Note from the Author for The Reason Why — Dear Younger Me
Dear Younger Me,
Where do I begin when it’s only the beginning of my story?
I’ve always had an unconditional love for books; the beauty of books is that when one chapter ends, another begins. As I read the final sentence in the last chapter, close the book, clasp it against my chest in a warm embrace, I take a deep breath and feel the words, stories, characters and lessons penetrate through my heart and course through my veins.
The stories live on.
As we scour the shelves of a local library or bookstore to find the next best piece of literature, we tend to naturally gravitate towards books with beautiful, eye-catching covers with their unique titles and illustrations that look like they were created by a world-renowned artist or graphic designer. Or our attention is captivated by their quick elevator pitch of a book description, encouraging us to take a deep dive into its pages.
However, there is more to a book than what’s on the cover.
Each page immerses us in the characters’ backstories, the intricate details of their lives, and the dilemmas they’ve been dealt with. They become almost real as you start to sympathize with them and internalize how you resonate with a specific character struggling with a similar situation to your own.
The same goes for life itself — my life to be exact.
My story is only beginning to take shape, making me grow at my own beautifully-timed pace and preparing my heart to share those moments, memories, and experiences that make life worth living. My story no longer hides in the shadows — it shines brilliantly throughout and beyond life’s moments. However, it’s taken me several years to finally appreciate my life and the journey it has taken me on.
Because there’s more to me beyond the surface: I have imperfections, have learned from my pain and scars, and have recognized that my life has had its challenges to get to where I’m today — the beautiful woman that I see myself as.
I want someone to fall for the real me: my natural physical features, my accomplishments, my passions and the very challenges that allowed me to embrace my authenticity. I want someone to remind me that I have to love myself back by accepting my past, vulnerabilities and scars that brought me to this very moment, making me see the real me no matter how difficult the journey has been.
And here I am.
Still standing, stronger than ever. I’ve learned to view traumatic events as transformational, dived wholeheartedly into my passions, and found myself starting to fall in love with my life at last.
Throughout all the intricate aspects of my life to date — from life-threatening derailments and sudden setbacks, to celebrations right and left and pursuing passion projects — love has always been and remains present; it’s topic that has fascinated me the most.
We, as human beings, have this ultimate goal of finding romantic love — our soulmate — the one that we imagine growing old together with. That’s what myself and so many others who’ve walked this Earth have strived and are currently striving for.
Love is a more convoluted topic than death itself and gives all the unknowns that are in the realm of science that have yet to be exploited by mankind a run for their money. I sometimes even wonder if it could possibly be more painful to fall in love than to die. After all, you die only once, but you fall in and out of love multiple times… unless you’re in my personal circle where the realistic expectations of love have been skewed.
My parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents only had to date one or two people max in order to find “the one” — some were high school sweethearts, others never needed to download a dating application and have been with their soulmate for an average of six years; all of them are currently either married or engaged. Upon graduating with an university degree, the next steps in life seemed already laid out for me: find a suitable soulmate to marry, have a grand wedding, buy a home and start a family. All across social media, people from all walks of my life share nothing but their engagements, weddings, and anniversaries.
Throughout my adolescence, not a single guy ever asked me out on date or to a dance. I didn’t have my first kiss until college. The only relationship I was in lasted two years, and I broke it off because I was battling my damaged mental health and anxiety. The realm of sex is still quite a mystery, like an uncharted territory yet to be explored. Only in the early months of 2020 did I finally feel like I was ready to get back into the dating world when, by sheer dumb-luck, the pandemic struck and I resorted to finding “love” while being shielded by a phone screen through dating apps.
The Millennial Generation (or Gen Y) have been at the forefront when it comes to how the topic of love has evolved: LGBTQ rights have been legalized and are becoming socially acceptable, initial romantic sparks fly on dating apps, and to those who are alone and single, the COVID-19 pandemic has served not only as a stark reminder of the importance of having a partner to love and to hold, but proved to be an additional hurdle when playing the field in dating.
Myself and my friends grew up in the generation where Disney movies always portrayed women as princesses being rescued by heroic princes and only capable of falling in love. Movies, reality TV, and shows dramatize and exaggerate these intense, fantasizing forms of love to such an extent that they make you feel like your love life would only be “real” if it was just like what you saw onscreen.
On top of all those external circumstances, those in my generation have dealt with both internal and external pressures revolving around dating. Parents have placed premature restrictions on who they can date — whether it’s based on their religious beliefs, vaccine status, or their family’s prior history with medical or divorce-related issues. More often than not, receiving a proper sex education wasn’t a top priority for most school districts, making it awkward in future situations, particular in the collegiate and post-grad settings. Some have been sick to their stomachs anxious, afraid to reveal their true sexuality in the event that their loved ones will react negatively, while others internally struggle with the biding idea of commitment and doubt if they really found the “perfect” one. The relentless feelings of being pathetic, depressed or “worthless” are no strangers to those in the Generations X, Y, and Z because the media showcases how if you don’t have romantic love, you have nothing.
It is ingrained within us the moment we take our first breath — an inescapable expectation — that romantic love is the ultimate love, the only love, the endgame or goal to a wonderful life.
But, can you ever really love someone else with all your heart, before you fall in love with yourself, your life, first?
Throughout our lives, our heart will be flooded with various of forms of love that blooms from family ties, fond friendships, collective connections and unexpected relationships; these significant individuals are our pillars, our personal boardroom, and pieces to the larger puzzle that constitutes our life’s picture. They catch you before you fall, they cheer for you on the sidelines, and they lift you up and wholeheartedly believe in you. They say that you look absolutely beautiful, wise beyond your years, and have a burning passion that’s contagious. They’re all invested in seeing you grow, wanting to witness your transformation into becoming your most true self.
The amazing qualities, traits and moments that your personal fan club reminds you of constantly are the very things that your partner, soulmate, or lover will fall head over heels for.
I found this to be a recurring case in my life, recognizing that I wouldn’t fall into the status quo of my genealogy regarding love. I’ve been reminded by those in my life on several occasions to look inward, pointing out qualities and quirks about myself that I should learn to love just as much as they did. I regularly faced internal battles as I debated over whether I should truly believe, see and feel all the wonderful aspects that those in my life highlighted about me.
Falling in love has to start with you. You have to love all that makes you, you. That includes all your imperfections, quirks, anxieties, and past.
Before you fall in love with a significant other or love fully back any other friendships, family ties and connections, you have to fall in love — endlessly, continuously, and subconsciously — with your life and your genuine self.
The story that is about to unfold in these pages is a coming of age story following the life of Emma Cantor. It’s a story that everyone in, or looking for, love can relate to but will especially hit close to home to the Millennial Generation who are still wrestling with modern-day constructs of dating. It will detail moving experiences, raw emotions and enlightened reflections that will shine radiant light on the journey of falling in love with one’s life. It will shatter the barrier-like wall to openly talk about the fun of dating, while still being burdened by lingering struggles: finding love virtually, navigating vulnerable and quite often awkward conversations, and finding healing, peace, and clarity amid convoluted situations.
It’s a narrative that is going to leave you thinking. It’s going to make you laugh, cry, love, hope and feel inspired. It’s going to make you fall in love with your own story, cause your heart to beat a little faster, stronger, and experience something moving… I promise you that.
I’ve spent most of my life on the brink of falling apart and always finding the strength to stand upright time and time again.
However, now I’m ready to start falling in love with my life, with myself, once and for all.