We, at Calvin, love to focus on relationships. More specifically, we love to talk about relationships. I am no exception to this. I like talking about my own love life almost as much as I like hearing about others’. And I think this can be good.
We are human beings who crave love and appreciation. Relationships — romantic or not — are life-defining blessings. They can allow us to grow in ways we never imagined and to see ourselves in a new and even beautiful light.
There is a danger, however, in confusing this focus with identity. There is a tipping point where a relationship becomes more than a focus; it becomes a definition. This happened to me during my sophomore and junior years.
Instead of taking pride in my own work, I began taking pride in the things that my former boyfriend and I were doing together. I didn’t just like who I was, I liked who we were. We had good grades. We were going places. With all this we, I began to forget about my own identity.
One day, out of the blue, this relationship that had defined me for two years ended. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. I discovered why they call it a heart break. I felt like someone had dropped me on the floor and not even bothered to sweep me aside.
I lay there, on the ground, raw and exposed. And in this dark, humiliated, broken state, I learned three important things about who I am:
First, I am loved: You don’t know how truly loved you are until you experience loss. Over a year later, I still get choked up thinking of how many people went out of their way to support me.
When I first told my best friend, she ran to my apartment in less than two minutes. She didn’t even put on shoes. She held me as I sobbed uncontrollably on the floor.
For weeks my parents answered my lonely, self-pitying calls. The family I nanny for embraced me in hugs, giggles and letters saying how much they love me. I felt, in a tangible way, how blessed I am and how much God provides for us when we are in need.
If you have ever suffered loss of any kind, my hope is that you felt the same love surrounding you. I will never again underestimate the power of sharing in another’s sorrow.
Second, I am a whole person: After weeks of relying on others and bawling my eyes out, I reached a point where I simply couldn’t keep crying. Earlier that year, I had a falling out with three of my best friends.
This, coupled with the loss of my romantic relationship, left me hollow and alone. I found myself living in my worst fear. The people who had defined my life for all of my college career were simply no longer there.
While incredibly painful, this was perhaps the most strangely liberating realization of my life. With nothing more to lose, I took one step boldly, confidently into the unknown. I discovered I liked this unknown and the person I was in it.
I gave up control of how I thought my life would go and did things that I never would have done otherwise. I went into Johnny’s and invited random strangers to go to concerts with me.
I went to Florida on Spring Break by myself — I bought a plane ticket, rented a car and sat on the beach with my thoughts and a few good books. I applied for an internship that I felt unbelievably unqualified for — an internship that became the job I will begin after graduation.
I began imagining myself as myself and found strength that I never knew I had.
Third, I am able to love: This one took the longest, but may be the most important. After all this hurt, I initially felt like I could never love again. It takes me a long time to open up once hurt by someone, and even longer to want to do so again.
But what I realized through this ordeal is that love does not have boundaries. In putting the pieces of myself back together, I found I was creating spaces that never existed before. The love I had felt for this boyfriend transformed into other types of love.
Love for my family, love for my friends, love for myself and my future, love for the new people I was meeting and love for those who were struggling with difficult things in their life. Instead of closing up, my life began to expand.
My relationship wasn’t a bad one. I was treated as an equal and with respect and I have fond memories of that time of my life. But it wasn’t until I lost that relationship that I found myself.
So, what’s my point? I guess it is just that no matter your place in life or relationship status, don’t wait for something drastic to actively work on yourself. Enjoy who you are, give a little more love, ask for a little more love in return.
Do things that are out of your comfort zone and discover who you are in the process. We are young, we make mistakes, we get hurt and we hurt others. Take every opportunity to grow. Remind yourself that you deserve the best.
Never settle, take risks, rely on God and confidently, boldly step into the unknown.