navigating my first "adult" relationship at 25

Before him, I only knew of kisses that were met once the taste of intoxication hit my lips. Feelings were left on read with the lights off and never brought back to the surface unless invited.

It was a lot of what ifs, could bes, and uncertainties as I strolled through cobblestone streets in little outfits with the promise of candle-lit evenings and nothing else guaranteed. As it goes, there were the guys I wanted to feel more with, while there were the ones that I had mistaken lust to mean possibility. Looking back, I like to think both myself and the people I dated could feel that something was missing, even if that missing piece didn’t initially click at first. Maybe, it’s just a matter of finding yourself in a place that reveals why once you stopped searching for the reason.

For now at least, I think I found my answer as to why it didn’t work out with anyone else a few months ago on my rooftop.

Thanks to a gutsy DM I sent and texts-turned-phone-calls...

He traveled across state lines; I prepped frozen pizza à la Trader Joe’s. He wore a navy plaid shirt and bought flowers; I threw on my favorite skirt and spritzed perfume behind my neck. He knocked, then two bottles of red under a New York City sky later, a first date turned into a first love and as corny as it all sounds—it makes sense now.

We are as candid as we are passionate, covering everything from the way we fell, to the way we argue, to the way we love, and everything in-between.

Instinctively, I told myself to tread lightly. Be gentle with myself while simultaneously shielding him from any remote signs of vulnerability. Be an open book, though choose the words I read aloud wisely.

He had been in love before; I had not. And that’s all it took for me to find myself using his past relationship as a standard for who I was supposed to be in this equation.

She seemed as effortless and artsy as I am tousled hair I can’t stop messing with. She was one of the guys, while I always found myself at the girls’ table. And on and on my mind will go trying to dissect and differentiate myself from a total stranger, just as long as it means that at the end of the day, if this all goes wrong, I can say I told myself so. As if filling in the blanks to a relationship I will never know and understand will help me secure my own.

I need to accept that yes, she was his First Love and no, I will never hold that title. But it took their relationship and my revolving door of uncertainties to find myself here.

Here: a place I’ve never known before and yet is similar to those cobblestone streets filled with candle-lit dinners and nothing else guaranteed. Because no matter what my relationship status may be, nothing and no one is promised to us forever. My boyfriend may wake up one day and change his mind about me. Who’s to say I couldn’t either? But the difference is, it’s us.

It’s crying from laughter over the Filipino food we both grew up with; it’s hand-holding at art galleries. It’s jazz downtown; it’s Black Mirror marathons. It’s how we talk about the future with an “our” before it. It’s my heavy baggage and his fingers running through my hair. It’s how we met at a high school football game, and how we didn’t know back then nor do we know now what’s to come.

It’s the way we’ll do whatever we have in ourselves to try.