The dangers of catching feelings

Eloise Sherrard explores the risks and rewards that come with putting your heart on the line

When I was four years old, I had two boyfriends, Jack and Mikey. At the same time. I was quite the player, I know. But as they say, what goes around comes around. My mum told me Mikey was moving away and so after careful consideration, as you do when you’re four, Mikey and I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t do long distance. Then there was Jack. We came to a swift end in nursery school one morning when he, with such smug pride, caught my attention and then proceeded to kiss a girl in our class, Katie, right in front of me. I’ll never actually forget that heart-dropping moment. That was the first time I felt something like that, but it was far from my last.

“I think we have all caught feelings, it’s a rather universal experience.”

I have caught what I consider to be many feelings in the 20 years that I have been in the world, as I’m sure my friends would agree. I think we have all caught feelings, it’s a rather universal experience. Many of us can relate to the longing pain of our first proper unattainable crush. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that you’re 13. Waking up in the morning to go to school, you’re fueled with the hope that you might just be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them on the bus or walking down the corridor between classes. And if you do, it is your highlight of the day. But after a while, reality hits and you finally snap out of your delusion and realise that it isn’t going to move beyond these unreciprocated glances throughout the school day, so you reluctantly move on from them. Now let’s say you’ve gotten a bit older and are about 15. You start to like someone else, and much to your astonishment, they seem to reciprocate the feelings. You’ve never experienced this before. You feel like you’re walking on air. You don’t quite know how to control it. All you know is that staying up to the small hours to talk to each other about anything and everything feels right and often like the only thing in the world that matters (this is your cue to up and run!).

“…am I missing out? Do I want what they have?”

Yet this romance too comes to an end before it could properly develop into what you hoped it might have become. It’s over. And it hurts. Is this your first heartbreak? Were those feelings you caught for them love? After that mess and hurt, you promise yourself: you’re not going to catch any more feelings. And for a while, you don’t. At 17, you have the odd short fling here and there. And this feels fun for a while. But then you maybe reach a point where you ask yourself, what is all of this for? None of it feels like it’s going anywhere and just feels a bit meh. And you also have noticed that the unattainable crush from years before seems to be in the perfect, sunshine-and-rainbows relationship, and it strikes something inside you. Not because you still have any feelings for them; not at all. In fact, you now laugh and cringe a bit when you think about how you felt for them in previous years. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them but upon reflection they always did seem to have their school bag hoisted up to dizzying heights on their back (ick). Instead, it’s the fact that they seem to have something really special with their partner that has you troubled. So you ask yourself, am I missing out? Do I want what they have? Then you remind yourself that surely feeling like this must be preferable to when you stayed up half the night talking to that person two years before, because at least now you can choose to get a decent night’s sleep.

Some of us may continue to have things and flings for a very long time. Many of us continue to keep our Ussher library crush safely at arm’s length AKA at least three Ussher-desk-space distances away. But there may come a point, when you least expect it, when you realise that a supposed fling is no longer just that. They’re something much more, but different again to the middle-of-the-night-message person from when you were 15. They express that they want something deeper with you (this is the point where you stop looking longingly at your younger crush’s relationship as something you might also now want   this is the point where you really need to run!).

Nah, I’m only joking. This will be a massive gamble, of course it will I mean, we’re talking about your whole heart being on the line here. And so if it gets broken, it will hurt. And the harsh reality is that it hurts a hell of a lot more than when Jack kissed Katie in front of you when you were four. Yet as much as the impending heartbreak might hurt, you can decide what to channel these feelings into. And in this, there can be (not to be too gushy) true beauty in the bittersweetness. I have channelled my experiences of these feelings over the last few months into many outlets; one of which being this article. I wouldn’t have been able to write this if I hadn’t gone through what I did.

“Catching feelings for others is living proof that we are living.”

So much of life (I would actually argue, most of life), we cannot control. Catching feelings for someone else is one of these uncontrollable things. It’s a bit like catching a cold (a bit of a grim analogy I know, but stick with me). We don’t choose to catch a cold. We cannot control if we catch a cold. Well, maybe if we never go outside or see other people we won’t, but then we are not living. Catching feelings for others is living proof that we are living. However these feelings materialise, whether it leads to lifelong happiness, heartbreak, or something in between   they make us who we are today. And like I said, we can choose to channel these feelings into so many positive outlets; be it into improving other relationships in our lives, into creativity, or into a renewed feeling of freshness.

Or even into stories, that we can carry with us our whole lives. 4-year-old me will always have feelings for Jack and Mikey. 13-year-old me will always have feelings for the boy in school. 15-year-old me will always have feelings for the midnight messenger. And so on. They’ve all made me who I am today. And as my darling mummy would say everything happens for a reason, and nothing ventured, nothing gained.