Why I Am in a Better Place Because of My First Love

A woman looks into the sky on a sunny day.
A woman looks into the sky on a sunny day.

Originally published on Unwritten by Nikki Ruggiero.

Growing up, I always felt like the ugly duckling of my friend group. I always felt like I would never find love because I wasn't as pretty as the other girls. Prince Charming was only real in the fairy tales I watched in Disney movies. I didn't know who or what I was doing and where I was going next. I was young and naïve. I didn't think I deserved to be loved.

My first year of college quickly came around. I was in a new place, surrounded by new people, in the Steel City I thought I would never call home.

Then I met you.

From the moment I saw you approaching the empty chair beside me, I knew we'd be together someday. You had a girlfriend at the time, of course, but I knew our time would come, and it did.

I could look back and remind you of all the embarrassing things that happened in between... the drunken nights, embarrassing texts, all of it. But it doesn't matter. All you need to know is that I was the happiest I ever was in the almost year that we dated. That, and that you were the best thing that had ever happened to me -- at the time, of course. You made me feel things I had never felt before.

I had never been in love, but I was pretty darn sure this was it. I was the happiest I had ever been because you were mine, and I was yours. I loved every inch of myself because of the love letters you'd written on my skin. Love, in the purest of forms -- simple, easy. Reminds me of that one How I Met Your Mother episode we watched when Marshall and Lily talk about how when you find the one, it's simple, easy. You were my Marshall, and I, your Lily, and that's all I ever wanted to be. Yours.

Inevitably, our relationship ended. I was drowning in a sea of emotions. I felt everything all at once, and sometimes, nothing at all. I had no appetite, lost an unhealthy amount of weight, failed two classes, and really pissed off some of the best people I know. I had a cloud over my head that just never went away. I hated myself. I hated how sad I was and how poorly I treated myself and the people around me.

I waited a long time for you to come around. The How I Met Your Mother hoodie I bought you for your birthday came in the mail. I wasn't sure what I should do with it, so I kept waiting. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. Maybe I hoped you'd show up at my window with a radio blasting "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel, or maybe I waited for a drunken text. I don't know. But I stopped, eventually.

I could tell you I was heartbroken, but that would be an understatement. The things I felt inside, I would never want anyone else to experience. It took me a very long time to realize this, but it was a blessing. You know the "everything happens for a reason" cliché you are just so tired of hearing? Yeah, well, it's true. You may not see this right away but patience is key. Time is a thief I would rob, but it's what you need to heal even the deepest of wounds.

Maybe you weren't the one, but you were the one who taught me what it was to love someone unconditionally. It was because of you that I started to learn how to love myself. It's thanks to you that I now know who I am, and what matters in life.

Breaking up with you was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I was lucky enough to have the best support system and team a girl could ask for. I made new friends and got closer to those who mattered most to me and eventually, I recovered. They brought the noise back into my life, and unleashed my spirit once again.

I'll never forget how you kissed me in patterns, your slanted smile or the words you once wrote. Those memories will stay with me forever because they are a part of me. I don't regret any of our firsts, and I am thankful for our lasts. I don't love you anymore, because I'm not the person I was when I was with you. I've changed and will never be the same. But I do love who I've become.

You moved on of course, as did I. Within the month, you started seeing someone new. I truly wish you the best, whether you believe me or not. This may come as a surprise to you, but thank you. Thank you for teaching me to never place the key to your happiness in somebody else's pocket. Thank you for teaching me that you can't really love someone until you love yourself. Thank you for the good times, and the bad. Most importantly, I thank you for teaching me that I am my own home.