When I was in my late teens, I met a boy. He was handsome and sweet, funny and kind. Being young and full of hormones, we got together and fell in love - well, at least the closest we knew to being in love at that point.
It was an ill-fated affair from the off, mainly due to me. As a young girl who had spent the last ten years watching the utter destruction and erosion of her parents marriage, I was aghast at the notion of relationships. It didn't help that this boy and I met each other at the same age my parents had, and I feared, terribly, that I would wind up on the same painful path. Commitment and love meant sorrow, to my young, badly informed mind.
So, being as sensible as all teenage girls are, I broke up with this boy. Time and time again. Every time I thought we were getting too serious; when he had pushed down another wall of mine, when I realised how essential to my happiness and contentment he was; when I realised that it had been a few months since we had broken up, so I better do it now.
As you can gather from the fact I did it more than once, we would wind up back together. Because eventually, my self-delusions that I was doing it because I didn't love him, because it wasn't right, because there was a "spark" missing - and all the other hollow lies I thought of and repeated with conviction when people asked why the feck had I done it - would reveal themselves to me. And as someone who was the recipient of his kindness and understanding, he was too kind with me - he took me back for the guts of two years.
It took me a long time to realise why I was doing what I was doing and in truth, it was a revelation that occurred accidentally as part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I was undergoing for my eating disorder when I was 20. The torturous cycle that I inflicted myself and that boy to was because of my own fear and self-destruction.
Because some time before this boy ever came into my life and smiled at me, I had been badly hurt in a relationship, and I had generated miserable expectations of love and romance thanks to my parents. The duality of these two impressionable events left me cynical and scared, closed off to possibilities. Why on earth would anyone put themselves out there; expose their heart and soul only to have it ripped apart? To have someone tell you they didn't love you anymore, or they had cheated, or that they were walking out the door and taking your plans and hopes for the future with them?
I had created this expectation of what I thought my life would be; and that was one of me on my own. I didn't want to get married. I wasn't sure about children at all. I told people I wasn't sure if it was the life for me. I told myself I wasn't sure it was the life for me. Which would've been fine, if I genuinely had no desire to ever have these things, or even be open to the idea of one day having these things. But I was doing it as a twisted way of protecting myself, of destroying happiness before it had the chance to destroy me.
I remember at the time, a favourite lyric of mine from a Snow Patrol song went "I break, you don't, I was always set to self-destruct though" and for a very long time, I believed that - that I was predestined to self-destruct, it was the course laid out for me.
Which, is of course, horseshit. I was being a coward. Don't get me wrong, I had some valid experiences to make me afraid - don't we all? Who out there hasn't thought at some point they would be better off going to live in a well-insulated cave rather than deal with people and relationships and all that jazz? People are hard. And complicated.
But the thing is, the only real chance any of us have at true and lasting happiness lies with other people. A job and friends and some cracking adventures all matter, of course, and play a role in your happiness. But when the 9-5 has ended, and your friend is busy, and the next plane to Cape Town doesn't leave for another 16 hours, in those quiet moments alone, you realise that you are trying to fill a hole in your life that you have made sure remains empty, because it's easier than letting someone in.
Over the last while, I've seen so many people that are afraid of one thing or another. I wish I could explain to them, to convince them, that they're afraid of the wrong things. They're rushing towards what they think is the safe option; when in fact, it's more likely to be the one that destroys them. Sometimes, their fears are irrational and I wish they could see that, that everything is going to be just fine. Not perfect, because nothing ever is. But if they just give it a chance, they'll experience more than they ever dreamed of. That to live a life half-lived is to deprive yourself of so much. That there comes a time when you just have to get over yourself.
Funnily enough, my teenage love and I no longer speak. I hope that if he hasn't already, he one day finds happiness. He has a heart of gold and the girl who gets him will be very lucky. I like to think that somewhere in the heartache I caused him, I also taught him some good things. I think I taught him the fine art that is the balance of holding on and letting go. He held onto us for as long as he could - but ultimately made the right call in letting it go.
Coming from someone who was the person that had to be let go, there comes a time when have to do it. There's no hard set rule in regards to the time, but to quote another Snow Patrol song, somewhere, a clock is ticking. That, more than anything else, is what I wish I could show to the scared people I see. That there aren't an indefinite number of chances, that there is nothing worse in this life than having regrets for what you didn't do and that the sorrow that comes from missed opportunities leaves a scratch on the soul that will always sting.
Every one us can be happy. But first, you have to chose it.