The first time I heard that word was when a friend I was infatuated with told me he couldn't reciprocate my feelings. Reciprocate? Even though I didn't know what it meant, it was obvious we weren't on the same page. He couldn't reciprocate my feelings? That word has stuck with me for the past seven years. Now I continuously question every acquaintanceship, friendship, and relationship and if they reciprocate my feelings...

I've only been in one relationship that lasted eight months back in 2011. It ended because it was too much of a good thing too fast. It felt rushed and I didn't know how to slow it down. It was my first time being on my own, away from home, a sophomore in college and trying to establish my life while my boyfriend was depending on me to keep his life together. I quickly learned what I didn't want in a relationship. I don't like excessive affection, PDA freaks me out, and I hate when someone tries to dictate my art. That was my breaking point, when he tried to force himself to be my muse. I left him, right when he was kicked out of his parent's place, flunking out of college, and fired from his job.

How was this too much of a good thing too soon? Everything that lead up to this point was very picturesque. He found my Facebook as I was visiting California for the first time. The day after I landed, we texted for two weeks until I flew back home to Kentucky on my birthday where he met me at my mom's house - while she was visiting family. That was our first time meeting and he bought me balloons and a stuffed animal and stayed the night with me. He held me the whole night and to this day, that's one of my burning desires from a companion–warmth, and compassion to get through the night. The next day as he drove us to campus, he asked to be my boyfriend. The following week, I met his friends, the following month, I met his family–immediately they were taking care of me. Buying my groceries, inviting me to dinner, family outings, and cutting my hair (both his mom and dad owned separate barber shops on opposite sides of town). The first half of my sophomore year was a fucking dream. Six months in was the first time he said he loved me. I didn't reciprocate his feelings until a month later but knew it was a lie. I didn't know what love was and I still don't.

Here I am today, and love has forgotten about me. No matter how many times I'm surprised by every match I get on Tinder or when I have a successful Grindr hookup, I'm left on the side with nothing but my scholarly accomplishments and creative outlets. Yes, those are important to me and who I am as a person but honestly, they don't mean as much as having someone of importance be a witness to them. Where is my exit-buddy?

I've never been the typical jealous type, wondering if my partner will cheat or reciprocate feelings for another, in fact, I don't mind that. I understand that people fall out of love the same as they fall in love, I'd much prefer my partner be happy with someone else than to suffer with me. Who am I to stand in their way of finding solace, that's hella selfish and absolutely draining on both parts. I'm just jealous of those who share their happiness with a significant other.

As being branded the human form of sunshine all of my life, I am past the point of burning out and just long for someone with a universe that needs sunlight.

DePaul Vera