There was nothing special about our first interaction.
We had been placed in the same history class; I was assigned the desk directly beside his, and for months, he was all I could see.
History, a subject I had previously detested for its dullness, was now my favourite class.
I found myself sneaking glances at him curiously and I began to notice a pattern of endearing habits; he flicked his hair back when he stretched and the corners of his eyes would crinkle when he laughed.
This boy had become a dangerous distraction.
Eventually, my youthful naivety waned and I realised that he, too, was showing an interest in me. And on the 29th of June 2015, he became my first ever boyfriend.
We dated on and off throughout high school, and even in our ‘off’ stages, I loved him to my core. He was my everything; my best friend, my confidante, my biggest cheerleader, the only person who had made me feel beautiful and wanted and interesting.
I fell harder for him every day, but as my adoration of him grew, so did my own self-loathing. I began to fight a raging internal battle, and questioned how this captivating, intelligent, caring boy had found a home in me.
I knew he was struggling, too; he distanced himself from me and our arguments became more frequent and harder to bounce back from. We were killing each other, but we clung onto the hope that things would improve, because we were both so viscerally afraid of being alone.
Moments of happiness were fleeting and rare; isolation and loneliness consumed us both and eventually reached a heavy climax earlier this year. We were both terrified and so intensely devastated, but we knew that we would do irreparable damage to each other if we let this train wreck of a relationship continue on any further.
I was broken, numb; life had lost its lustre and I caved in on myself.
For three years, the only love I was capable of giving had been poured into another human soul. I was empty.
The four months following the collapse of our relationship almost killed me. I was a shell, completely devoid of anything meaningful, ripped into a million pieces.
Here I am.
As time marched on, unwavering and demanding, the guttural fear of abandonment that had followed me since I was a child ebbed onto acceptance, which inevitably gave way to true inner peace.
I found a way to reclaim the love that had previously been reserved for him and make it my own.
I remember my mother telling me on my 17th birthday that she was proud of me for finding myself in something that almost tore me from this earth.
I am proud of me, too.
Loving him will always be one of my greatest and most treasured achievements, but loving myself is what brought me home.
GRACE - AGE 17
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