Fall in love with the right people. Don’t go for the toxic ones, the ones that question your decisions and actions and make you feel guilty for wanting to spend some time alone. You have every right to hole up in your room and eat Ramen noodles and flip through People magazines by yourself for a few hours if you want to. Don’t ever let the person you care about most make you feel ashamed for having some sense of self-preservation.
Fall in love with the person who treats every day like sunburnt skin peeled away from burning shoulders, revealing the fresh, new, freckled layers underneath. Mistakes cannot be erased, but someday someone will teach you that they can, in fact, be covered over. So fall in love with the person who rips off days quickly like band-aids and doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time dwelling on things that shouldn’t have been said or could have been said but weren’t.
Do not ever confuse loneliness with the need for love. Just because you are lonely does not mean you can replace that loneliness with a human being. Voids cannot be filled by people, because people are only human, of course, and cannot adapt to the shape of the void and fill it up like liquid, like milk does to a glass. Loneliness is feeling like the only person in the world in a crowd of people, or wanting a hand to hold. A hand is not equivalent to a whole human being; it’s just a part of them. Holding someone’s hand does not equal love.
Fall in love with the person who makes you want to be an active participant in life, who won’t let you sleep in for two more hours, who shoves your hand away from hitting the snooze button, who will buy one more alarm clock for each one you destroy. Fall in love with the person who wakes you up early to go rock climbing or mountain hiking or white water rafting, who will stand with you at the top of a cliff and look out over the edge with you and not put their arm around you, but let you know that they’re there simply by being next to you. Fall in love with them because they will make you treat life like an exciting gift, not one your aunt gave you and you immediately want to return back to the store with the attached receipt.
You have to stop being afraid of failure, of meeting someone in a bar and talking with them over a few drinks. You have to stop being afraid that every exchanged glance will end in avoidance or an end to all text messages. And while you’re at it, stop treating people like coping mechanisms. Not all of them are going to be there to help you deal down the whole path; sometimes you have to walk alone. Don’t take a person for a ride and then discard them in an empty forest to fend for themselves.
So fall in love with someone you are willing to take on a few road trips and detours along the way, with someone who is willing to park at a rest stop and wait for an hour while you stand in the tiny bathroom at the mirror with hands shaking so hard it feels like aftershocks from an earthquake are running through your body when you’re just trying to be okay. Fall in love with the person who will not only wait for you in the car for an hour, but will also pack your favorite snacks and blankets and mix-tapes to listen to when you get out of the bathroom.
Stop thinking that sex is the end-all, be-all, or that it’s the proof of a successful relationship. Don’t treat lovers as notches in a bedpost or tally marks on a dorm room wall. Treasure the time you have with them for what it’s worth, and don’t play them like a banjo. Treat them with decency.
And finally, remember that falling in love is not always about falling in love with someone else.
The most important thing to remember is you need to fall in love with yourself too, and granted, that’s a whole lot harder than falling in love with someone else, but every step counts.
After all, if you don’t take the first step, you won’t ever make it to the top of the stairs.