The burden of knowing how to love, completely, is one I must carry with me throughout my life. I’ve felt the freedom of being totally unguarded, as the barriers that separate one human from another melt away. I’ve experienced the power of rapture as lover and beloved become one.

I know the ecstasy. I also know the pain.

It’s the journey to reclaim this innocence that’s become my challenge. I can’t erase life’s impact, yet I yearn for the purity I had when there were no walls surrounding my heart. This is the human condition we all face—the need to love again in spite of the heartbreaks we’ve experienced.

There was a precious beauty in our first love.

Our innocence allowed us to feel without the hesitation of fear. With no cautionary memories to bind us, we advanced toward all that was new and unlimited. We were, perhaps, at our finest when with our first love. We were pure.

I met my first love in college. Having never had such intense feelings before, I was certain he’d be my last love. My experience was one of total surrender. I found myself in the midst of an emotional force that took me on its current. I went willingly, without reservation.

Our first journey into love can be sublime, or excruciating. Often, it’s a mixture of both. For some individuals, first love blossoms into lasting love. They’re the exception to the rule, not the norm. Heartbreak is the reality most of us discover. Lacking the years of accumulated guard and defense, its sting is sharp upon entering a virgin heart. We recover. But we’re never quite the same.

It’s not the severity of our heartbreak that wounds us. It’s the knowledge that love carries with it, this possible outcome. This is the factor that dampens our ability to love again, without hesitation.

Caution, guard, and fear begin to erect the first protective barriers of defense. The memory of our loss is far greater than the loss itself. Our job now becomes that of retaining our wisdom, while removing these barriers.

This is the tightrope we walk in order to open our hearts again.

The sweetness of our naiveté is what we mourn. Our innocence was our freedom. Beyond the loss of a lover, it’s this freedom we find ourselves searching for later in life as we struggle to tear down the barriers that disallow love’s entry. In the reconstruction of love’s crash we yearn to ascend to that precious place of vulnerability, once more.

Love never guarantees a storybook ending.

We live real lives, not those crafted in fiction. We attempt to love again. We strive to bypass the fear of letting another human being into the deepest places we hold. We hunger to feel again. We crave the sweetness of that desire because love is the essential quality that makes our life-journey valuable.

The willingness to love takes courage. It’s an extreme sport that demands true bravery.

All our attempts at love are the dues paid for admission to this magnificent opportunity. And as we improve our skills, we seek to recapture the purity of who we were when able to love beyond our guarded selves.

Love is the template we seek to revisit. With added awareness, we continue forward in our quest. It’s the realm we enter to find ourselves again, and again. Love is a gift we give to ourselves, as we share it with another.