Friday, 16 February 2018

Being in a long-term relationship at 20 years old

When I think back to my childhood and what I hoped love would entail for me, I suppose the idea of being in a long-term relationship at the age of 20 is almost entirely in line with what I hoped I would find. My own idea of love as a child was different to most (or perhaps not nowadays), having spent the majority of my youth with divorced parents, and as a result, acquired a turbulent relationship with the concept of being in love. I received unconditional warmth from my whole family, however I think the realisation of fairy tales and prince charming being little more than a dream absolutely influenced my own expectations of future relationships. As February has rolled around and the shops are once more overflowing with Valentine's Cards and bouquets of roses, it left me thinking about love and how my own relationship is now largely different to that of my peers. As well as Valentine's Day signifying February as the month of love, it also marks the 3-year anniversary of my relationship with S- a fact I simply cannot believe because it really does only seem like last week that we locked eyes on New Year’s Eve, 2014. Being in a long-term relationship at a young age has taught me so much, and I'll be forever grateful for the journey we've been on together, no matter the outcome. I worry about age a lot. If I'm where I should be for my age, if I'm in a successful career position for my age, but most importantly, will I regret doing or not doing anything at this age. The teens and twenties are the most awe inspiring, terrifying and magical time, and I feel so fortunate to have experienced love and such overwhelming emotions during this period. I know I'll always look back fondly, despite the pressures of being young and fancy-free. 

And that pressure does get to me. The notion that a lot of my friends will have experienced internet dating, one night stands and reckless fun that doesn't mean anything but is simply part of our coming of age. I worry that I'll look back and perhaps wish too that I had experienced all of these things. I think that regardless of the lifestyle you follow and choices you make, there will always be an element of fear at missed opportunities, and so this year I’m truly trying to embrace living in the ‘now’ and quashing any element of regret before I’ve even really had chance to experience life.

I think despite the dysfunctional family unit I’ve experienced through my childhood and teen years, I’ve always been a romantic person at heart. I’m emotional and I’m sensitive and I feel things so deeply that sometimes it hinders me. If I had to choose a film to pass away an evening with, it would almost definitely be a deeply emotional and dramatic love story (ideally one that makes me cry) but that ultimately ends with a happy ending, and without sounding overly dramatic, I truly think that is what a long-term relationship at a young age can entail. With far less of the perfectly composed scenes and far more ugly crying, being in love when you’re both discovering who you are and where you want to end up is somewhat of a movie in itself. When I think about how Scott and I met it definitely seems that way, and is something that, honestly, still feels like a dream. It was December 2014 (New Year’s Eve to be precise) and I had been invited to a small party at my college friend’s chalet at the local sailing club (why does this make me sound like a tory, I’m not. I promise). I arrived a little unwillingly after much reservation that I would surely freeze to death in the non-heated clubhouse, however was in good spirits nonetheless at the prospect of a relaxed and fun filled evening with my closest friends. I had actually started a group chat on Facebook a month prior to this night, expressing to my friends that of course we needed to find some more boys to invite to the largely female and friend-zone dominated guest list, however our plans never materialised and we settled on the idea that we would simply be each other’s midnight kiss. I didn’t think any more of this in the weeks leading up to last day of the year, and gave up checking the Facebook event with the hopes of new and exciting guests being added. It wasn’t that I was actively seeking a boyfriend at the time- in fact, I vividly remember feeling that I didn’t have time for a relationship because I was so focused on my final sixth form exams that summer. But despite this, I think something about New Year’s Eve always inspires romance, and I suppose in my quest to live out the dramatic romance of my most-watched films, I certainly did hope for a spark of some description. I arrived at 8.30pm that evening and as I walked up to the clubhouse, lights bleeding out and illuminating the fields and river, the first person I saw was Scott. Of course at the time I had no idea of his name or who he was, but we locked eyes in that moment and it felt like fate. I’m sure you can tell that I’m a hopeless romantic, but my lack of enthusiasm at attending that evening was a mutual feeling (I later learnt) as it turned out neither of us had been overly keen on the idea of the party. This is the moment I truly believed that such a thing s fate could possibly exist. We chatted that evening, but my complete inability to speak to an attractive male absolutely hindered me and I felt terribly embarrassed and self-conscious for almost the entirety of the night. He let me wear his jumper when I got cold and we were each other’s midnight kiss, and if nothing more had ever come of that night, it would have forever been special and held a place in my heart. Of course the rest is history, and as we now celebrate our 3 year anniversary, and it has left me feeling reflective and just so, unbelievably grateful. Being young and in a long-term relationship is compromise, it’s pain and at times it’s overwhelming. It’s euphoric and sometimes mundane, but all together I wouldn’t change a thing (other than the long distance part, but perhaps there’s another post to be written there).

Young love can often be regarded as fleeting or a passing phase, but I truly believe it’s the most magical, sometimes naïve, yet innocent romantic love we as humans are likely to experience. I recently watched The Notebook for the first time (HOW it had managed to escape me until this point is quite ridiculous) and I now feel even more inspired and love-struck at the passion and fun that come along with relationships at any age, but particularly your first, and often most painfully true love. Whatever you believe in, chemicals or a true connection, let’s take a moment this month to step back from the commercialisation of Valentine’s Day and cupids arrow and really, truly, become immersed in the relationships we value so dearly. There are no rules to love and it often feels like a stab in the dark to navigate life with another human in tow, but my own experiences have left me with a love for love itself.

So to my first love, my young love and my long-term love, Scott, I bloody adore you. From your patience with my everlasting need to photograph our brunch before you can eat it, to my mood swings and hormonal outbursts, you certainly put up with a lot. You calm me down when I’m anxious, you make me feel euphoric for the happy moments we’ve shared and in so many ways you’ve transformed my final teenage years. We entered our twenties together and I can’t wait to navigate this minefield of working out what the f*** we’re going to do with our lives, together. Thank you for being my travel companion, my domino’s date of choice and my young love. Here’s to many more adventures and living our best lives.

Lots of love, Char.

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