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Devoted to Commitment

When I was young, I dreamed of being in love. When I pictured my ideal life, it was not a career I saw or a particular city, not hobbies or accomplishments. It was a partner. I believed that no matter the state of my life, everything would be okay as long as I was in love.

Unsurprisingly, I grew up to become a serial monogamist, and I gave five years of my early adulthood to a boyfriend who was terrible for me. Ending our relationship right before I turned 22 marked what I still deem to be the true start of my adulthood: I began therapy, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I began healing my relationship with substances, I addressed familial relationships that had damaged me. I know I would not have done any of that at the time I did if I had stayed in the relationship that enabled my complacency.

In the years since making that decision, I have gotten sober, developed new hobbies and reconnected with ones I had left by the wayside, fostered true self-esteem, become more comfortable setting boundaries, and formed deeper platonic relationships. Yet, through it all, I have remained enamored with love.

I fell into another relationship with someone I liked very much but who ended up breaking my heart, dumping me completely out of the blue. It was for the better, I can see now, as we would’ve never withstood the test of time, but it completely shook me to my core. For the first time, I was scared of commitment. A former hopeless romantic, I began approaching dating from a place of fear instead of excitement: fear of missing out, fear of getting hurt, fear of choosing the “wrong” person to commit to. I still wanted love, still valued it deeply, yet it became so much harder to allow myself to embrace it.

And then Michael died. Not only did I experience tragic, sudden loss for the first time, but I also lost my first love. He was the first person I ever kissed, ever believed I would marry, ever truly and fiercely loved as best I could at the age I was, and the first to ever show me how friendship can persist after romance. He taught me how to love others, and I saw bits of him in every following relationship I had.

At the time, I was tentatively embarking on a new relationship with someone I knew I loved, whose friendship had sustained me for years and for whom my attraction never wavered, but with whom I shared a tumultuous past. I was afraid of committing to something I knew that I wanted, but believed to be imperfect. With Michael’s death, something irreversibly clicked: fear will never save you from death, but it will keep you from living.

In a world with dating apps, social media, streaming, and two-day shipping, it is easy and appealing to constantly browse without settling. You only live once, so be spontaneous and open yourself up to all the world has to offer, never tying yourself to just one thing. The truth, however, is that because you only live once, commitment is crucial to being fulfilled with the one life you have. It may feel freeing to remain untethered, but to know yourself well enough to tether yourself to a person or people, a city, a career, an organization, or a cause is to truly live.

I ended up committing to that relationship in ways that were more difficult than I ever could’ve foreseen, and it has been entirely and utterly worth it. Love for everybody looks different, and there is no one correct way to be in relationship with others. But love in all its many forms is crucial and life-affirming, and it’s worth our commitment.