Graphic by Om Patel and Anne Ribordy
I thought I knew what death felt like on February 14, 2020.
I convinced myself that it would be the worst day of my entire life. While death and heartbreak may have felt similar in that moment, they in fact, are not the same feeling.
It was a Friday. There was a long weekend ahead. I wore a new top I bought especially for Valentine’s Day; it was great. I was, however, nervous due to a combination of having my first college counselor meeting and tension in my angsty, gross, immature, teenage relationship.
One of those events went very well, the other, did not.
To further differentiate the sentiments of death and heartbreak on that day, the rest of 2020 ensued and every day after that got worse, completely unrelated to being broken up with on Valentine’s Day.
The events of February 14, 2021 were much different. When the clock struck midnight, I was celebrating the birthday of a close friend, so I went to sleep way too late despite having a work shift at 7 a.m. Then I got home from work and took a lovely nap that took me into the next day. Exactly a year from the meeting with the college counselor I have committed to the school that was at the top of the list I made then.
It is pretty fair to say that this Valentine’s Day was far superior to last year’s.
It is taken a lot to get to the point I am at now, including countless tears, six sessions at a hair salon to become blond, many tubs of ice cream and a few lockdowns that forcibly gave me opportunities to reflect.
After my breakup, adults at every opportunity invalidated my heartbreak as if it was not grieving in some way. I essentially lost a friend I had known for quite some time. My boss thought it was comical and told me to continue stocking shelves. My older sisters told me to get over it already. My father awkwardly patted me on the back and told me that I would be fine.
Sure, that relationship absolutely was not true love, but it was a learning experience, a stepping stone for processing feelings and emotions that will undoubtedly come my way again.
Brenna Weidman, therapist at Youth Services of Glenview/Northbrook, defines teenage love as the building block that teaches a foundation for adult love. Seems like a pretty valid thing to be sad about to me, and it certainly doesn’t magically gain validity once you reach a certain age. Though my age may account for the heightened intensity and drama of that relationship, according to Weidman, it was still a valid relationship.
“At all ages we always want to be loved, to be accepted, to belong,” Weidman said. “That sense of acceptance and belonging is important to everyone and is fulfilled through love whether it’s familial, friendship or romantic.”
And so far, it seems that I have learned to provide acceptance, belonging and love for myself. I realized that the only person who really needed my love more than any other person on this planet was me and no one would ever be more worthy of deserving it than me.
There was no singular turning point of realization to get me to figure this out, just fatigue from the constant trial and error and dwelling on the past. While romance has not become completely irrelevant in my life, it is less of a necessity now more than ever because I provide the love I need for myself.
Teenage love may deserve the giggles and eye rolls it receives (I even refer to that relationship as a laughing matter now), but it does not deserve the stigma that surrounds it.
To our parents: don’t be so harsh on us because we think we feel love. Let us learn. Don’t judge us when we don’t either. Let us experience life at our own pace.
Starting with most importantly, yourself, love who you want, however you want, whenever you want without judgment even if they wear a man bun or have a perm or resemble a frog.