Getting Over Mogadishu

I fell in love for the first time when I was 20 years old. Well, I technically fell in love twice at the same time. Allow me to explain.

I travelled to Mogadishu, Somalia in the summer of 2012 to experience my motherland and what it had to offer before I started a new chapter in my life as a university student. I distinctively still remember the feeling I had upon landing at Aden Adde International Airport; the humid, heavy air made me feel as if the city was engulfing my body with a tight hug. I cried tears of happiness when my foot touched the tarmac. For the first time in my life, I felt truly home somewhere. It was love at first sight.

I met him in Mogadishu. As opposed to the city, he didn’t come with a warning or an advisory. He was emotionally distant and spoke with his eyes. He seemed to be haunted by personal demons that he didn’t quite understand himself. He spent his days running from his own truths, only to find me running away from him in the same exact way. Nothing about him was safe, but at the same time, it only took one look from him to salvage my whole being and put my soul at ease. I fell for this man quite unexpectedly, which startled me in every possible way. It wasn’t love at first sight with him.

I lost my heart in Mogadishu through stolen glances, hazy afternoon conversations and quiet, balmy evenings that were spent stargazing while we waited with bated breaths for that one particular surveillance drone to pass above us when we were on the rooftop. Allowing myself to fall in love with him in Mogadishu was the biggest risk that I ever allowed myself to take. The chaotic nature in which I loved him mirrored my feelings towards the city itself, I was fearful yet full of hope even though heartbreak would always be inevitable.

Eight years later and I have found myself in close proximity to my first love for the first time in years, which is honestly something that I didn’t think could ever be possible. Our interactions are oddly normal now. His presence doesn’t irk me as much anymore nor do I long to feel that safety that only he could provide me. Now, I can look into his eyes without picturing the rest of my life with him.

It took me years to make sense of my feelings for this man, and it took me even longer to get over him. There is so much that I wish I could have told my 20-year-old self, which got me thinking, what lessons have others learned from their first experience with love? Here are some of the answers that I got to my question:

  • I think it’s good to tell people how you feel about them. My experience with my first love was a positive one. He taught me a lot about myself and through him I discovered so much about life. He opened my eyes to the possibilities of just being happy and content in your own skin. I look back at my time with him with fond memories because I truly did love him and he loved me too.
  • My first love and I were everything to each other. We were best friends, lovers and family. I have never been loved with such intensity by anyone else. We started dating when we were teenagers and I remember my mum telling me that I was too young to decide that I was in love lol. She called both of us and advised us to take it easy. We spent all our days together and we were so broke but hey, nothing hit better than the fries we used to share at our dingy hang out place in town. But then we grew up and his friends made fun of how loyal he was and he wanted to prove to be macho and would speak weirdly to me every time that he called. I really couldn’t take it and made the drastic decision to leave him. We both crumbled and he begged me for three years to get back together but I had made up my mind. I wasn’t going to go back. Five years and a lot of self-discovery later, I ask myself why I decided to take such a drastic step. The only answer was that I watched my mum crumble because of love and I was subconsciously trying to avoid going through the same path. Now older, I realize the importance of knowing what to let go and what to be patient with. We met up recently and talked about why we let such love go and came to the conclusion that we were too young, too afraid of everything we felt and both had traumas to work through. As late as it is for us both, I’m grateful to love and to have been loved like that.
  • My first love just didn’t love me the same way that I loved her. I guess that it was unrequited because I never got the opportunity to tell her how I really felt about her. I still think about her often and wonder if things would’ve been different if I was more direct about my feelings.
  • She said she ain’t gonna be with me unless I “qalin jibi” (graduate, direct translation means “break the pen”) so I broke a pencil in front of her and said what next.
  • I married my first love! Back in my day, we didn’t have any social media or even phones to call each other. If a man really liked you, he would do everything and anything to impress you, your friends and your family. He would write me long letters and courted me for two years before we decided to get married. Don’t give up on love, you will know it when someone is right for you.
  • I met my first love when I was seven years old. I think it was more puppy love but I can still remember how I felt the first time that I saw her. She was my first real friend in school and we were inseparable. I never told her about my crush because I was afraid that it would ruin our friendship. She moved schools about three years later and we lost touch. I am married now, but I find myself wondering about her and what her life is like now from time to time.
  • My first love was Paul Walker and he died tragically in a car accident. After his death, all the Fast and Furious movies have been shit.

*Submissions have been edited for clarity/length.

What lessons have you learned from your first experience with love?

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