Dear 17-year-old Courtney,
I want you to know what love is, okay? But most importantly, I want you to know what love isn’t.
Love isn’t being used. It isn’t being asked to drive 30 minutes out of your way in order to see that special someone at 3 am. It isn’t having to constantly take care of things that aren’t your problem. It isn’t being put on the backburner with no idea where you stand. It isn’t being left in the middle of a party with people you don’t know, to just stand there and continue to drink your Diet Dr. Pepper. It isn’t being stuck in a hot car with a guy you keep pushing away and asking to stop.
Love is something sacred, something dumb and stupid, something magical. It’s being with your best friend, your protector, your most prized possession and being treated the same. It is communication and clarity. Love is working through the bumps, hard work, ups, and downs.
One night, you’re going to be at a party with a boy you are madly infatuated with, not in love. You’ll think everything is fine. You’ll meet two other boys that night, and they will change your life. One will physically abuse you, one will break your soul. And if I could go back in time and pull your keys out the ignition as you were driving to that godforsaken place, I wouldn’t do it.
When it happens, when the cards begin to fall, you’re going to feel lost. You’ll feel worthless and broken. You may never heal from the scars that you are left with. It happens fast, so pay attention. You’ll notice that in your time of crisis, of life-altering pain, people will leave. And it won’t be until you’re seemingly “fine” that they begin to crawl back. You won’t know how to process the events that transpired, but you will know one thing. You need a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on. And you will take the first thing that comes your way.
Things won’t be great. You’ll stumble through confusing conversations, months of being unable to understand that you are nothing more than a booty call. You’ll be scared to ask hard questions, because deep down you know the answers already. You’ll pour your heart and soul into a boy who doesn’t love you. But it ‘ll take you a few months to realize it.
And then you’ll meet one, final boy. A boy who treats you like you’re a delicate flower. A boy who, on your first date, will look over at you as you’re saying goodbye and ask in the sweetest voice, “Can I kiss you?” A boy who you can be yourself around, tell anything to, trust, and feel safe with.
You’ll cautiously dip your toe into the idea of this boy, and he’ll respect your boundaries. He talks with you to try to understand your hesitations. He makes sure you’re comfortable, happy, safe. He is open with his emotions, unafraid to share them. Never leaves your side at a party.
The boys that you met at the party that night, and the boy you went with, they witnessed a terrible thing happen to you. They were the first people who saw you as you left that car, bruises on your neck, and they said nothing. You’ll stumble into the bathroom, your close friend by your side and start to cry tears that you don’t understand. I’m sorry to say that I still, don’t understand. You’ll lay down, shaking and clutching yourself, feeling like your heart is an ice cream cone left out in the sun.
Love is not letting the person you’re with fall apart like that. Love is not something that can be determined by certain boxes you check off on a list. Love is not something you have to think about.
So, Courtney, I leave you with this, you will break. You will fall. But you will not stay that way.
It’ll be okay.