From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Once Upon a Time I Lost Myself

This above all; to thine own self be true.

William Shakespeare

Sometimes we lose it. We fall into love like a pillowed net and lie there for months in LaLaLand. I’ve been there, in that net. I’ve been there countless times. It wasn’t the first time or the last, but once upon a time I lost myself. He was the guy who I had watched from afar for months. His eyes drew me in from across the campus, the party, even the football game, and saturated my thoughts. He made me weak at the knees; he made me feel different.

When he finally asked me out, I was overjoyed. It felt as though everything I once questioned was suddenly clear. It was a wonderful moment, the first of its kind that actually lasted. We spent every afternoon together, every evening on the phone, every morning laughing at the bus stop.

On our three-month anniversary, he threw me a party. When we both showed up at the restaurant, our table for ten was empty. He had called my closest girlfriends, and not one of them showed up. We sat there under the

darkness at a table much too big for two and had our anniversary alone. It didn’t faze me that my friends hadn’t shown up. It didn’t matter that Billy and I were alone again. We were always alone, and it felt good that way. I didn’t even question the fact that my girlfriends had fallen off the face of the planet. I couldn’t see past my own two feet, and there was no room for anyone else but Billy. We were a couple. We were in love; our names sewn from the same string.

Dreams fall apart sometimes. We wake up and everything is different.

One day I woke up, and the fantasy that Billy and I had created was torn, revealing the reality on the other side of the wall we had formed. It was easy to be idealistic about love; I had never felt this way about anybody. We had built a cocoon around each other, wanting nothing more but to become butterflies together, and here we were, flying away.

As I emerged from the darkness that morning, I realized that isolation wasn’t the answer. I had pushed my friends and my family out of my life. I had thrown down the truth, hidden my identity and dismissed the me that once was. I had lost myself in his eyes and in his arms, and now who was I?

I called Billy that afternoon. He wasn’t there, though. He was gone. I knew he was. I had broken our paper chain, so delicate and so easily torn. When I finally reached him we agreed to meet at the bus stop where we had met every morning for the past few months.

I sat there in front of those blue eyes, the eyes that held me in and made me forget my own. The eyes that now looked different. I told him it was unfair for us to deprive ourselves of our lives. I told him I missed my friends, and I missed being called Becca instead of the “Becca and Billy” that had become our joint title. I wanted to be together, but not all the time. I wanted to be in love, but not in exchange for my identity. I wanted to look into his eyes and see him, not the glow of my own reflection. I didn’t want to lose myself, and I feared I already had.

The lamppost shivered, and tears blurred us from each other. The wind shifted, and the light above us streamed down. Billy looked at me and smiled. He smiled, and then he kissed my eyelids. He knew I was right. He told me so later, and although we only stayed together another three weeks, that night was the first time we truly understood what it meant to be in love. That was the first night we walked without stepping on each other’s shadow. That was the first night I was Becca and he was Billy. Two names. Two souls. Two selves.

Regardless of what may happen in the future, I learned a serious lesson through Billy. I learned that love doesn’t mean losing oneself.

Rebecca Woolf

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