I had it all, and when I met him, I lost it.
He was beautiful. Dark hair, brown eyes, straight teeth. It felt like dancing. Being with him felt like listening to my favorite song on repeat, dancing to bachata—with the smoothness of hips and the closeness of two. I loved it. With him I loved it.
I was 16. Headstrong, dedicated, with a charming innocence, waiting for someone to notice. He did. He walked to me confident. I was impressed. He asked for my number. I was impressed. When he left me, I was impressed.
At 16, that is the first time you feel like a lady. After watching everyone else have their boyfriends, first family gatherings, first dates, you want to be that girl, too. So I wanted to fit. I wanted to be like every other 16 -year old I knew. So I put up with anything.
He knew all of the right words, all of the places that made me feel beautiful, the touches that I loved, and I’ll be honest, in his hands I was pudding. Soft. Easy to maneuver. I had no idea that I was limb. It felt like my bones were weak, like my heart was made of jello. 16.
Its funny when you’re 16, and you think you know it all. You think that heart of yours is so pure, and it is, and you feel that your first heartbreak is the worst heartbreak, and it might be. My first heartbreak was the worst heartbreak. When deciding to love someone, I forgot to love myself. I put up with anything: inconsistency, confusion, secrecy, and I allowed my love to take whatever he wanted from me because I felt that I had to give everything.
Over time, you get tired of feeling empty…of feeling like you have nothing left. When they leave you, when they watch you cry, you learn that your love doesn’t mean the world to everyone like it does to you, and that’s okay. First loves teach you resilience. It teaches you to guard your heart for the future love. It teaches you that first loves, regardless of age, are loves, and that you can’t take it back. You can’t take an “I love you” back.
I thank my first love. His dark hair, brown eyes, and straight teeth were a signature piece that I searched for in others. I constantly compared others to him when looking for someone else. I later learned that comparing your heartbreak to an open love is like fire. You get burned. So I stopped. I stopped searching for love, and I started searching for myself.
I began dwelling in passion: dance, friends, track, school, and I did those things on repeat. I did what I could to forget. At times, most times, I did forget. I moved on, but I found myself crying all of the time because I didn’t know how to handle such pain. I believed that it was so small. I believed that my heartbreak was nothing special—a simple tragedy. Typical girl, gets heartbroken the first time, blah blah blah. I didn’t want to feel the pain that other girls felt so I did what I could to avoid it. It later caught up with me at night, during the day, when I would do nothing and I hated it. I hated him for so long that I was losing myself.
That’s not healthy. Love is simple. Love, when two people love one another, it is very simple. It will all fit. That music, that bachata, that swinging of the hips, heart feels like jello—all of that, when it is ready, it will come, and you will not see it coming. First loves, they teach you that everything will be okay. They teach you to love better, to love more, to love more freely. It’s not easy moving on from first loves. I imagine the young girls who are sitting in their room, playing Adele and Taylor Swift repeatedly to feel that heartbreak. I, too, was that girl. I imagine their pain, their bruises, their broken hearts, and I feel for them because we all had to go through that pain.
That is the beauty of life. That is the beauty of falling in love for the first time. When you first fall, you fall hard, and there might be someone who picks you up, but those people are the ones you cherish. Cherish your friends and family because they help you heal, but most importantly, cherish yourself. Begin to love yourself over and over and over again. Always love yourself over again. Always love your first love over again, but this time, don’t be jello. Don’t be bachata, be hip hop. Be tough. Be strong. Be brave that when your first love walks up to you again, you are strong enough to dance to your own beat.