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"Why do you put up with me?"

"I've put up with worse," I told him.

In my 22 years of life, I have learned about love or the idea of it from here and there - past relationships, other people's relationships, heartbreaks and many more. But I think what I learned most is about myself; who I am as a person, a friend, and a lover.

I learned that I am a good listener like my father, as I grew up watching my dad listen to my mom talk about her day at work every single day. I learned that I can put up with shits in a man's world the way my mother did when she raised this family as a sole breadwinner. I learned that I love unconditionally like my father, the way he still loves his brother who used his name for a business loan that caused him to be blacklisted, thus jobless and not able to earn for his family. Even his older siblings haven't forgiven my uncle for doing the same to them.Yet my father put financial matters aside because nothing matters more to him than family -- no matter how bad they are. 

I learned that I value quality time over materials and gifts from my parents, because despite our poorness, we found ways to be happy by spending time on picnics, camps, or watching the sun sets at the North Port. I learned that I am incapable of putting aside my loved ones in order to pursue wealth, the way my father turned down a job offer by my millionnaire-uncle in Papua New Guinea so he could be close with his family. I learned that the hard way too when I suffered from great depression after isolating myself from family and friends to focus on making money while studying full-time. 

Most importantly, I learned that I am the happiest when I am giving even when I don't have much to give. Probably something I got from my mom, the way her face lit up when her nephews and nieces came to visit. She would cook the best meals because making them happy and well fed gives her happiness even though she doesn't have much for her own family, and even though we still eat instant noodles or canned sardines in the middle of the month.

When he asked me, "Why do you put up with me?" I couldn't give him the answer he wanted. I can't list down the things I like about him or tell him why he is worth all these efforts. What I can tell him is, "This is just who I am."

And I think at this age, with just five months away until my 23rd birthday, I am not really looking for someone who needs fixing. I am not looking for a boy who needs help becoming a man. I am not looking for someone to tell me that I am beautiful or loved.  I don't need anyone to fix me or fill in the void in my heart. I am just looking to be loved and accepted for who I am and the way I am.

I am this person. This is me. I love to love and I love hard. I don't become poorer by giving. I don't become more broken by loving hard. I don't put in efforts into someone and say, "This better be worth it," because I do it out of love for loving and giving. I don't make the time to check up on someone because I am 'too invested'. I do it just because. Because I appreciate quality time. Because I know I'm poor and that I don't have anything else to give other than my love, my attention, and my time. Yet time to me is the most valuable thing because I can't buy it. I sacrificed my time with family and friends for money to survive. Still, I always found a way to make up for that time and make the time for the people I love when I can. And I always make sure I can.

The challenge of being with me is to understand that I don't do the things I did to guilt someone into doing the same things. The challenge is trying to not worry that I might get hurt when everything I've invested isn't reciprocated. Because after all, we are only human. We can't run away from getting hurt. We can do our best to avoid hurting someone or getting hurt by someone, but when it happens, we can't blame others for it. Pain and love come together like negatives and positives. One can't exist without the other the way the Sun wouldn't be light if the eyes couldn't see.

Even staring into the Sun could hurt the eyes.

What makes you think one can love painlessly?