When you think of ‘love,’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Husband or wife? You usually associate love with a romantic relationship in your life. I perceived love to be the butterflies I felt when I was with the boy I once loved. The feeling I would get when I saw him smile, laugh, or how his presence made me feel. But the one thing about this love is that you don’t know how long it will last or stay true. Now, what comes after love is something no one prepares you for, but it’s the thing that sticks with you: heartbreak. 

Like many others, I had the opportunity to fall in love. It was the most freeing, happy, natural, and beautiful feeling I have ever felt. When you feel an emotion so deeply, you become selfish. You never want it to end because it is a feeling that makes you feel whole. My love didn’t last, but what did was the heartache I felt after. I’ve been feeling it for eight months now, and a small part of me will probably feel it for the rest of my life. When life turns your favourite person into a lesson, you stop trusting, caring…feeling. My academics, mental health and relationships with my loved ones changed utterly. I even failed a class, which led to my self-esteem and self-confidence dropping substantially. You don’t know how to process when you lose something that once made you feel whole. After giving so much love and support to someone else, I didn’t have any left for myself. I was empty, completely void on the inside and out. Every day I would wake up and cry, thinking about the memories we once made, laughing till we couldn’t breathe. Soon, I realized that this ‘love’ wasn’t the only love I should wish for. Love started to look a bit different.

My friends who wiped my tears daily, helped me keep up with school, made sure I ate, stayed hydrated, and slept right by me for months to make sure I didn’t feel alone reminded me that love can be friendship. My dad, who called me every day to ensure I was on top of my schoolwork while also making sure I was happy, reminded me that love can be strict yet warm. My mom, who distracted me with pointless work gossip to hear me laugh, even if it was for a split second, reminded me that love can be motherly and sweet. My little brother, who had just started high school, messaged all my friends to ensure I was okay because asking me straight up would show that he cared, which would be “uncool” for a teenager. He reminded me that he was the one boy that would always be there for me. My girlfriends sat and listened to me say the same thing repeatedly, even though they knew how it ended. They reminded me that love doesn’t need to be tall, dark and handsome, but it could also be a girl’s night therapy session. These experiences may not give me the butterflies he once gave me, but they give me hope. This love gives me structure and peace and feels like a big bear hug. 

Love itself taught me that love doesn’t have to be romantic. Love can be embracing your female friendships, painting a rock, dancing to your favourite songs in your closet-sized dorm room, or doing a full face of makeup even though you plan on staying at home. To me, love became self-love and friendship. I started planting my garden, growing back the love I had given away, but this time, I would store it because it was for me. 

One day, I might fall in love again, but until that day comes, I want to fall in love with myself. I want to be every bit as happy as possible because I know that I never want to feel the mind-numbing pain I once felt again. Nothing lasts forever, neither happiness nor loss, but if you live every day feeling the same amount of joy as you once felt the pain, it will find a way to balance out. My new love is true and real, and understands that to overcome heartbreak, it needs to embrace it fully and unselfishly. My experience taught me that love arrives when love is supposed to, and love leaves exactly when love must, but love is so strong it branches out in different forms, so you always have some love to keep.

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