I believe in happily ever after.
I believe there is someone out there for everyone. I believe that, in a relationship where true love exists, your partner makes you a better person. Someone else’s happiness is suddenly more important than your own. If things go wrong, you don’t abandon the relationship entirely. In the words of a couple celebrating their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary, “…if something was broken, we would fix it, not throw it away.” To find a relationship like that, however, you have to make mistakes along the way. You learn that someone who you thought was perfect does not, in fact, have your best interests at heart. Through heartbreak, however, you learn more about yourself. People come into your life – and leave it – for a reason. As my roommate likes to say, “One step away from Mr. Wrong is one step closer to Mr. Right.”
Happily ever after goes deeper than just romantic relationships. It’s about self worth. It is the realization of your inner beauty, as cliché as it may sound (I think I received a few dozen American Girl magazine posters with that phrase written under pictures of puppies and turtles). It’s about being able to look in the mirror and be proud of who you’ve become. Everything happens for a reason, and your experiences have molded you into who you are today – whoever tries to change that is not a true friend. It’s about keeping strong morals and beliefs, no matter how many people judge you for it.
Every girl dreams of love. For a while, I lived vicariously through my favorite literary, television, and movie characters as they fell in love with the handsome hero of the story. The spring of my junior year of high school, I thought I came close to experiencing those emotions personally. A friend of mine set me up with one of her guy friends. I had met him earlier that year, but he had a girlfriend at the time. He was tall with dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. He was intelligent and the star athlete at his school. From the start, he was a gentleman. The first time we hung out with a group of friends, he bought me food, looked me in the eyes when I talked, and actually flirted with me, which I had never really experienced before.
The next time I saw him, I suddenly understood every Taylor Swift song I’d ever heard. He made me feel beautiful and worthy of someone like him. With him, I felt special. I loved his confidence. He put his arm around me even though I insisted I wasn’t cold, sang with me off-key at the top of his lungs, and danced as awkwardly as I did. To top it all off, he was the first guy who ever told me I looked pretty. To me, he was perfect. I felt respected and wanted. I had kind of given up hope on the whole romantic relationship thing. I continued to talk to him a little bit every day, but I wanted to spend every free minute I had with him – things just came easily when I was with him.
A few weeks into the summer, the mutual friend who had set us up texted me: “Stop talking to him. He thinks you’re desperate.” No, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was really hard to read that. I tried to brush it off for weeks but was unsuccessful. I blamed everything on myself. I made a list of everything I could think of that could possibly have led him to the conclusion that I was “desperate.” What if I had been prettier or more confident or played hard-to-get? My self-esteem had never been lower. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that I’d never be good enough for him. As time passed, it seemed like I was never good enough, in any area. I wasn’t good enough to win over the guy. I wasn’t a good enough golfer to get the D1 golf scholarship I had dreamed of receiving ever since I was in middle school. I wasn’t good enough in school to be at the top of my class like I was in grade school. I wasn’t good enough to get into the University of Pennsylvania like my dad and my six other relatives who had attended the prestigious school since 1920.
I had a change of heart on the school-sponsored retreat I attended November of my senior year. Called Kairos, the retreat is designed to let each retreatant realize her own self worth and act as a reminder that she is not alone in her struggles. I learned to write about my emotions; somehow putting things down on paper made them easier to deal with. My group, which consisted of girls who I had never really been close with, taught me that I really can make a difference in the lives of others and that I am loved. I became closer to God. I learned that, no matter what anyone says about me, God made me in His image and put me on this earth for a reason. The people I meet along the way help mold me into the person I am. In the words of William Earnest Henley, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” No one can tell me that I’m not worth something. To achieve happily ever after, I have to be happy with who I am and do the things I love. It is definitely easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying.