How I Fell In Love With Myself Before Someone Else Could
The Process of Learning to Love Myself in Hopes of Getting the Person of My Dreams (Which I Did)
In the eye of this emotional and mental hurricane, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of hope for me. Everything felt like the end of the world, which I now know wasn’t the case. I felt like the world would’ve been an easier place without me in it. The space that I was taking up should’ve been put into better use. I only ever wrote poetry about sadness and how I was tired of only writing poetry about sadness. Things were not looking up for me. There was no light at the end of the dark tunnel I had been stuck inside.
When my Junior year of high school began, I was working on the depression and anxiety that ate away at me throughout my sophomore year of high school. My home life was difficult and distressing. My mother never held back when she was disappointed in me, and she was always disappointed in me back then. I felt that I had no support at home. My school life was morphing more and more the same. I quit the cheer squad, where the girls that I considered my friends, but knew that they really didn’t want to be my friend, cut ties completely. Other friends were growing more popular and hanging out with more popular people, so we grew apart quickly. I was always too shy and dismal to attempt to make any new friends. All I had was my tightknit group, and I was willing to keep it that way.
My friends and I were eating lunch in the cafeteria. I was sitting next to a girl named Jessi on my left and a girl named Abbey on my right, along with a few other friends around the table eating chicken nuggets and wraps. Our cafeteria was an open space that you can sit in and still see the hallway that leads to the athletic wing. I was zoning out a bit, just looking at the people passing by in the hallway. I saw this guy, and the whole world flipped.
He was tall with blonde shaggy hair. His eyebrows were thick like mine, and he had the smile that ended up looking like a little light at the end of the dark tunnel I had been stuck inside. I saw him, just looking in front of him, walking towards the gym. I saw him, and I knew that I was going to love him forever. I didn’t know this guy’s name, but I knew that I was going to marry him and take that name. I knew that even if this guy didn’t love me back, I was going to love and love and love him, a feeling that I haven’t felt in a long time.
“Guys, look,” I muttered. They all looked where I was pointing. Abbey suddenly looks pleasantly surprised, a long smile and wide eyes growing upon her face. “I know him,” she announced. “That’s Maxx Kirk! We were friends at Ritter.” As he turned towards the gym, he faded from our sight. I looked at her, eyes wide and almost afraid at how strongly I was feeling towards this stranger. She looked at me, and she knew that I liked him. She smiled mischievously, looking down at her phone.
“I still have his number. Let me text him and see if he answers.”
She goes on to text the number that she hadn’t messaged in a while, afraid that he probably had gotten a new phone with a new number sometime in between their seeing each other. But he answered, and he was so happy to hear from his “Irish friend.” Abbey took my phone and put his number in my phone. I looked at it and thought that it was the greatest arrangement of numbers in existence. Suddenly, Jessi, in her nasally voice, said, “Give me his number! He’s hot!”
Both Abbey and I looked at her in annoyance. This whole table saw me trip over the world that had flipped upside down at the sight of him, and she’s going to say that? Abbey reluctantly gives her Maxx’s number. We left the situation at that.
The entire rest of the day, I was trying to remember him. Maxx Kirk. Blonde, shaggy hair. Tall and thick brows. A grey baseball tee, blue jeans, white converse. Beautiful. Possibly athletic, considering he was walking towards the athletic wing. Looked athletic.
At one point, I was filled with little to no hope for myself or my future. As I was thinking about this Maxx that I don’t even know, I was filling with hope, overflowing with hope. Hope was suddenly my middle name. I was going to marry this guy. I was going to love him forever. I can’t love someone forever if I die or want to die, so those weren’t options anymore. I’m in love with this person, and even as my shy and dismal self, I was going to do whatever it took to talk to him. I pulled out my phone and texted Abbey.
“Hey, so I think I’m in love w Maxx,” I sent.
“I know u are *laughing-crying emoji* He really is a great guy. I can tell you a bit about him if u want” she replied. My heart was racing already.
We then texted until 10 PM, just talking about him. She told me that he played football and basketball at Cardinal and Brownsburg. He broke his leg sophomore year while playing baseball. He does theater and sings. He's super funny and kind. He’s smart. With every text, my heart was growing in size. My mind was racing anxiously about what I was going to do to talk to this guy. He didn’t even know that I knew things about him, and he didn’t even know me. How was I, my shy and dismal self, going to go up to this person without fainting in front of him, let alone conduct a conversation that could or could not lead to more conversation, and in turn could or could not lead to friendship, and in return could or could not lead to a romantic relationship? Was I capable of this? Was there that much hope for me?
For the first time up until this point, I hadn’t thought about my depression. I had only written love poems about cafeterias and gyms and how close yet so far away they were. I wrote about his blonde hair. I wrote about how big his heart must’ve been. I only wrote about happiness and love, two things that felt foreign to me at this point. I was learning about parts of me that I thought were long gone. I thought that I would never find somebody to love me, and I never thought that I would ever be able to love myself. This stranger, someone who I had never talked to, someone who probably didn’t even know about my existence at this point, was turning me into a believer again. He was slowly but surely turning me into hope and light.
In these few weeks, I was teaching myself to be more confident. I knew that I would not be able to go up to him and start a conversation without throwing up or passing out. I faked it until I made it. Every morning, I’d do my makeup and I’d whisper to myself, “Today’s going to be a good day. Today, you are important. Today, you don’t take up space. Today, you’re going to be confident. You have to remember that you’re going to be okay today.” This helped more than I thought. I was smiling more. I had a goal and a plan to achieve it. With this goal, there were sub-goals that I was also achieving along the way. I was counseling myself all in hopes of winning over some boy. This boy was the only reason that I was getting better mentally, and he doesn’t even know it yet.
I was starting to laugh again. The quiet girl next to me in Biology would lean over to me to joke about the teacher’s shirt, and I laughed. In fact, I laughed so hard that the teacher had asked what was so funny in that teacher voice that we all know. I started to look up at people instead of looking at the ground when walking to and from class. I started smiling at my mother again. Slowly but surely, I had started to show the work of my confidence process. I was showing my results, and I was proud of them. People had noticed. “You have such a pretty smile.” “Your laugh is so cute. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh.” “You look good. I don’t know what it is, but you look good.”
After three months of training myself to chase that light at the end of my long tunnel, I was ready to talk to him. We had the same choir class, and my voice was shaking through each note and tune because of the nerves that continued to remind me to talk to him. Fake it 'til you make it, I told myself. I even wrote it on my music paper.
As the end of the period was drawing near, I built up the courage to walk over and talk to him about his band t-shirt. "You’re confident. You’re okay. You’re going to be okay." As I was walking across the choir room and towards Maxx, I could feel my heart bursting out of my chest. The closer I got to him, the more I realized that it was a good racing of the heart, not a bad one. I wasn’t nervous. I was actually excited. I had waited months; through girls wanting him to give them a chance, through him being uninterested in these girls, through long nights looking at myself in the mirror and liking more and more of what I was seeing in my reflection, and even through making friends along the way, I was finally in his sights. I was finally in front of him, ready to say words. Would he say words back? Would he smile again, and this time at me? Would he compliment my t-shirt? I didn’t care what he was going to do because for the first time in forever, I wasn’t thinking of the possible negative outcomes — only the possible positive outcomes.
Today, we’ve been dating for three years and counting. Because depression doesn’t just go away with the snap of your fingers, he’s taught me just as I’ve taught myself. He not only made me believe in love at first sight with him, but I learned to believe in love at first sight with me. I had looked in the mirror thousands of times before him, and every time, I hated the person I was – inside and out. The first day I talked to him, I went to the bathroom in-between classes. I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I was proud of the person that was looking back at me. This was not because of some guy, and it was not because this one guy can make me feel better about myself. At first sight in that high school bathroom, I was proud of the person staring back at me because all of her hard work had paid off just minutes before. This person worked hard to love herself so that she could love someone else. At the sight of this guy, she believed that there was hope for the rest of her life, hope for her to feel again. She worked and worked and worked, and she persevered, something that this girl didn’t think was possible anymore.
Today, I love myself, and I love him. I love his parents for making him move to the High School where we met, and I love the cafeteria for being where it sat so I’d be able to see him walking towards the gym. The eye of the mental and emotional hurricane seemed more like the end of the storm. There will be more storms, but I was ready. Love at first sight means more than just falling in love with a stranger. To me, it was falling in love with two strangers: Maxx and myself. In the quest to win them both over, I learned how to run down dark tunnels, even if the light is small and far. I learned that the run, although exhausting, would be worth it.