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  • Writer's pictureKaya Long

First Love Series Pt. 4: Happily Whole

Valentine’s Day–-a day characterized by chocolate, love letters, and roses—is a very polarizing holiday indeed. Is February 14th a commercialized holiday that arbitrarily places emphasis on a single day for the expression of affection? Or, is Valentine’s Day a grand chance to show your special someone just how much you love them? 

For some, perhaps they view Valentine’s Day as a day of reflection. Perhaps it is a chance to peer into chests of past memories and revisit the lessons learned through love lost, and the love that has lingered. 

An interview I had with a Parker School faculty member this past week reveals that love is anything but linear. To keep her identity anonymous, let’s call this faculty member “Happily Whole.” Like many others, Happily’s first love ended in heartbreak. She thought she was in love at the time, but looking back now she doesn’t think that was the case. 

“Sometimes people can pull your light out,” said Happily. With true love, both people’s lights grow, she said. During this first experience, toward the end of her senior year, Happily felt that her own light dimmed for the sake of helping another person with their darkness. She noted that in a high school environment, as a teacher, she can see that someone might be a giver while others are takers. It is important to learn about boundaries.

“We can help people who are in the dark, but not by blowing out our own light,” said Happily. Ultimately, she learned that this dynamic she experienced was not love. Her “first love” was really just the beginning of a much longer journey that taught her—little by little–-what it truly means to love someone.

From there Happily found her second boyfriend in college. In this next relationship, after being cheated on by her first boyfriend, Happily struggled with jealousy. In hindsight, Happily articulated those feelings as a sort of trauma response to her previous relationship, and the betrayal she experienced.

Inevitably, our past relationship experiences inform the kind of danger we scan for in the next, said Happily. “When we are looking for flaws we are likely going to find them,” she said. She compares this concept to convincing yourself that there are monsters lurking in the shadows underneath your bed. Interestingly, when that relationship ended, Happily’s feelings of jealousy ended too. It was almost as if she needed to experience how jealousy tarnishes a relationship and then for that relationship to end to move past those feelings. She never felt that way again. 

In the weeks following, Happily grieved the loss of that relationship. He seemed to be the one that got away. She recalls blocking out bits of time into her schedule so she could cry. A couple months later, he called her and said he made a mistake. In that moment, instantly, Happily was over him. In that relationship she learned that there is a difference between love and ego. “My pain was not so much that I loved him. My pain was that he didn’t love me.” When someone is going through a breakup, when they are hurting, sometimes it is not about grieving the person, but grieving something in yourself, she said.

Breakups always hurt whether you are the one breaking up with someone else or getting broken up with, or even if it’s mutual, said Happily. “But there are people who are in your life for longer seasons than just the romance.” She thinks that “friendship can transition to romantic love and romantic love can transition to deep friendship.” That is, if you don’t let pain become destructive. “There is an art to a breakup where in time those relationships can still be really valuable for a lifetime” she said. For Happily, her third and fourth loves were that. Both relationships began and ended with friendship with romance in the middle.

Her fifth love transitioned from friendship to romantic love and stayed. 

The first time she met her husband it was like the movies. She was first introduced to “Perfectly Flawed” when she was working in a fast-paced restaurant. In that moment, everything froze. The world around her started to move in slow motion. There was an instant connection, but it was not romantic because it was one of Happily’s best friends introducing Perfectly to her as her boyfriend.

From there the two became very close friends. They even said “I love you” in a platonic way. When her friend and Perfectly broke up, Happily immediately began trying to set him up with her single friends. She thought he was the most incredible person, but she never saw him in a romantic way. “Because he was sort of off-limits, I was totally my authentic self” around him, said Happily. Their friendship was so pure, without any ounce of self-consciousness. Happily had no idea that he was starting to see her differently.

That is, until one day when they were walking on this beach. Out of the blue, Perfectly leaned in to kiss her. Instinctively, Happily pulled back. She did not see that coming. Happily knew she needed to talk to her friend.

The next day, Happily called her friend. It had been a year since her friend had broken up with Perfectly. Happily told her friend that she thought she might have some feelings for Perfectly, but she could still back out if her friend wasn’t comfortable with the idea of them together. Her friend laughed and said “Oh my gosh, just don’t hurt each other. I love you both.” 

Happily has a feeling that if she didn’t talk to her friend first, the secrecy would have tainted the purity of the friendship she had with Perfectly and with her friend. “I may have lost two friends,” said Happily. To this day, Happily is still close with that same friend. 

“I think that nobody is perfect and it’s finding the person who cannot only put up with the flaws, but even love you through the flaws and vice versa… or even love you more through the flaws.” 

Long-lasting love comes “when you are totally whole, and you find someone else who is totally whole,” said Happily. “I’m super lucky I have the best husband in the world.”

Before she met her husband, Happily notes that her favorite years were her single years. Self love comes from being happy alone, she said. “I learned the joy of being my own best friend,” said Happily. During this time she discovered the joy of taking herself out to dinner or the movies, the joy of having options. She urges the importance of being really comfortable in your own skin and your own ambition before loving someone else.

All things considered, I urge everyone reading this to take a moment to reflect on their past and current relationships. What can you learn from them? How can you love yourself better, as well as others? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you want to see another retelling of “First Love” like this one. In the meantime you can check out parts 1-3 if you'd like.

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day this year everyone!

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