What I Learned After I Changed Myself for a Guy

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, The Dating Game

If I’d had the benefit of hindsight at 16 years old, I never would have tried to change to become more of who he wanted.

You know the type of person I’m talking about, too. The person you thought you could never live without. The one who was your whole world. The first person who you thought of as soon as you woke up. The person you saw behind your eyelids as you fell asleep.

It’s possible you were together, and it’s possible you thought that you were, and it’s possible that you weren’t at all, and you knew it. But that didn’t matter. Not then. Even if you weren’t “official,” you wanted to be. Even if that happened five years down the road, you’d wait.

Of course, none of us have the benefit of hindsight before a situation eventually terminates… or, when the person you love turns out not to love you at all. When you face the harsh reality that the years of waiting and wanting and pining was all a lie.

All of the clothes that you bought to “make him like you” were for nothing. All of the time you spent educating yourself on his favorite things was time wasted. The crash diet was stupid, the way you cut your hair just wasn’t “you,” and you even managed to alienate some of your friends who, rightfully so, were tired of the whole act.

What’s important following any of those situations is that you learn from it, and learn not to do it again. You understand your mistakes. And you figure out some… “stuff.”

You learn that if you were truly his whole world, he’d never want you to change
“You should wear that sweater more often.”

“I don’t like your hair that color, why would you dye it that way?” 

“What were you doing talking to so-and-so?” 

You get the picture, right? If he loves you, he’ll accept you for who you are, not who he wants you to be. He won’t care what type of sweater you’re wearing, or judge the style of your hair. He’ll love you, and all of you.

You learn to love your own sense of style
You celebrate the moment that you can toss those neon floral skirts that were great in theory, but just so awful in practice. You trade them in for the studded jean shorts you love so dearly and finally, finally feel comfortable in your own skin again.

You’re on high alert for the same types of people
You know the signs. You know the warnings. And you’ll listen to them this time, you won’t just shrug them off. You’ll never make the same mistake twice, because you’re done being anyone but yourself.

You rediscover your personality, and your true interests
No, you really don’t like eating lunch at that fancy restaurant. You had no interest in watching him play golf with his fancy friends. And probably most importantly, you realized that you were letting your voice become quiet, because of him. You ignored your own beliefs, because they weren’t his beliefs. You ignored the things you truly enjoyed, the music you loved, the subjects you loved talking about, to focus on the things he enjoyed. You tended not to share your opinions, because you knew he wouldn’t like them or just make fun of them. And you even ignored the friends he didn’t like.

You finally understand that no one is worth changing for 
You’re the only you in the world. And you know what? No one can — or should try to — take that away from you. The right person, who will love you for you, is worth waiting for. And don’t settle for anything less.

We Can All Learn a Little Something About Love From Severus Snape

Author: Michelle Ioannou, The Dating Game

After all this time? Always.

Five simple words that shaped our generation, or at the very least should have shaped our generation.

Harry Potter taught us a lot more about love than we may realize. Sure, there’s the easy Ron and Hermione love story of two friends falling for each other, but the more powerful love story at play? The one we should all learn from? Lily and Snape.

No, Lily and Snape did not end up together. They didn’t live happily ever after at all. But Snape’s love is arguably the purest form of love.

He watched the love of his life go off with someone else. And do you know what he did? He still tried to save her life. And when he couldn’t do that? He watched after her son. Protected him. Guided him. And even started to care for him. All because of how he felt about Lily.

Now that’s love.

Love is putting the other person’s happiness before your own. It’s doing things in the best interest of the other person, even if they’re not there to witness this. It’s your patronus taking on the same animal as the person you love’s patronus — okay, this one is a bit of a stretch. But, it’s knowing what the other person would want of you, knowing what they’d think of your actions, and doing just that.

And that’s what Snape did.

He put his own hurt aside. He put his own heartbreak aside. And he acted in Lily’s best interest. Even after she was killed, Lily came first.

In fact, up until Snape’s own life ended, everything he did was for Lily. Despite the fact that she chose another man over him, and started a family that didn’t include him.

If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Yes, the Harry Potter series as a whole heavily influenced the millennial generation. Yes, many millennials want a love like Ron and Hermoine. But, we can all learn a thing or two about true love from Severus Snape.

Always. Because true love just doesn’t go away.

When Your Little Brother is Your Hero

Author: Michelle Ioannou, Real Life Stories

I should classify by saying that by “little brother” he is only three years my younger. But he will always be my little brother, just like he’ll always be my hero. My brother suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy — a progressive disease that weakens his muscle (all of the muscles, heart and lungs included) until, well, yeah.

My brother fights for his life every single day.

And you know what else? He never lets his disease get him down. I have never seen my brother cry over his disease, or even get fed up about it. He’s accepted that this is his life… but that it doesn’t have to define him. You know what does define him? His love of sports, especially the Mets and Jets.

Honestly? I think I’ve broken down over my brother’s disease more than he has. He doesn’t let it get to him — and that can put your entire life into perspective. Whenever I let things bother me, such as a boy not liking me back or ending a friendship, I take a step back. I think to myself, how silly this can seem that I’m complaining about this when my brother doesn’t complain about his disease at all. There is so much more to life, and so many other things to be grateful for.

I am so grateful for my brother. For his daily inspiration, and for his strength.

Despite all the obstacles he’s facing personally, his empathy for others is still awe inspiring. Last year, we were watching The Theory of Everything together, and in the movie they show Stephen Hawking’s diagnosis and battle with ALS, which is a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Instead of getting upset seeing similarities on the screen, do you know what he turned to me and said? “There’s people who have it so much worse than I do. I’m lucky.”

My heart melted. My handicapped brother, who can’t even lift his arm up to blow his nose by himself, is putting his own hardships aside, focusing on how fortunate he is, and sending his love and empathy to others. If that’s not amazing or awe-inspiring, I really don’t know what is.

My brother went to a Greek-American day school for ten years just like I did. For high school, he went to The Henry Viscardi School, an amazing school for physically handicapped students… where he ended up graduating salutatorian. He went on to get his Associate’s Degree, making dean’s list every semester. My brother achieved all this while his body was working against him, and making him weaker and weaker. He accomplished all this despite losing his father at 15 years old. And most importantly, he did all this with a smile on his face.

And on top of all of this? He’s my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. If I come home upset, he’s the first person there to cheer me up. If I’m going through a rough patch, he’s the one there to give me advice, and offer up some witty humor to get me laughing. Whenever I achieve something, no matter how big or how small, he’s the first one congratulating me. He’s the one calming me down when I’m anxious before a flight — the boy who can barely travel goes out of his way to make sure I’m okay. If all of this isn’t love, I really don’t know what is.

If we could all have the outlook on life that my brother has, the world would be a happier place. Despite all the bad in his life, that’s not what he focuses on. He focuses on the things in his life that bring him joy. He focuses on the fact that he has a roof over his head, food to eat, and a loving family that cares for him above and beyond.

We can all learn a little something from my little brother.


For more information about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, visit Parent Project MD or the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Sevilla

“I Left My Heart In…”: A Millennial’s Love Story With Travel

Author: Nicole Chininis, Real Life Stories

I’ve always thought that when it comes to being a millennial, the biggest burden we carry is our love of travel. We have found ease and comfort with travel — something our parents and grandparents did not have before us. Things like study abroad have become a norm for most college students, and we establish ourselves as global citizens as we have adventures in places like England, China, Argentina, or South Africa. We have found our independence and in turn, found ourselves. But like any good love story, our hearts have also been broken into a million pieces.

My first love story was not with a boy, a slice of pizza, or even my dog. I fell truly, madly, deeply (a la Savage Garden) in love with “my place” the summer going into my senior year in high school. I had decided to spend a month in Spain in a Spanish immersion program, but little did I know how much it was going to change my life.

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Me (left) with my friend at the Feria de Sevilla in 2011.

We took a few trips to various cities, and when we arrived in Sevilla I knew I was done for. I remember walking in the neighborhood around our hotel and feeling at home but utterly confused. I had never been here before, so how did I feel so connected to this place? When we saw a flamenco show for the first time, I cried. I didn’t cry because the performance moved me. I cried because I knew that my short time in Sevilla was soon coming to an end, and I was missing a place that I hadn’t even left yet.

I returned to “my place” in college when I studied abroad for a spring semester. I felt more at home than ever. When my parents came to visit me, I remember feeling like they actually understood me now. It was then when I mentioned I wanted to go back, and about a year and a half later after graduation, I returned to teach English. I felt like I never wanted to leave.

As much as I missed my family every time I was gone, I was at my happiest because I was truly in love with who I was when I was in “my place.” I could walk down the streets like I had known them all my life, I danced flamenco in my flamenco dress at the annual Feria de Abril, and I now speak Spanish with a Sevillana accent. My friends from Sevilla lovingly call me “la Gitana de Boston,” a term which signifies my ability to blend in like a local. I was, and continue to be, changed for the better.

However, as millennials, our burden with our love to travel and ability to connect to a place is very much a blessing in disguise. I came back because I felt that’s what I needed to do: to start “the real world.”

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My most recent trip to Sevilla in 2016

Now that I’m back in the states, I never feel truly myself even though I’m surrounded by people I love and in the place where I grew up. I continue having a hard time finding the balance between regretting my decision to come “home” and believing that this is my path that was chosen for me. I feel like I leave a part of myself every time I go back and it’s painful. Half of my heart is left in “my place” and sometimes I don’t know how to deal with it. I ask myself: could my life have been different if I stayed? Would I continue to feel the same happiness I feel now? Should I just pick up and leave?

Let me tell you, millennials, however hard it is, I wouldn’t give it up for the world. This is life. We make decisions and hope we make the right ones. Although it’s hard sometimes, my experiences have given my life a richness I cannot explain. I remind myself how lucky I am that I have friends that treat me like family across an ocean. I am reminded that Sevilla is not going anywhere and that I am always welcome.

So go! Get on a plane, train, or in a car and leave your heart somewhere. Maybe if you’re lucky enough, you too will find your place.

Do We Know What Love Is?

Author: Michelle Ioannou, The Dating Game

woman

Love. Let’s talk a little about love.

You either groaned when you read that, or you smiled. Well, groaners, I’m one of you. I groan at the thought, sight, taste, smell, etc. of love. No, this is not because I just got out of a bad breakup – I mean I did get ghosted a couple of months back but that’s a whole other story for a whole other time.

Love has been a bigger part of my life this past month or so more than I ever intended it to be. No, no, before I go any further, I did not find the love of my life and we’re not going to end up happily ever after, I am still very much single (sorry mom), but my past month has been quite interesting to say the least.

And, well, that’s where love comes in.

Recently, I have had one of my good friends tell me that he loves me. Wow, right? I’m definitely flattered, confused and content all wrapped into one. Now I know what you’re thinking – did I say it back to him? No, I didn’t. I’ve never really been one for feelings (but really, I’ve ran from every “so what are we?” talk ever brought up to me), and I can’t just automatically turn that switch on right now. Plus, in the words of Haddaway“What is love?”

Speaking of what is love, that leads me to my next point in this: the plot twist, in which I truly don’t know what love is.

heart

What’s a good story without a plot twist, right? Well, here it is. In the midst of telling me that he loves me, I find out via social media (ugh, I know) that he’s been seeing a girl. Woah. I get it, I do, we’re not together, I never gave you any reason for you to think something would happen between us, and you need to live your life. I truly do get it, please don’t get me wrong.

But, I can’t lie either. I’m thrown for a loop. Not only do we talk daily and this has never been brought up, but I had been told for weeks that I’m the one he loves. No mention of anyone else.

Well, how can you be so in love with one girl, but still be seeing another girl for weeks?

That’s my question, millennials – and unfortunately I’m still working on trying to find the answer to it, while trying to figure out my own life as well.

Now, why am I sharing this with you all? Because I want people to learn from my experiences. I want those of you who read this and have dealt with something similar to know that you’re not the only one trying to figure this out. Know that it’s okay to be confused. Know that it’s okay to be angry. And know that it’s okay for you to hurt. It’s all part of life, and all things that we will overcome.

We come from a generation that wants things instantly – answers, happiness, love, relationships, and unfortunately that’s not always the case. We end one relationship, or “talking to,” or “thing” or whatever you want to call it, and we immediately hop right back on Tinder and right into another one.

Our lives become messy and chaotic, and we just want the chaos to end rather than trying to figure out why it’s happening and what’s causing it. Things don’t go the way we expect them to, we face a plot twist, and well… not only do we have to deal with them head-on, but we need to prevail as well. We want to ignore the things that don’t work out in our lives, pretend they never happened, but instead we need to figure them out and learn from them.

There is one thing I know for sure – I’m going to need some time to figure this little mess out.