In a lot of ways, I am like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. We have the same curly hair, long nose, and staggering height of 5’4”. Like me, Carrie is a writer. She writes a column for the New York Star about the romances, hook-ups, and late night adventures of her and her girl posse as they experience New York City in their 30s. And while I live in Nashville, have a disproportionately large number of male friends, and am just beginning my 20s, I too love to write about romances, hook-ups, and late night adventures.
I’d like to consider myself a veteran of love. I’ve fallen hopelessly, had my heart broken, mended the shattered pieces, and fallen all over again. It is a rite of passage. The best and worst part about growing up.
That is what this series entails. The story of my loves and my losses. It is both a cautionary tale and an encouragement to take the leap of faith. It is an insight into the dos and don’ts of love. And through my experience I hope you are able to find something that can be applied to your own.
If I am going to tell this story right, I have to start from the beginning. And if you’re going to understand, you’ll have to fall in love the way I did.
I’m going to tell you the amazing story of us.Liam Stewart in The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
According to my freshman year Social Psychology professor, Janie Beekman, one of the biggest factors of attraction is proximity, meaning the more we see and interact with people, the more likely we are to develop relationships with them. I guess this explains how the boy down the street that drove me to school everyday would eventually become my boyfriend.
Matthew Jameson (whose name has been changed) was tall, had brown hair, and wore thick, black glasses. He was notoriously late to everything. He was quiet in crowds but loud once you got him among his closest friends. The boy could do anything he set his mind to. Whether it be playing the piano, writing, or drawing. He was good at everything. And to this day, Matthew is still one of the smartest people I know.
I went to every single one of his soccer games. Even the ones that were hours away. It seemed as if everyone knew I liked Matthew, except him. I turned my back to him, crossed my arms over my chest, and prepared to let the trust fall take me. But instead of leaving room for love, Matthew made things tricky at first, standing right behind me. My fall was more of an imbalance than anything else.
It took weeks of talking, going for drives, asking him to homecoming, and my best friend forcing him to admit his feelings for me, but eventually, on December 16, 2019, Matthew Jameson told me he liked me back.
We took things slow. As two of the highest achieving students at our school, we respected each other’s work ethic. The school week was for getting good grades, but everyone knew that Saturday nights were our nights. Sometime after 6pm he would come over to my house and we’d watch movies and talk. We planted the seed of our love in my bedroom and it grew as far as those four walls would allow.
Well first off you’re beautiful. Whether you believe it or not. You’re also one of the best human beings I’ve met in a long time. People aren’t made like you anymore. I’ve had butterflies for like 30 minutes straight and I want to cry. I never cry. Maggie, stop doing this to me. I can’t stop thinking about you. I just want to be with you. You’re perfect in my eyes.
I took great pride in being Matthew’s girlfriend. His perfect girlfriend. One that showered him in gifts, watched his favorite shows, and listened attentively to everything he had to say. I made his dreams my dreams. His words, my words. His life, my life. I loved him with every fiber of my being. Maybe so much so that there was no love left for myself, but it felt like an honor to live my life through the scope of him.
And as the months went by and the anniversaries passed, we moved together like your left and right foot. Sometimes I felt like he was made for me. Not only for the things we had in common, but for the things that we did not. It was as if, for everything I was not, he was. Where I lacked faith, optimism, or discretion, he filled the space. I finally understood what it meant to say someone is your other half. It’s not just that we were compatible. He completed me.
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
If you google, “What percentage of high school relationships last?” you’ll find the answer to be 2%. It is a tale as old as time. Two high school students that believed they were the exception. It was Matthew who first said, “We’re different”, but it was me that believed it.
So like all great young love stories, we started to plan a future in which we grew old together. Him and I living on the water in a mountainous state with our three children. I was willing to make any sacrifice to make that future a reality.
On December 8, 2020 when I found out I was moving 12 and half hours away, we swore we would continue to make it work. On June 26, 2021, the day I moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, I slept in his bed for the first and last time. On August 2, 2021 he came to visit me and for a mere 5 days we lived our future as husband and wife in every way but the title. And on August 7, 2021 I dropped him off at the airport with tears in my eyes and his promise that “this won’t be the last time we see each other” ringing in my ears.
Each day without him chipped away a piece of my heart. I wore his clothing everywhere I went. It felt like I was carrying him around with me. I clung to my phone like it was my air supply. Each text he sent me was a breath of fresh air and each minute I waited for him to text me back again was a plunge underwater. Absence didn’t just make my heart grow fonder. It grew hungrier. It made me need him as much as I wanted him.
Such is falling in love for the first time. It might have started as an imbalance with Matthew close behind to catch my fall, but it ended as a nose dive with no regard for the concrete at the bottom.
I’m sure those who have been in love before are nodding their heads. You might be picturing the faces that are stained into your heart, remembering the names that are carved into your mind, and feeling the touches that are burned into your skin. There is nothing quite as comforting as moving through life knowing that you are someone’s favorite person, someone’s first and last thought of the day, someone’s lifeline, as they are yours.
It’s true in life, as in the movies, that the greatest highs are often followed by the lowest lows.Cary Elwes
So believe me when I say, it is dangerous to love this way.
I learned a lot from my first relationship. Most of all, that love is a fatal flaw. When you’re in the thick of it, everything is better. And if you do it right, it’s easy. If you are kind, cautious, curious, commitmed, and completely infatuated with each other, I promise calm waters and orange sunsets. But young love is seldom perfect like this. We simultaneously care so little about ourselves and yet so much. We do not care how or why we came to need them so ferociously, but we will fight to keep them tooth and nail. We are as selfless and as selfish as we will ever be.
Sometimes we even make the mistake of losing ourselves. Social psychology had taught me that people would like me more if I matched their interests, backgrounds, personality, and attitudes, a phenomenon known as the similarity effect. I thought that the more like him I was the more he would love me. Until one morning I woke up and at the center of my world was Matthew instead of me. No longer was I Maggie Dunn. I was Matthew Jameson.
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling yourself, is not fully developed during adolescence. At this point in life, young brains are still programmed to conduct risk-seeking behaviors. We don’t truly have control of ourselves yet. One of my professors felt as if this explained the teenage desire to rebel, drink, and smoke. It was almost like we couldn’t help it. Maybe we love recklessly for the same reason.
You might be thinking I’m going to caution you against falling in love. Tell you that you’re not special. You’re not different. Your heart is doomed to break just as mine did. Just as mine will a million more times. But that’s not for me to decide, and that’s not my agenda. Because as much as I want to caution you against free fall, there is so much growth that comes after falling unrealistically and naively in love. So fall. Fall so hard you have to struggle to get back up. Maybe it’s not just a rite of passage. Maybe it’s written into our brains. Maybe we can’t help it. Love recklessly, deeply, and unconditionally. Love with all of your heart, but promise me that you will love yourself too. Promise me that as much as you will love, you will never give it the power to destroy you.