The year was 1997. I was 12 and at the height of my puberty, which resulted in me towering over every single boy and girl in my sixth grade class. No really, I was the tallest. This didn’t do much for me when I attempted to flirt with or date boys. So just as any 12 year old without game would do, I fell in love with a celebrity. Brad Pitt. The whole me not being of legal consent age and there being a 21 year age difference did not stand in my way. This crush began after seeing, A River Runs Through It and went full throttle after sneaking into my basement to watch, Interview with the Vampire (just your typical light-hearted movie for a 12 year old). I memorized the HBO schedule just so I could rewatch Brad Pitt making out with Kirsten Dunst. I took our “relationship” to a completely new level when I began cutting out every single picture of Brad Pitt from TeenPeople, Bop, and Tiger Beat. At first I taped the photos in just one corner of my cloud wallpapered bedroom. And then I discovered “Legends of the Fall”. My shrine grew exponentially to photos spread above my bed, and oh yes, under my pillow. I bought unofficial biographies to learn anything new about him and sighed in my purple Umbros and braces when they didn’t contain any new information. I began writing love poems where I addressed him as, “the man, the myth, and the legend”. It was through this crush that I learned the relationship qualities of loyalty, dedication, devotion, and good old perseverance. And then the news broke. He proposed to Gwyneth Paltrow. To say I was devastated would be a drastic understatement. I immediately ran up to my bedroom, locked my door, and tore the shrine down in 3 jealous rips. Rewind. I locked my door and then yelled at the pictures, “How could you?” while petting them one last time as I sobbed hysterically. I was one cool, rational child. I rolled up all of the magazine clippings and expired tape into one large ball, opened my door, and nonchalantly explained to my parents that I was too old to have a silly shrine. But on the inside and to anyone with a pulse, it was obvious my heart fractured into itty-bitty pieces of a crushed up pipe dream. And it was with this Brad Pitt shrine and heartache that I learned these 10 valuable lessons for future relationships and breakups. Long distance relationships are hard It doesn’t mean they can’t work, but perhaps make sure you’ve at least met the person. Communication is key If you can’t be open and honest with each other, your relationship will suffer. And if you’ve never even spoken to him…maybe your parents should’ve stepped in. A healthy relationship is all about balance It’s important to be your own person while also being a part of each other’s lives. And if he doesn’t even know you exist because you’re a child in Ohio, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Listen to your gut If something doesn’t feel right, don’t ignore that. There are often signs or red flags that we ignore when swept up in the relationship. It might just be you overanalyzing a situation, but don’t discount your feelings. And if your gut is telling you that this relationship is completely one sided and a fantasy, let’s not ignore that. Sometimes you grow apart from your partner And that’s okay. Life happens and often changes our directions. Recognize this. Be kind to each other. And walk away. If his path is pushing him towards becoming a Hollywood actor married to Gwyneth Paltrow and yours is to begin Junior High in the fall, then yes, just move on. Friends who stick by you in a difficult breakup are your people. Never let them go And be grateful when you have recovered from the “crying in a ditch without any pants on” stage. If anyone can actually console a 12 year old who weeps over a 33 year old celebrity, you learn quickly that good friends are no joke. Never settle Don’t just date someone because you don’t want to be single or it’s comfortable or you aren’t sure if you can find someone better. If you’re not completely in love with this person, ask yourself why and know that you deserve the best. Every single time. I’m not saying that relationships don’t have damn hard ups and downs, but don’t settle on someone because you feel unworthy or are afraid of the aftermath. You owe that to yourself. Because you are awesome. Yes. You. Even if the S.O. is hot, rich, and famous. It doesn’t matter if he only visits you through magazine clippings. You’re resilient You may spend 80% of your days covered in snot and tears questioning what went wrong and if you should send fan mail everyday until he is forced to respond. Tou’ll continue to make it through each and every day. Because you are stronger than you believe. You’re a resilient bad ass who will eventually start to bathe again and recover from this mess. Time heals all wounds Everyone always says this. And it’s often conveniently the people who aren’t currently experiencing the torture from heartache. But everyone says it for a reason. It’s true. No one knows how long it’ll take you, but eventually you won’t downward spiral when you hear the name Gwyneth Paltrow. And you’ll have moved on to another new rational love, Nicholas Cage. Side note: maybe don’t only fall for guys who are completely wrong for you, triple your age, and you’ll never meet. Another lesson: don’t guard your heart by only dating guys you know won’t pan out. It won’t protect your heart. And you deserve better. Remember? We just talked about this. Love yourself. First and foremost In all honesty with this one, I’ve had 30 years of experience. The more time you get to know yourself the better. You’ll find things you can’t stand about yourself. Whether it’s cellulite on your upper thighs or how often you cry during episodes of The Voice or how anxious you become around any change, you will not like some things about yourself. And the more time you give to yourself, the sooner you’ll learn that you aren’t perfect. But it’ll be okay. Because you’ll value yourself as a whole person rather than pieces of things you wish you could change. Be kind to yourself. Value yourself. Celebrate yourself. Be yourself. And watch everything around you change. And maybe just maybe you’ll find yourself around people who also truly appreciate all that you have to offer. Because you’re pretty damn great. Ann Marquardt Dankof is a former Special Education teacher finally using her English degree to freelance and blog in Dayton, Ohio. [Image via Universal Pictures]