A 21st Century Love Story: Whatever That Means
By Elisheba Akalawu
It’s basic human instinct to desire a partner – it’s kind of how you and I are here today, me writing this and you being able to read it. But what about those of us who are just at the start of our 20s and perhaps have never been in a relationship, or even been sexually involved with another person, are we missing out? Are we adult years behind our peers who have had more experience and who are seemingly settled down by the age of 25, got their sh*t together, and on the road for a happy marriage and kids? And what is the ideal love story? We have these notions of what ‘love’ is fed to us from a very young age through books and movies, but as most of us can attest it usually does not play out the same way in real life.
I’ve played around with these thoughts a lot, especially over the last year or so with the continuous rise of ‘find your perfect match’ entertainment reality shows, such as Love Island and Are You The One. I’m 22 and I’ve never been in a relationship. This fact used to embarrass me once upon a time, but now I claim it with pride. A pride that speaks to the fact that I know myself and I know that I’m not in a space where I want, or feel the need to compromise my freedom for the sake of someone else. Yes, this may sound selfish but I believe the 20s are the best time to be selfish, to find out what you like and dislike, to perfect your craft and to get to know all parts of yourself.
So why is there still this feeling of FOMO? I could perhaps attribute it to jealousy — wanting what somebody else has — but I know that’s not the case. Although I do admire healthy, happy relationships, I know that is only one side of the story. Being that shoulder to cry on and seeing my closest friends get destroyed by those they were once in ‘happy, healthy relationships’ with, has definitely made me cautious about who I’m giving my heart to. My thought process over the last year has been whether or not anyone is actually worth having my heart broken by, now I don’t know if that makes me shallow or smart (I’ll let you decide), but I think it proves that I’m not ready to test out the theory.
As far as fairytales are concerned there really isn’t much in demonstrating how love plays out in the real world, but what about these reality shows that are pushing the idea that to be young, beautiful and in love should come with a prize? The premise for most of these shows is that once you’ve found your perfect match or the person you want to be with, then ultimately you could be in the running to win a grand cash prize. In the real world there is no monetary gain for falling in love, so it’s interesting that winning money for love is such a central theme. I know these are simple entertainment shows, which is why they gain such a cult following, but they perhaps perpetuate the idea that love should be more than just love. It should come with grand gestures, elaborate gifts and several figure meals rather than two people who share the same interests or just simply enjoy each others company.
Which brings me to my final question: how should we then be preparing ourselves for love? Cliché at its best but I truly believe it should be by fully loving ourselves first. I never want to feel as though my love for someone is solely based on what I can gain from them or the situation. I want to be secure in myself and find an equal so that we can continue to build together. It’s 100% okay to desire and find companionship at a young age, no judgments of course! But from a single person’s perspective, it’s just as okay to not have it figured out and to spend some time on your own to figure it out. Go traveling, explore new places, meet as many new people as you can, and learn as much as you can. It’s only when you’re truly at your best will you attract someone that will compliment you and your life in exactly the way you need. So, be free, continue living your best life and the rest will follow.