Despite everything you think you feel, love is not what your teenage dreams will have you believe. High school is no place for romance, and infatuation (while it may be emotionally exhilarating) isn't all that romantic. Interesting, perhaps. Heartrending, even. But not the kind of extraordinary you're longing for. 

Your first relationship will seem like the most important thing in the world at the time, but deep down you'll know it's not love. And although it may leave you breathless, you'll be right. He'll kiss you for the first time in a burning building, as hundreds of strangers silently stare; and then again in the comfort of your own home, on a particularly sunny day in June. Expect it to be both a little awkward and actually pretty sweet, as far as first kisses go.

But after three months of confusing signals and empty promises, you'll realize that what you have is nothing more than a summer fling. Sensational and short-lived. As soon as August sneaks up on you, his feelings will change. Try not to take it personally. High school is messy and unforgiving, and you're both doing the best you can. Thirty minutes' worth of tears and a few hours of girl talk later, a new chapter in your life will begin. Cherish the good memories and appreciate the summer for what it was: a learning experience. A chance to grow. Every disappointment can teach you something, if you let it.

The next few years will be an entirely different story. Healthy distractions will make dating almost impossible, and you'll one day look back and thank God for that. Use this time to get to know yourself, cultivate friendships, work hard, make memories. Soak up every second of fun at your fingertips and forget about the rest. The newfound freedom and lack of responsibility of this particular age is one of those things you won't want to breeze through too quickly. It may be difficult for a hopeless romantic like yourself, but try not to search for that spark you felt before. Your friends should be the center of your world right now, and Lord knows there's no need to rush into anything else. 

Truth is, a whole six years will go by before you even begin to understand what falling in love really feels like. And that's okay. Six years is but a blink.

It will start with a jump. Thirty feet up in the air, only water and a few scattered rocks below. Before you know it, you'll be standing on the edge and trying to remain calm, while all of your surroundings count down from three. Every muscle in your body will freeze for just an instant, uncertain of the signal your brain's trying to send. But your heart will know what you have to do, despite the paralyzing fear. The second you let go, time will stop—as he watches you fly—until the cold sheet of water collides with your warm skin, shocking your senses like nothing you've ever felt.

The jump, the fall, the collide—whatever you want to call it—is liberating. Especially because you won't feel ready for it. But to have someone who cares just as much as you do, who chooses to dive into the thick of things holding your hand... Well, frankly, that's worth everything. So fight for it. The tiny spark you feel for the second time in your life will catch fire rather quickly and set your heart ablaze.

In only six months, he'll know you almost as well as anyone: flaws, quirks, dreams, fears, and all. And you'll discover that he's not the man you once thought he was, the man you once admired from a distance. In fact, he's so much more. It might seem unsettling, this unique closeness you share. It may scare you at first. Don't let it. There is no room for blind adoration this time, only the purest form of acceptance and appreciation. He will challenge you to chase your dreams, face your fears, and embrace your imperfections. You'll learn to speak your mind, but more importantly, to listen with your heart. And the whole experience will teach you that happiness and heartbreak feel completely different when they are selfless. It's a mess of things, you'll see, but it (and he) will be absolutely worth the wait.

You might not be ready for love right now, but you're no longer a child. From here on out, you will be told numerous times by people much wiser than yourself that love is not a fairytale or a flame. It's hard work, they'll say. It's making sacrifices and reaching a compromise and finding comfort in the ordinary. And they'll be perfectly right. Relationships are complicated. They take effort and copious amounts of trust in order to thrive. But when it comes to falling in love, I'm here to tell you that there's nothing wrong with holding out for the fairytale. Wait for the spark, pray for the dream. And believe with all you have that what's to come is better than any "happily ever after" you've read about in books or even could have imagined yourself.

It's wonderful. It's intense. It's real.

Photo by Caleb Frith.