal impalements or love so perfectly divine only a script could keep it in its place.

I was a broken-hearted teenager who found love with another broken-hearted teenager. Together we emotionally ravished one another so deeply that by the time I reached my second love, my wounded soul was in need of desperate repair. And just like a skilled surgeon, this new love mended my heart back together. And for a short time, this love sufficed. But love cannot stay where it is not entirely welcome.

How could I know what love was? I had never learned to love myself. I played out my inexperience of self-love by self-sabotaging at every turn. I destroyed anything that looked like contentment and clung desperately to anything that meant me harm. Each time I fell apart, I found myself frantically in need of repair. I sought the cure for my injured soul in the arms of broken men. And as quickly as our love transpired, it swiftly expired.

I believe love forces you to retreat within to find it. The rubble in my life had buried me so deep. I had to learn how to dig myself out of misery’s enchantment and walk the hard lines of boundaries. Therapy became the investment I made in myself. After which, I turned all my attention inward. I finally started to uncover the real me. There was love inside of me all along. A love that didn’t need a man to repair but rather a man to compliment.

The greatest human need is love. And from the onset of life, we are ready to love and be loved. But as life tinkers on and things happen, we become selfish with our love. We become possessive with our passion. We hold tightly to past exchanges, and in exchange, we get a morsel of what life has to offer us. We become unforgiving with our love.

My past relationships taught me how to love and honor myself. I had to break free of the notion that my partner was my possession and my emotional happiness was connected to their presence in my life. For love to flow, I had to love in freedom and truth. Loving myself meant foregoing the ideas of the movies and all that I had witnessed before.

"Love compliments the life you have and makes a rainbow with the beautiful colors that already exist. The love of another person is meant to enhance your life, not repair it. Love adds a link to an existing chain, and together you all strive to create meaning in the world."

I have fallen in and out of love more than twice but to say that those two relationships impacted me the most would be an understatement. Learning to love is the lesson by which we all have to sit attentively in life’s classroom as both student and teacher. Each experience is meant to challenge our faith, peak our awareness and bring us closer to divine enlightenment. We suffer so we understand mercy and we love so we can appreciate grace.

I am forever grateful to have loved these men, and they will always hold a place by the banks of my memories. I thank them for loving me in their way and teaching me to love myself in a way that only I could. My heart continues to expand, making room for the love that is meant to accompany me on the next part of my journey. Love transforms our lives. Love makes us better women. Love makes us better humans.

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