At the age of 18, I would sleep with the boy I would spend the next 7 years of my life with. I would form my personality around his, grow up with him and then ultimately realise we were never meant to be together.
Being with someone during such formative years, when some of your most exciting memories are being made, and when you are becoming aware of the world around you, is a mixed blessing. I never meant to be that girl who settled down so early; as I’ve said previously, marriage and babies have never interested me. I didn’t seek out a boyfriend as so many of my friends were doing at the time, it just happened to me. While I loved him very much and I don’t want to erase any of those experiences or memories, there is a big part of me that wishes it hadn’t happened so soon, or lasted so long.
I feel like I’ve missed out on so many experiences other people my age had in their early 20’s. I’m just now learning how to date, how to relate to boys my own age, how to deal with rejection, how to know what is good and bad attention, and most importantly, how to be alone. I’m just now learning what parts of my personality are my own, and what parts were learnt during my long association with someone else. Even in my relationship, I was always very independent, but when you grow up as one half of an ampersand it can be easy to lose who you are, or never even figure it out.
Of course, I learnt a lot of really important things about myself and about life, when I was part of an ampersand. I think the most important of these is to stand up for what you want, and if you feel something strongly don’t let that person dismiss it. I learnt that name-calling is one of the worst things you can do in an argument. I learnt that people don’t really change even if they promise they will, and I learnt that if there’s something that bothers you about someone early on, 7 years will only amplify that discomfort, not dull it.
I learnt that even if you know that person isn’t right for you, you can’t stop yourself from wanting them anyway. I learnt that we’re meant to make mistakes, and we’re meant to be sad and devastated and angry and stupidly, blindly happy.
I learnt that if something isn’t working, you can’t let fear stop you from saying so. I learnt your instincts about someone or something are nearly always right. I learnt you can’t ignore how you feel, and you can’t bottle it up.
I learnt there’s nothing more important in life than being honest with yourself, with your partner, with your best friend and with the people around you. The people who are in your life are in it because they love you and want to support you, and that fear you have that they’ll judge you is unfounded. I learnt it’s OK to lean on people, even if you’ve drifted away from them, and to ask for help and to have moments of weakness. I learnt it’s OK to say that you’re not OK.
And I learnt that I am going to be OK some days and I am going to be very not OK on other days. And I learnt that that’s OK.
I’m not always subtle in my references.
Some of you might have recognised this song here.
I’ve also learnt to Trust my Crazy Place.
And that I’m not alone when it comes to dealing with my anxiety.