In 5th grade I received a ceramic figure of a deer and some fake ruby earrings from my boyfriend on Valentine's Day. I still remember the card; it was a tri-fold, an arrow aiming for a heart, signed, "Your Boyfriend, Ebben" When, at that time, the title simply meant someone to tease on the playground. I think I may have broken up with him the next day with a note passed through a friend. I couldn't be his girlfriend any longer when it was his best friend I had a crush on that day. In high school, no one ever admitted who it was they were into at the time, it became a guessing game and an extended chain of "Telephone." My first real "love" was my freshman year of college with a hippie named Barrett. I had met him through a mutual friend and later ran into him at a show in the club next to my dorm, the next day begun a year and a half relationship. My first real boyfriend. I was convinced I would marry him, that it was that simple that your first love would become your life-long partner. After we broke up and I eventually moved on and it proved easy to fall for someone, maybe a little too easy. The only difference was that I would realize that they weren't necessarily going to become the "one." You could fall in "love" instantly because your only worries were writing papers and studying for tests, a romance made everything around you heightened. It might last, but it might not. You were surrounded by options, including, for the first time, a place of your own or of his own. Freedom allowed lust and infatuation to permeate your life (as well as lots of alcohol and other mind-clouding substances).
After college, it has all become so complicated. Expectations are present, realism sets in. It's no longer as easy; the brain kind of gets muddled in the process and you can't shut the thinking off, no matter how hard you try. I think it's when you fall for someone married, that it really sets in that you can no longer have the free-falling romance of the college years. Next thing you know, you're invited to your first love's wedding and then have to refer to his partner as his wife when they drive through town and ask to stop by for a visit. And now, instead of the foolishness of just thinking someone could very well be the "one," you actually have to consider it. It needs to at least be an option, or you feel like you're wasting your time. But after years and years of that question turning into disappointment and ill-judgement, it becomes even more difficult to fall. You can physically feel your body holding back, putting a shield up around the heart, requiring it to be chipped away at over time; the safegaurd getting more and more nails hammered in each time it's successfully torn down and put back up again. You don't want to be that one with the baggage, the one that sabatoges good things when entirely having the intention to do the opposite. But you realize, eventually, that the baggage isn't baggage at all. The bags you're carrying are simply reminders, warnings if you will, that the shield is still present and it's there for a reason: because along with the realism that sets in at this age, you're also aware of what exactly it is like to be completely and wholly consumed with love, and you know what's at stake if it doesn't work out. I don't even wish that I could be back to the times of checked boxes on passed notes, because I wouldn't have known what it was like to really feel. All this goes through your head even with the first hello to someone new, and you there's no preventing the flow of thoughts that come with it. It's a tiring battle, this falling in love. It's no longer ceramic animals and cheap earrings; it's the hope of a partner to share your Sundays with, the hope that in the end, it will all be worth it.
I guess the hard part is allowing the sheild be chipped...even if it is little by little.