Why Unrequited First Loves Turn Us Into Emotionally Avoidant People

Artwork by  Jo In Hyuk

Artwork by Jo In Hyuk

I experienced my first major heartbreak only after moving from my small rural town into the big city for school. This city had so much to offer me, and I drank it all in willingly; craving to explore everything it hid within itself. Its people, places, sights and sounds were a whole new experience that I couldn’t get enough of. He was one of those people.

I had had my fair share of experience with teenage boys in high school, none of whom I would like to remember. But this… this was something new. There was a spark that I couldn’t explain, and I knew in the deep recesses of my mind that if I didn’t get out now, there would be no turning back.

Despite my best attempts to ignore it, I fell for him far too quickly. I am constantly reminded of the fact that I love too hard and too fast, but I can’t help it. I experience the world through my heart. I simply don’t have it within myself to not give my all into something that I care about.

He led me to believe that he was one of these people as well, but when I wasn’t ready to give him what he wanted, he left. He tried to save face, promising me that we could still be friends. I watched his lips form the words, knowing damn well that they would never hold any truth. The same person that promised he wouldn’t leave was now suddenly saying an awkward goodbye.

It was in the moments after he left that I began constructing the walls around myself, drawing up blueprints and ordering materials. Thoughts were running marathons in my mind, and I couldn’t feel anything except numb. It was only the beginning, those few moments when you cut yourself and don’t even realize what happened until a little later. There were countless nights spent sobbing into a pillow so that I wouldn’t wake my roommate.

I spent that weekend drunk and watching documentaries, trying to get a grip on something that felt real. I felt as though I had been in a coma for the past two weeks, and only now was I waking up into reality, stuck between feeling everything and feeling nothing at all. Looking back now, I don’t remember much of what I did in the weeks that followed him leaving. All I can remember was that it was agonizing. I had let him in, and he shoved his hands into my chest, ripping out my heart and leaving me with the rest. I felt utterly empty.

Fast forward a couple months later. I began to feel as though maybe I could move on, that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, there are over 30,000 people on this campus. There was no sense in still being stuck on this one person. By day, I was the baddest bitch around. But crawling into bed at night sobered my thoughts, and I realized that I still wasn’t okay. There was this huge wall that I still couldn’t seem to get over, and it only crossed my mind when the sun went down, and I was alone again with nothing but the voices in my mind.

Artwork by Jo In Hyuk

Artwork by Jo In Hyuk

It seemed almost too good to be true when I met a new guy, and this time he didn’t have an agenda, and wasn’t expecting anything. He just hoped that someday I could feel about him the same way he felt about me. It was a breath of fresh air to not feel anxious because of the thought that he might pressure me into doing things that I didn’t want and disregard my blatant use of the word “no”.

And thus we were both thrown into this abyss of my own doing, where I didn’t trust this new person or myself enough to open up again. I was consumed by fear, and I hated the first guy for that. I hated the fact that he skewed my idea of loving someone so much that I couldn’t allow myself to think about the possibility of anyone else. Again I felt stuck. As stuck as a bird in a cage, with no way out or around the walls I had built so goddamn high.

I went home for a while, which gave me lots of time to reflect and meditate on my thoughts and what I really wanted. I told this new guy that I thought I wanted to give it a try –  after all, why was I letting the first guy hold me back?

Even after everything that I managed to pack away in a box, seal it and put it away on a shelf deep in my mind, I still couldn’t bring myself to love like that again. After everything I had told this new guy, I couldn’t put meaning behind what I was saying. I couldn’t fake it anymore. It would be selfish to let whatever this was continue on.

And it was only today when I realized the mindset of someone who cannot love like that, someone who cannot commit. Like him. Because I myself have grown into the lifestyle of being alone, and not being able to connect with people like I used to. It sounds lonely, but perhaps what I need is time alone. I was so caught up in giving my entire heart to someone that I didn’t even stop to think about who I was giving it to.

I became a wrecking ball, throwing myself into anything and everything: school, writing, other guys, and not realizing the damage I was causing until the dust settled and I saw that I have become exactly what I hated him for. Someone who ruins trust and gives breath to the voices that lurk in the mind. I have become someone exactly who I am afraid of. And I don’t know how to fix myself, except shutting the world out and praying that no one gets close enough. I should be fenced off, like at the zoo: an exhibit for the eyes, but nowhere near close enough to get hurt.