Sorting out my disoriented understanding of love
I’ve always struggled with the question “tell me about yourself.” It’s as if suddenly I forget who I am as I sift through the mess of traits that make up me. The truth is, people are complicated. We all have multiple identities and part of the struggle of being young is trying to uncover them all.
For many years I considered my parent’s divorce a defining part of my identity. The way I thought about relationships, platonic and romantic, was influenced by my fear of being emotionally vulnerable.
I internalized emotions and I kept most people at a distance. Around the few close friends I let into my life I was an open book, but the rest of the time I remained closed off.
Thinking back, there’s not a moment I can remember where my parents enjoyed each other’s company. My parents divorced when I was nine and for a while, things were pretty messy. All I remember thinking was that it was better this way, that everyone was far happier.
I remember travelling to school with my backpack and a grocery bag full of my favourite clothes as I switched between my parent’s houses every two days. Living across town, I led two different lives and had to learn to switch between my identities each time my environment changed. I didn’t choose to be Hannah Montana — it’s just something that happened.
Whenever my parents came to support me in extracurriculars or school events I would end up anxious, running back and forth between them, trying to balance my separate identities.
Seeing them both, I couldn’t imagine a reality in which relationships were positive. I lived in the wreckage of an emotional battle. If I was sure of one thing, it was that I never wanted a relationship for myself.
Watching my mom, a strong and fiercely independent woman, I always knew that when I grew up, I only wanted to rely on myself. It wasn’t sad or lonely to me — it was smart.
I never felt a need to seek out relationships because I believed that to love someone you first had to love yourself. So I turned inward, determined to build a strong enough sense of self that I would not be hurt by emotions if I ever began to feel for someone.
I had convinced myself and those around me that I was wounded from my parents’ divorce. That I was not interested in finding a significant other. I told myself that I didn’t want to be attracted to anyone but surely, I should have been.
Having no other ideas and a burning desire to fit in, I began to fake it. I remember spending a night in with my roommates, swiping through Bumble. I couldn’t understand what they meant as they rated the attractiveness of each new profile that appeared.
That night, I ended up scrolling through all of Bumble, swiping on a few men so as not to feel so abnormal. The truth is, I couldn’t understand the feelings my friends felt.
Not long after, I became suddenly more exposed to queer stories through the media I was consuming. I was fascinated by the queer characters in the TV shows and movies I came across.
Seeing these characters represented on screen allowed me to come to terms with the legitimacy of a feeling I had been ignoring for so many years. I was finally able to admit to myself that I am attracted to women and the world finally clicked into place.
At the same time, I was faced with the unease of internalized homophobia and a lifetime of exposure to primarily heteronormative narratives. I was raised neutral to the queer community in that it was seldom a topic of conversation in my house.
But being exposed to a world that assumes heterosexuality as the default instilled in me a feeling of otherness towards the community.
Though I questioned myself, I remembered the same-sex crushes I’d had all through my childhood and teen years that I passed off as admiration or platonic friendships without giving two thoughts to the matter.
I could finally see what my friends had been speaking about all along. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder what my earlier life would have been had I been exposed to more queer stories earlier.
For so long I blamed my parent’s divorce on my disdain for relationships and love. Yet all along, it was just me being unable to see myself for who I am.
I think back to the unfortunate conclusions I drew about love so early on in life because I was lost and I wish I could tell myself to keep searching. I recognize that I still know very little, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that everyone loves differently and everyone’s love is valid.
With something so personal, we all have to figure things out on our own time for ourselves.