First Love: A Misunderstanding

The first thing that springs to mind when I think about ‘first love’ is The Notebook. Noah and Allie’s love story is so beautiful that, as a viewer, you long to emulate something similar in your own life. I certainly did. This is where the problem lies. Growing up, I was a hopeless romantic (I still am, but now a hopeless realistic romantic) I watched films such as The Notebook, My Girl and A Cinderella Story over and over again with the hope that I too would have a life-altering summer romance, fall in love with my best friend or develop an online romance with a mystery guy (never really stopped to think about the implications of that last one - ‘Nomad’ could have been a psycho!)

Anyway, all of the above are certainly great noughties classics. They will always have a special place in my heart and shaped a lot of my expectations whilst growing up. But, paradoxically, could this be the problem? I spent my teens yearning for the intensity and ultimate happiness that first love seemed to promise in all of the films I so loved to watch. I spent so much time desperate to experience this, worried that I never would. This impatience to fall in love meant that I projected my feelings onto boys that were nowhere near right for me; one boy in particular. 

This boy was older and could undoubtedly sense that I was after love, romance, the real deal. Naturally, he shamelessly used this to his advantage. As a seventeen-year-old girl who had been brought up with happily married parents and watched and read as many romantic films and books as I had, I was blind to this boy’s hidden agenda and ignorant of the precariousness of the situation, the emotional toll it would take. When he first told me I was beautiful, I felt worthy. In my head, I equated him telling me this with him on his way to loving me; how silly. At the time I truly believed I loved this person. I would constantly make excuses for his actions: Oh, he’s probably just afraid of his feelings for me and, Oh, he will come around eventually etc. I remember being convinced that this was, and would always be, my first love and how great it was that I had finally found him. 

Five years later and I barely recognize who I was back then. Five years later and I have truly and irrevocably fallen in love. I met my boyfriend (of one year now) when I was twenty-one and had just returned from a six-month sun-soaked exchange from Southern California. I was ready for some boredom and normalcy in my final year of university. Instead - in addition to the above - I fell in love in beautiful, auburn October. I can pinpoint the exact moment I was certain of this. We were lying in bed listening to Elbow’s ‘Weather to Fly’, my head on his warm chest, staring up at the ceiling of scattered glow-in-the-dark stars with a contented smile on my face as he absent-mindedly played with my hair and I just knew in my bones that I was falling in love. The next evening he told me ‘I love you’ for the first time on a rooftop overlooking The Shard and the rest of a shimmering London skyline and, beaming from ear to ear, I said it back. My first love. 

It did not arrive in my teens as I thought it would, as per all of those movies, but it did arrive when I least expected it, in the form of an incredibly caring, thoughtful, gentle and considerate man that has since done nothing but enrich my life. I believe that there is a distinct difference to thinking you love someone and truly falling in love with someone. I personally associate the former with an irrational yet dangerously powerful unrequited teenage ‘love’ - a love that isn't really love so much as a hopeless desire to be loved and validated - whereas the latter is a beautifully magical process, a love that is undoubtedly reciprocated, romantic.  A big love. If I could go back and tell my fifteen through nineteen-year-old self one thing, it would be: stop chasing first love. It will happen of its own accord and when it does, it will awaken your soul and shroud your life in glitter.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my favourite writers, wrote, ‘There are all kinds of love in this world but there is never the same love twice’. It is marvellous to think that we all define love differently and experience a multi-faceted range of loves. What I will say is, do not confuse the heart-breaking intensity of an unrequited love with the complete contentment and overwhelming happiness of a first love, wherever, and in whomever, you may find this. 

by: Dredheza Maloku

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