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I have learned my lessons in love, while looking into the eyes of those who have seared their handprint onto my heart. I have felt it shatter, and break, and fracture with each lesson finding a new place to mark. But I don’t regret them—no, I can’t regret them. Because these lovers and these lessons have taught me how to love and be loved in return.
The one who I just didn’t love enough taught me that although love can grow, there needs to be a seed first. They taught me that love should be unselfish, non-judgemental, and unconditional. They taught me that real love—the mature kind, the one that is meant to last—doesn’t poke holes in your heart before their lips even touch yours. They taught me that anger and yelling aren’t the danger—it’s apathy and lack of wanting to know. They taught me that when someone tells you they’re not worthy of you by seeking out the comfort of other beds, believe them.
The one who I loved with my whole heart taught me that love alone isn’t enough. They taught me that just because you want something so badly that your hands shake, the universe doesn’t always give in to you. They taught me that fear is the ultimate killer of all things good, and communication is the only thing able to bring you back from the brink. They taught me that real love exists, and once you’re hit by its mark, it never leaves, but it is always able to transform. They taught me—through both presence and absence—that love requires laughter, sunshine, music, and a want to just be near to someone without taking your clothes off.
The one who I thought I would love taught me that seeds—without water, sunlight, and care—easily fade into nothing. They taught me through the things they lacked that effort, attention, and a phone call at the end of the day are sexy and attractive and necessary. They taught me that you can’t control how people feel or how they act, but you can control how you handle it. They taught me that sparks and fireworks alone don’t mean as much as you might think. They taught me that butterflies eventually fly away, and then you’re left with nothing but an empty stomach and a wasted heart. They taught me that in order for the butterflies to stay, you need to be able to plant flowers in the deepest parts of one another. And then they taught me that sometimes people don’t want to plant flowers in you, and that’s okay.
The one I wanted to love taught me that love—no matter how badly we want to believe it—is not man-made. They taught me that you can love someone with every piece of you, but not in the way that means you’ll spend the rest of your life with them. They taught me that you cannot fake your way into chemistry or a bond, and pretending only ends up wearing away at whatever real connection exists. They taught me that sex is not an answer, and forcing yourself to feel something you don’t will never work. They taught me to appreciate love when I find it, because it is so special and it is so rare.
The one I loved too fast taught me that love isn’t fair. They taught me that jumping in head first because “it’s just right” doesn’t mean that God has finally answered your prayers and given you your person. They taught me that trust needs to be earned, and allowing someone to have you before they’re sure leaves you on a falling branch with no wings. They taught me that someone can say they love you—they can even mean it—and it still won’t be enough to cross distance. They taught me that time and geography are uninterested in how they affect your heart.
And then there’s you—the one I love. You taught me that contrary to everything I’ve ever believed, you can feel sparks and fireworks while also feeling at home in someone’s arms. You taught me that love isn’t logical—it’s not meant to be—and trying to make sense of something so magical is pointless. You taught me that trusting, and giving, and being vulnerable does not leave you with less, but allows you to have so much more. You taught me that although sweet nothings and kind promises keep you warm for awhile, there is nothing better than bare-faced honesty and realistic expectations—for those are the things that build foundations, and plant flowers.
You taught me that love doesn’t have to leave a searing handprint. You taught me that love is a held hand, and a soft pressure at the small of my back.