By Melanie Walker
From the time I was 13 until 20, I was the girl that always had a boyfriend. I was validated throughout my entire teenage years with endless “you’re beautiful”s and “I love you”s. And sure, what adolescent girl doesn’t want that to be a part of her awkward everyday experience?
But no matter how much my boyfriends or friends or family told me how much they loved me, I didn't feel my self-love until I was sitting on the most luscious green hill in Ireland, looking over the great cliffs of Moher, absolutely enamored by the setting sun over the Atlantic ocean that I truly, ardently, loved myself in a way that only I knew how to. It was a journey to get there—it was my story.
Rewind to 20-year old Melanie, crying into her pillow after a break-up. Defeated, unlovable, and finally… alone. There was no rebound guy in line to save me from loneliness this time. There was no crush I had stored away just in case. It was just me, and that was going to have to be good enough. That day, I made a vow to myself to not commit to someone else until I learned how to love properly this time. And boy, will I forever be grateful that I did.
The summer of 2013 will always hold a special place in my heart because of my journey to reconnect with myself, learn to love who I was, and actually learn who I was as an adult. That summer I committed to travel on a study abroad trip starting in the fall. I learned how to work, working three different jobs throughout the summer to help support my trip. I learned how to date around without the expectation of falling in love and having someone fall in love with me. I stepped out of my comfort zone to make new, positive and uplifting friends, see places I had never been, experiment with my style, try new foods, and rediscover my passions of reading books, writing poetry, and going on walks!
I learned what I liked about people and what I didn’t like about people. What I liked about myself and didn’t like about myself. Some summer nights were spent in company as I’ve always thrived in, but then some nights were spent completely and utterly alone—with no one texting me, trying to take me out on a date, or telling me I’m beautiful.
It was just me.
And you know what? No matter how hard those nights were at first, I will forever be grateful for them and I continue to be grateful for them because I know myself best and I worked hard to be comfortable in my own skin. Whether in company or out, I am the same person and I will love myself no matter what.
And now? It’s still a journey! And it will continue to be one as my mind grows, I self-reflect, and as I meet new people that impact my life. But the difference now is that I have my back no matter what and I will love and respect myself through every meticulous, personality quirk that I work on and strive to better. And because of that, I have learned how to love others—properly.
You don’t have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean or break up with someone you love to be able to love yourself. That’s the beauty of it all—everyone has their own story and their own road of coming home to themselves. But no matter what your story is, make it one you can be proud of and one that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.
“Be easy. Take your time. You are coming home to yourself.” –Nayyirah Waheed