Dear young hearts,
Love is a weird thing, and as you grow older, it doesn't stop getting any weirder or more complex. The love you felt for friends and first loves in high school shifts to a different kind of love in college, which shifts again as you enter adulthood. And each time you fall in love, it'll be different, too. You are, after all, the only thing that stays the same in each relationship you enter, no matter how much you think you have a "type" or that you're doomed to repeat the same relationship over and over again.
When you're in your 20s, though, there's a lot that flies up in the air all at once. You're juggling a job and debt and a social life and trying to figure out who you are, now more than ever, and some things feel like they slip through the cracks here and there. Relationships sometimes seem like more trouble than they're worth unless you're in them (and sometimes even then, on the bad days), but that doesn't mean that you won't fall in love. You can try, to avoid it, but it'll happen. You can't outrun falling in love.
And whatever the outcome, heartbreak or happiness, forever, or just that momentary second, it'll teach you something about yourself, and about what you do and don't want in your life. Because you need love, and you need it in multiple forms. But what does it mean to love, when you can barely juggle your bills and your student loans and everything else in between? And who do you choose to love? Do you even choose at all? (After all, sometimes it's the love that finds you.) But those are different questions for a different day. So here's the 5 people you'll fall in love with in your 20s.
1. A complete stranger.
It'll be the cute guy with the perfect hair you see on the bus, or the girl whose carefully-edited Instagram lures you into thinking you really know who she is, or the sales rep who you swear always flirts with you when they make the rounds to your office. It could be anyone, someone whose coffee you accidentally grabbed for at the shop, someone who interacted with a tweet once, someone who you saw in a restaurant and imagined a whole future with in 5 seconds, only as long as you keep them at a distance. This is crucial. You might never see them again, or you might see them under the circumstances that you can't make a move to be something more. But you'll unload all your craziest fantasies onto them without their ever knowing, both because it's less of a burden for you to carry, all of these goals and no one to share them with, turns into all these goals with a make-believe someone else, and because it's less of a risk. You never have to put your heart on the line. You can love from afar. And even unreciprocated love is real. But it's not sustainable, and you'll have to give them back their stranger status eventually, even if you felt like you knew them inside and out. You never did. They were never yours to know. Your idea of them was the only thing you had a right to love.
2. Someone who could have been.
This can happen frequently now that we live in a world where our memories are preserved forever online. You'll see someone's name pop up on Facebook, or in a throwback photo or at a reunion, and you'll wonder. What could have gone differently? What would you have to do differently to keep them in your life, to keep the relationship going, or to have a relationship at all? And when your 20s are a crazy whirlwind of ups and downs, it seems like a great escape to revert back to your past, and what was once familiar and safe. This is not where you grow, however. Sure, sometimes you realize someone's been under your nose the whole time, but not always. Life isn't a Hollywood romantic comedy, and often, people were left in your past for a reason. Playing a game of could-have-been is an endless free fall. See what lies ahead. You know what could have been, but you don't know yet what could be. And that surprise is magical.
3. Someone who could give you everything.
You will fall in love with them in the abstract way, that you love the idea of who they are, of where they've been and what they've achieved, because you'll either want to follow in their footsteps, or glean off their success. It's natural to do the latter; in your 20s, you're still young and starry-eyed despite your crappy walk-up, and going on a date with your boyfriend with a Ferrari seems like the way to beat the system. But beyond the material, you'll also fall in love with a boss you really admire, or a mentor whose career you'd love to learn from, and you'll realize that falling in love is not always romantic. Sometimes, it's just fuel. Sometimes it helps remind you why you need to keep pushing to achieve your goals. Sometimes it's just a sign that the path you're on is the right one. (Just don't get inappropriately moon-eyed around your boss. That's weird.)
4. Your best friend.
Your early adulthood is going to be cold and quiet and lonely at times, and you're going to wonder how it is that people meet other people, and you'll reach out and latch onto the few people who you already have in your life. You'll never want to let go, and you don't have to. Help each other move into crappy apartments and eat pizza on the floor before you unpack. Call each other and text each other and chat each other off the record and snapchat ugly faces and cling as tightly to one another as you possibly can. Learn what it's like to worry about another person so unconditionally that you can tell they're having a bad day just by the length of their texts. Have people wonder if you're actually in a real relationship, but know that this is the truest relationship either of you have ever been in (and that this is not a bad thing). We say best friends are forever in school, and we test these notions in college, but it's in your 20s that you learn the true depth of being in love with your best friend.
At the very least, I really hope you do. Everyone deserves to know what it's like to know that someone loves them just as they are in that moment. It doesn't mean anything less, and sometimes, it even means more, if that person is you.