I used to think happiness was the only way to keep my heart sane. I didn’t grow up in a happy family so I had made myself the promise to someday be happy. I’d have a happy and healthy kind of love and I’d nurture this relationship day after day. It would all be effortlessly beautiful and I’d never ever have to go through any kind of suffering. I firmly believed pain was destructive and unnecessary and that my heart wasn’t fitted to feel anything but love and wonder. Little did I know then my life would dissolve so abruptly. I remember it all too well. The betrayal. The heavy tears. The inability to understand how one single human being could ever do such deliberate harm to another.
After I broke up with my first love, I felt the need to run away. It was just me and my backpack, wandering around countless countries, desperately needing to feel whole again. But no matter where I ventured, no place was far enough for my heart to stop hurting. I looked for answers in the universe but overlooked my own broken self. Maybe Asia wasn’t the place that saved me but instead the place that helped me look within myself for the first time in my life. It taught me spirituality and truth. It encouraged me to feel love from within, which was precisely what I had lacked all along.
It was nowhere near easy. After I found out I had been cheated on, I felt worthless and unlovable. I even convinced myself I wasn’t good enough to be the object of his affection. I felt so broken I thought I didn’t deserve to keep on living. I wanted the pain to stop so badly I considered killing myself. It’s not something you vent about on the Internet when we’ve all become so obsessed about turning our filtered lives into perfectly happy tales. But I’m yearning for truth now, no matter how ugly it may be. I love promoting joy but I feel like we don’t allow ourselves to truly feel anymore. We bury our negative emotions so deep we can no longer see them. But we do need to see them and feel them. No one leads a perfect life and I believe there’s no point in pretending otherwise. We should all be allowed to grieve, to scream, to fight, to make mistakes, to break down.
And we should celebrate these chaotic, heart-wrenching days, too. For they teach us something. Being let down in such way changed the way I saw myself. It turned my perception of life upside down. It helped me grow in a way I never thought I could. It showed me I could be strong, too. And that I was beautiful in my own way.
When Kevin rushed back into my life, I didn’t want him to. I still loved him – of course I did – but I could no longer trust him and no amount of letters nor loving gestures would make up for that. I was irrevocably different but what I had failed to notice then was that I wasn’t the only one. He had spent months working on himself to become a better person and I could see how much saner he was. He suggested to join me on my adventures around Europe and it felt insane to even agree to such nonsense yet part of me truly wanted him there, by my side, as the travel companion I had always dreamed of. And so, just like that, I said yes.
We left on a foggy morning without telling anyone. As we flew together and I watched his eyes light up whilst sitting on a plane for the first time, something happened. I witnessed life inhabit his soul, something he hadn’t allowed in a long time. He became the silliest wide-eyed child, holding on tightly to my hand and giggling nervously before letting go with detachment and mannered fearlessness. Venturing around Scandinavia, his passion for life grew bigger. I could feel that he was at peace, at last. He had stopped blaming himself for what he had done to us and he even started feeling worthy of love. He was surprisingly sure I was the one person he wanted to grow old with and he wasn’t about to give it up this time.
I was losing myself in the jungle of Asia when I decided to return to him. I didn’t feel ready to forgive him yet, but I felt in my heart I needed to give us another chance. I came home and his mother welcomed me into their house. Although it wasn’t our own place, it was our first time living together and it felt surprisingly beautiful. Day after day, I started to let go. I nurtured my mind, body and soul until I felt sane again. I refused to make the same mistake so I devoted my time to loving my inner self before I even learned how to return his love again. I’d sit on their living room floor and meditate each day. Of course, not all days were beautiful but I’ve learned to embrace them by now. I’ve learned to accept you can’t always take all the thorns out.
There are days I still break down in tears. There are days I feel scared of writing anything online because I know the girl who stole my identity still reads my words and that she has no remorse taking over my love and soul. But I guess it’s okay. It doesn’t make her or anyone else a bad person. It only makes them incomplete. And while I won’t ever forgive her for all that she did and how far she went, I refuse to let the drops of the past tarnish my heart. For the past is gone and has no power over the present moment.
The present moment is a funny thing, if you ask me. It’s wild and unpredictable and it makes you feel so brilliantly alive. There are these moments in life I wish I could pause and I would gladly soak them all in for eternity. Moving into our first apartment is one of them. I could have never imagined building a life with my first love after all the lies and broken promises of the past but he genuinely surprises me each day and I can’t help but feel prouder with every passing day. I’m proud of myself for embracing truth over beauty. I’m proud of him for all his hard work and dedication. I’m proud of us for building such a healthy life together.
When we found our dream apartment in February, it was all too complicated and we thought we clearly didn’t stand a chance. On May 16th, my birthday, we got a call from the realtor in which he said ‘Pack your bags, you got the apartment’ and a new chapter began. We woke up early the next day so we could meet with our agent and sign the lease. We sat in the waiting room, my head resting against his, our fingers intertwined. I said ‘Is this really happening?’ and he kissed my forehead, whispering delicate endless ‘Yes’ into my ears.
Shortly before we moved in, we went backpacking all around Italy. Scandinavia had turned him into a pretty self-reliant traveler and he got us out of tricky situations more than a few times. We hiked through all five villages of the Cinque Terre. We found a GoPro on the highest vineyard and Kevin relentlessly tried to turn it on – he uses no technology so it was quite hilarious watching him struggle –. He identified the couple who it belonged to and said ‘We have to hike down, Laura. We need to restore their camera to them’. And so before I knew it, we were running down the vineyard, hopelessly looking for that couple. We came all the way down to the village of Manarola but there were hundreds of people everywhere then.
We were breathless and I figured we didn’t stand a chance but Kevin said to me ‘What if it was your camera? Wouldn’t you want a stranger to help you retrieve the memories you have of us?’ and so in the name of love we started running again. We were lost in an overwhelming crowd when Kevin spotted the dress the woman on the camera was wearing and touched her back so she would stop. Her eyes opened wide with awe and bursting joy. He held the camera back and gave her and her husband the most genuine and selfless smile. They couldn’t stop thanking him before they asked if we could all take a picture together.
Kevin has always been capable of amazingly loving gestures but the fear and depression made him withdraw into himself. Last summer, he would have never stepped outside his house, let alone follow me around the world. Although I tried, I was never supposed to save him. That’s something he had to do on his own and I’m so unbelievably proud and grateful he did. He overcame everything with such care and humanity and I feel so lucky to be going through life with him now.
I love him for all the ice cream he buys me so I’ll listen to his passionate medieval tales at 2am on the Ponte Vecchio. I love him for finishing my drinks of wine while we sail in the Tyrrhenian sea. I love him for all the times he’s made love to me in Venezia, whispering the words ‘I love you with all my soul’ over and over again. I love him for surprising me at work and bringing me homemade chocolate cake. I love him for putting up with my self-esteem issues and helping me feel beautiful. I love him for respecting my needs and letting me fly to the opposite side of the world so I can bloom on my own, too. I love him for letting me buy ten baskets of blueberries at the market. I love him for the way he laughs and plays in waves and always loses track of time. I love him for asking me to teach him about photography and producing such creative imagery. I love him for cooking me dinner every night when I come home from work, even when he’s had exhausting hospital shifts himself. I love him for spoiling me with silly heart-shaped watermelon. I love him for running his fingers through my hair at night so I fall asleep gently. I love him for the way he sings me old-fashioned love songs. I love him for doing all the housework I never want to perform. I love him for pouring out such good care to handicapped children. I love him for all the adventures we’ve had and all the ones that are yet to come. I love him for he’s worked so hard and he’s become a home to my untamed heart.