My first boyfriend was an interesting man. He was a phenomenal cellist that never really practiced, a swimmer that hated the way chlorine made his fingers feel and the biggest foodie I had ever met (that has very much changed since getting to Hopkins). We were very similar; everyone made it a point to tell us and we knew it, too.
We met in sophomore year of high school, peak mxmtoon and Clairo era, exchanged Spotify playlists and decided that we were madly in love. Our first date ended with a car accident (such a long story), and our last was driving to watch a sunset in the park.
It was a fun relationship, like most are. I would send him updates about my day, selfies when I was bored, songs he had to listen to. Looking back, it feels as if I spent every minute of my day gathering memories and updates to share with him.
If I’m being honest, he was my person. When I first started dating him, I realized that when something happened to either of us, it was almost like it happened to both of us. Whether it be having a bad drive to school or dealing with childish high school drama, he went through it with me and I went through it with him. It was nice having someone there, someone to share life with.
Spoiler alert: We broke up (#lol).
The day we ended things was awful. I remember feeling stupid and upset and angry because of how much time and effort I had put into the relationship. When we first started dating, I was convinced we would be the high school sweethearts who lasted through college and adulthood (again, #lol).
I left his house and drove directly to our favorite park to sob. I probably looked insane; I was crouching on a field, hysterically crying while eating an ice cream cone and listening to Tame Impala for two hours (“Eventually” goes hard).
We tried to stay civil. Later that year, I said happy birthday (it’s a day before mine — I had to). We texted about school and our friends and I learned that he broke his arm.
Spoiler alert #2: The whole friends thing didn’t work out.
I find myself internally cringing every time I think about how I dealt with that breakup, but it was hard. As odd as it may seem, I remember having to relearn how to live by myself. I didn’t have someone to text about dogs I saw during my walks, someone to send my “mom selfies” to, someone that I could share random playlists with.
A few days after our breakup, I came to the earth-shattering realization that it had been a very long time since I had felt alone and, more so, lonely. And so, I did the one thing that I knew I had to do: Learn to be alone.
I made it my mission to find something that set my soul on fire. I drove hours to find new restaurants and cafés, went to museums that we had planned to go to and roller skated my heart out. Eventually, I made trips back to the park and made it my own space for afternoon picnics and podcasts. I learned that I am a phenomenal cake decorator, I hate painting with watercolor but I love acrylics and, hell, I have good taste in music (this is a very bold statement; do not attack me).
Spending time alone has given me the space and patience to learn how to love myself. I learned to appreciate my stupid selfies and the time spent with my amazing friends and family. I learned that I don’t need to put on a brave face at all times and that healing, whether it be from a breakup or not, isn’t linear. Arguably, the most important lesson I learned is that I can receive and give the most unconditional love while being my own person.
This Valentine’s Day, I hope all of you take the time to be kinder to yourselves. I still struggle with self-love and “loving myself,” but there is something inherently beautiful and revolutionary about loving ourselves the way we are, even if it is just for a single moment of the day. It’s a difficult journey, but it is a journey worth fighting for.
Aashi Mendpara is a freshman from Orlando, Fla. studying Neuroscience and Anthropology.