rom-com protagonist (a short essay)

When I was younger, I loved reading love stories. I was obsessed with them–arguably because I had absolutely no experience with real-life relationships. I think that made it better; like how movies about high school are always more fun to watch if you haven’t been to high school yet.

I thought that was where I wanted to focus with my writing. I was gonna write contemporary teen romances, because that was what I was really into at the time. About complex characters, who had usually been through it, who clicked together like little pieces in a puzzle, who made each other feel like all the stuff they had gone through was worth it. I still love writing those kinds of dynamics; they’re pretty compelling. And love stories were how I learned to write. It’s a little part of my roots, I guess. (Nope, nope, that feels really dumb to say as a fifteen year old, forget I wrote that.)

Anyway–I still love writing love stories. But at some point, I guess I just fell out of love with reading them; somehow it just feels different. Now, when I read these kind of stories, all I feel is sad, because… I just don’t get it anymore. Now I am a big, tough, scary teenager or whatever, whose biggest dreams include being able to afford rent and food without working a job I completely despise. I don’t know when that changed–I guess it’s really true, that thing they say about how growing up just means giving up on your dreams.

It was a lot easier to romanticize the idea of having a high school romance when I was in middle school and never left the house. But when you’ve actually met other teenagers, the idea suddenly becomes a lot less appealing. In romance novels through, it’s not all really about the central relationship–it’s about the characters both finding someone who helps them make their life better. They have friends, and dreams that come true, and challenges that are always faced and not always overcome. I think that’s really why I fell in love with them. I don’t need a fairy tale relationship. But I think everyone needs a family, someone who loves and supports them no matter what, whether that’s a parent or a friend, whatever. Someone who fights for you, against all better judgement.

I don’t think I’ll ever give up though. Not in my heart of hearts. I think I’ve just… gotten really jaded, as a way of protecting myself. Because I’m not where I thought I’d be right now, and I’ve messed up in a thousand different ways, and I tear myself down because I’m scared to be noticed. And also scared I’ll never be noticed. I think it’ll pass.

I think I’ll learn to be soft, some day. I hope I will. I hope even half of the things I used to read come true. I hope I get to fall in love, and someday I don’t spend most of my time worrying about survival. I hope I prove myself wrong, and I stop caring what other people think, I learn to walk through the hard days, and linger in the good.

Because deep down, I still believe in happy endings. Not the perfect Hallmark movie kind, where within an hour and fifteen minutes, our protagonist learns her lesson and lives happily ever after. But the real kind–the kind that you have to really fight for, the kind you choose every day. Joy and love, hewn by tired, dirty fists. I mean, I have to–I’d lose my mind if I didn’t.

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