One of my most vivid memories of Year 5 and 6 in primary school, was getting asked out by a boy’s best friend and then giggling every time we held hands. Then being constantly asked by your friends if you love each other and replying ‘of course!’ It’s safe to say that my idea of love has matured a little bit since then.
When you’re young, it seems so simple. You either love them or you don’t. But one of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes it’s not so easy. Sometimes, people who you love do things that you hate. Maybe the first time in your life, it’s your parents. They don’t want you to have that cuddly toy and you just can’t understand why. When you’re older, you realise that it was just because they didn’t want you to be a spoilt brat. They loved you and wanted the best for you then, even though you just thought they wanted to be cruel. That showed me that love requires learning to respect someone else’s thoughts and ideas. Even if they don’t make sense to you. Lesson number 1.
And then came the first wave of ‘romances,’ if you can call them that. That first nervous little peck on the cheek and playing kiss chase with all the people your friends fancy. Your boyfriends and/or girlfriends came and went faster than you could eat your packed lunch. Do you remember how that felt? It was exhilarating at the time. Yet you look back now and you think, ‘that wasn’t love!’ And I don’t know about you but what that showed me is that love is more than just nervous kisses and games. There is more than living for the chase and hurting people just because we can. Love isn’t just lust and playing games with each other. Lesson number 2.
Soon there came secondary school. This is where I honed my cynical perspective on love to perfection. ‘Love is pointless’ was my mantra. Every time someone said the word I’d cringe. I had watched my parents fight and stay together and enough soaps by this point to know that there was more to love than just liking each other a lot. I thought that I was above my friends who would gush about their boyfriends as if they were their knights in shining armour. I saw my sisters have their first big relationships and scrutinised why they went wrong (maybe I am a Psychology student). And I thought I was smarter because I knew that love didn’t mean giving up as soon as things got hard. Lesson number 3.
Then, quite unexpectedly, I joined in the band wagon and had that typical school romance where you hang out at lunch and maybe even outside of school and you’re completely ‘in love’. This was around the time where I thought that I knew best and that no one older really understood. Classic. I remember me and my friends breaking up and making up and it all seemed so real and genuine. Now, those relationships seem so insignificant. And yet, those were real tears and real heartache that was felt. This is what made me believe that love isn’t always about your age. If it was real for you then, it was probably real. Just because it may have ended badly or you now don’t think of them as the love of your life doesn’t make the experience any less important. People grow up, and that just means changing the way we think about things. Getting older doesn’t invalidate our feelings when we were young. Don’t underestimate a teenager’s ability to love just because you think it’s different to how you do it. Lesson number 4.
For a lot of people, secondary school and college marked a lot of firsts. First kiss, first time and first ‘real’ love. Not always in that order. On top of that, everyone would be whispering about each other’s personal lives every chance they could. It was like a competition, who was having sex first, who had been together the longest. Even your best friends told people you didn’t really know. For some reason, this was everyone’s business just because they passed you in the hallway sometimes. Rumours would start, fingers were pointed. But love shouldn’t have to involve the whole school anymore. The gossiping got less brutal as you got older; but that still doesn’t mean your friends want to know every detail. Lesson number 5.
Like most things, love got more complicated after everyone left school. People had to get serious about long distance relationships because of university, and everyone matured out of their secondary school ideals. Love wasn’t just about making out on the sofa anymore. It wasn’t the most important thing, just one of. There was money to think about, a career, maybe travelling and learning to look after yourself. Sure, people go on dates, move in together and go on couple’s holidays. But there’s also family, socialising and food shopping. My point is, love requires just as much care and attention as your taxes. It’s work. Lesson number 6.
The most important thing I’ve learned about love by now, is that it’s different for everyone. It’s a cliché but love is complicated and I would never claim to be an expert. Maybe it’s not always a fairy-tale ending and maybe it seems like more hassle than it’s worth. But what if it’s not? It’s time to break away from the notion that love is just a fleeting thing that only happens to a select few. It’s something that you can make happen and has to be worked at so it can thrive. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and in 10 years’ time I’ll be the cynic I was at 14. But rest assured, everyone’s bumbling along trying to figure it out just like you and me. Lesson number 7.