Welcome back to this week's issue of Journalism’s “First Love” series! Last week, I went and interviewed “Affection in Autumn,” who shared with me a vulnerable story about their first love, Guitar Hero, in their freshman year of college.
This time of year, recollecting all of our sweet, nostalgic memories into one bundle and sharing heartfelt stories, laughs, and words with others are what makes Valentine's day worthwhile, whether or not you are in a relationship. This week, I have captured an especially vulnerable retelling of young love from our very own “Thriving at 37.”
I asked, “Who was the first person you ever loved and why did you love them?”
Thriving shared, “I honestly think the first person I really, really loved with no shame or reservations was my wife. I didn’t get married until I was 40. I guess you could say I was ‘in love’ before that. With Alyssa, maybe. We’d pass notes in carpool and try to get each other's attention. I had a girlfriend named Carla who I loved my senior year of high school…but there was something about… ‘Virtuous Vulnerability’ but also something about where I was at that point in my life. I had to be comfortable enough with myself to be able to let somebody else in and give myself to someone else fully.”
“I guess I’m kinda cheating. I had said I love you to numerous women before that… but it felt different with ‘Virtuous.’ She was so real… and unpretentious– she wasn’t trying to attract attention or impress. I had never been able to offer authenticity, and I admired the way she presented herself as a whole, and not just the side that people typically show off. All of my early loves were a mission. I wanted to date this girl because she was pretty, that girl because she was smart, etc. But by the time I was in my late 30s and met ‘Virtuous’, I had been on the edge of marriage already with other people and I had pulled back.” Thriving says “I have two pieces of advice.”
“First, you have to love and accept yourself before you can love and accept somebody else. And if that takes a long time, that’s okay. You have to accept your insecurities and your flaws so that you don’t have to pretend to be somebody else around your partner.
Living and loving while simultaneously feeling shame is not sustainable. If you’re not showing your partner all of you, you have more work to do on yourself and your authenticity.”
“Second, don’t wait until you're 37 to practice self-love. Get a head start on this now.
Truthfully, the first girl I loved in high school never knew I loved her because I was ashamed of my feelings for her. I wanted to be with somebody who impressed others. I kept going out with people I forced myself to pretend to open up to. It only served my ego needs to be with them.
I wish I could go back and have been confident enough to be with my high school crush. To this day, she doesn’t know I ever had feelings for her, all because I was so weary of image.”
This Valentine’s day, I challenge you to be your most authentic self. Be vulnerable, extreme, radically loving, and, most importantly, treat yourself to a gift. It’s about time we start treating ourselves like the person we know and love best. After all, it’s YOU you’ll be connected to for the rest of your life no matter what. Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!