Independence and young love don’t travel hand in hand much in the eyes of society, especially in this day and age.
While many of the people I knew from high school or college are getting married and having kids, many more are still figuring out where they fit—whether it’s fitting in their relationships, fitting in their job, or just fitting in with life in general.
Minus the having kids part, I’m a member of the former. More specifically, a member of the high school sweetheart group.
But I never thought I would be.
My fiance proposed to me when we were 19 and I’m now 22, awaiting my upcoming wedding day. I love my fiance dearly. But he doesn’t complete me.
Let’s back up.
I was a rebellious teenager. I wanted to stay out all night, go dancing in clubs, drink and smoke. I played like I was apathetic, down for it all, but I remember knowing that wasn’t truly me. It wasn’t the way I wanted to be. I was following what I saw, garnering the attention I craved and moving through the motions, like a robot with a big ego.
That was how it was and how I imagined it could always be. Until I had someone come along who opened my eyes.
It was like I was wearing foggy glasses that all of a sudden were wiped clean. My 16-year-old self couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden, everything felt more normal. My movements were my own; my voice was my own. The “old me” fell away and there was this ushering in of a “new me,” a new beginning.
Still, six years later, my fiance doesn’t complete me. I am no more whole than I was before I met him, but in fact, I am more myself than I ever was.
Growing up, it was rare for me to be totally confident in myself or my choices. To be truthful (and human), there are days that go by presently where I’m not confident in myself or my choices. At a time when it was crucial, I never had a mentor or someone who I felt was entirely unbiased, someone who would just listen—perhaps it was the attention-seeker in me. All I wanted was someone to listen.
And that’s what I have now.
This isn’t to say that being with someone everyday is an easy one—regardless of if you’re 19 or 90. Sometimes it’s hard. Actually, hard doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface as to what it can be. At 16, 18 and 20, we’d get jealous, critique and overanalyze until one of us would crack.
When I would crack, out would tumble a whirlwind of thoughts reminiscent of the questions that many have asked me: Why didn’t I explore more? Why didn’t I branch out more? Or worse: It could be so much easier having someone with zero strings attached.
That’s the funny thing when we’re angry or upset. I mulled over these questions that I already knew the answers to and second-guessed even when it wasn’t necessary. My mind would spin and spin until actual consciousness could catch up with it.
I already knew I didn’t explore more because when I explored prior to meeting him, I didn’t like what I came across. I didn’t branch out more because I was perfectly content with who I was and what I was doing. And I’ve been in “relationships” where there weren’t strings attached and it just didn’t work for me. I wasn’t happy and out of that unhappiness came my foggy glasses.
Some people say you need to figure out who you are before you commit yourself to someone else and, generally, I’d say that’s a wise rule of thumb. For me, through consistently learning and growing beside someone else, with their support and their guidance, I was able to dig deep and find the answers that were there all along. He helped coax them to the surface, whether knowingly or not.
I never pictured myself with a shiny ring on my finger. I wanted to be a free bird, flying until the cows came home. But that wasn’t what was destined for me. At the end of the day, this experience was carved out into the universe for me because something in the very pit of my stomach gave me the feeling like I was supposed to make this whole thing work. That together, we could not only conquer our greatest challenges, but also become better change agents in this world.
I am not completed by another human being. I already was complete and whole. It was the connection with my person that facilitated the realization of my own wholeness, my own confidence and my own self. Young love and independence don’t travel hand in hand for everyone, but they do for me.
And I’m forever grateful.
Author: Gina Ciarrocchi
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Drew Osumi/Flickr