When I was sixteen, love was hidden within pain. It was the knowledge of something so real, and so big, a little too early, before love even knew how to react to a girl who felt so deeply. So instead, love was “You’re ugly” and “I’d never date someone like you.” Love was “You have fat thighs” and years of verbal abuse. Yet love was something I still felt through the torment, it was an immature heart playing with my own, and years later even an apology wouldn’t scrub away the confusion of its game. Love was hurt.

When I was nineteen, love was a boy with too many options. Love was cancelled plans, and one sided effort. Love was convenience and a different bed in every city. Love was apathy, until the options went away. Then love was an abundance of determination, a sudden knowledge of how valuable my heart was. Love was “Now that I don’t have anything else going on, I can commit to you.” Love was “Now that you are growing into your own, now that you have attention, I am finally ready to claim you before anyone else does.” Love was selfish. Love was too little too late.

When I was twenty-three, love was a spontaneous unknown; a need to believe in two people beating the odds. Love was contradiction. It was turbulence and nights under New York City. It was “I miss you, but I don’t have the time to call you right now.” It was “I can’t wait to see you, but until then I’ll fill my time with other prospects.” It was “You are the woman who inspires me, who makes me want to be a better man, but I am not going to fight for this.” It was “You are everything to me, but I am busy.” Love was always busy.

And then, when I was twenty-four, love finally introduced itself to me. It said “I am sorry for what you have been through, but you needed to experience everything I was not, in order to appreciate everything that I truly am.”

Suddenly, love was mornings spent laughing until I cried. It was having someone make time for me. Love was airport gates, until it turned into “I am moving across the country to be with you.” Love was “After work I’m driving for two hours just to fall asleep in your arms” and “I want to give you everything you deserve; I want to show you just how much someone can adore you.” Love was whole. It was assured, it existed within certainty and ruthless declaration. It wasn’t built on the foundation of empty promises, it wasn’t bred from pain, or confusion, or apathy. Love was bred from choice. From maturity, from presence. Love was suddenly more beautiful than I had ever imagined, something that blew every old feeling and past name away in the path it was forging. Love was peace.

After all of those years, love was finally peace.
Love was finally real.