By the time I was 21, I had already completely lost all faith in romance.
I had concluded that love was nice but it simply did not exist in fairytale form.
Love, I had determined was simply a fondness for a person whose flaws you could tolerate and who allowed you to live in a kind of co-dependency which was useful.
I was studying nursing, and my teacher—an intimidating woman of 50 who looked older than her years, stood all of 5 foot and walked with a purpose that was borne of extreme confidence—asked us what we thought was most important in life: health, love or money?
She was not the sort of women who asked philosophical questions. If she asked a question at all it was clear she believed there to be a right (and a wrong) answer.
I was not inclined to rank love high on the list.
Gathering what I knew of my teacher and rationalising, I ranked them—
To argue these points I said that all the money in the world could not buy you health and money, regretfully, was necessary to live while love, although nice, was unnecessary.
My teacher told me categorically that I was incorrect.
The correct order of significance, according to her, was: money, health, love. She said without money you could not keep yourself healthy. We needed it for clothing, shelter, food and in some cases, medicine in order to restore us to health.
I have thought of that question often over the years and, recently, I have decided that both she and I were wrong.
In the last two years I have been both poorer than I have been in years and sicker as I fell into the depths of restricted eating.
But l have seen love in a new light, and my lack of money and health has not taken anything away from it.
An evening spent under the stars laughing with a partner costs nothing. The support of a lover during a battle with calories is invaluable.
My teacher should have known better. She, who nursed those in the winter of their lives should have realised what is important, and becomes even more important as you lose the other two.
Not one of the elderly in a nursing home ever mentioned the impressiveness of their bank account or how flash their car was. No one ever recalled daily the robust health of their youth. They spoke of their loved ones, alive and departed. They talked of children and spouses and parents and pets.
One woman in her 80s was widowed at 19 and still kept her husband’s image on her bedside table. She still spoke of that love. She had lived decades without him but he was what buoyed her and brought light to her eyes at the end of her life.
I’m not sure if I have become a born-again romantic in my 30s or if I have just finally come to understand the lessons gifted to me while I cared for those wise men and women, but I have now moved lose to the top of my list.
Love always comes first.
Author: Liss Brewer
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Aart van Bezooyen/ Flickr