If you can’t love yourself…

By Sarah, New York

I never thought I’d fall in love. I’m thankful for close friendships in my life; many starting in middle school. These friendships have kept me alive more than I can express. 

In High School, I’d spend my nights alone crying to myself about never finding a partner. I thought that was what ‘love’ meant and that it was a requirement for happiness. I’d watch romantic movies to torture myself; mostly Nicholas Sparks. I thought I was incapable of being loved. What idiot would love someone like me? I struggled with mental illness and sometimes could barely make it out of bed for a social obligation. When I had to introduce myself in a room full of people, I’d grimace at the sound of my own name. 

As cliche as it may sound and from the words of RuPaul: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Did I believe it then? Absolutely not.

The night before college, sobbing in bed. I accepted my fate. ‘Loving myself?’ please… How is it even possible? My friends would say ‘I love you’ and I couldn’t say it back. I didn’t believe them.

Living at my family’s house throughout my tween and teenage years was completely unstable. I never felt enough support by my family and I felt that they ‘dealt’ with me. At 13, I witnessed a messy divorce and a sometimes toxic home environment. Focusing on myself would be selfish. The only thing I could concentrate on was going to school and trying to maintain my B average. In my small-town, I would struggle to navigate the directions from my house to my high school (which was a 4 minute drive door to door).

By senior year of High School, I knew I’d get out of my house to college with no friends to join me, which was terrifying. No distractions to focus on- just getting by alone. The first few weeks, I’d open the campus map sweating and praying I was walking to the right building for class. I’d call my best friends from a campus bench crying and wanting to give up.

As painful as the transition period was in college, it’s the best thing I’ve ever had the courage to do for myself. Maybe the student loans I’m still paying off are worth it.  In college, I could actually be independent which was a shock. With most of the household drama lifted temporarily, I had time for myself and even time to go to therapy on my own terms.

During junior year, I studied abroad in London. The city of London was beautiful, inspiring, and opened me up to so many possibilities. I interned and felt like I had talent that mattered. I never had thought I’d be capable of holding a job in my adult life.

After college, I packed up and moved to New York City. It wasn’t without some hiccups, and I did give up for 9 months and moved back home after having some job disappointments.

But one night, against the advice of almost everyone, I made a choice. I was going to return by my own means and had a plan. I’d saved up money and decided I’d sublet apartments until finding a full-time job. The confidence I’d worked so hard to establish was back. Despite the shitty part-time jobs, eating one meal a day to save money, and some rough sublet experiences, I persevered. 

Giving up on myself is no longer an option for me. I cherish my resilience and independence. That is mine and I earned it. When a partner comes into my life, it’s an added bonus. I’m finally ready to give the love that I worked to give myself over the past 10 years.

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