You know you’ve hit a low point when you’re sitting on a random stranger’s staircase, contemplating whether the concrete steps constitute an appropriate place to take a nap and never wake up. Black lines swam across my vision as my mascara-laden lashes brushed against the lenses of my glasses, fluttering shut with each drunken sob that wracked my body. It felt like daggers were being thrust into my heart over and over again, as if the wind had been knocked out from under my wings and I was falling and bashing my head into the ground repeatedly. Closing my eyes, I mentally reminded myself never to fall in love again because if this was love, I didn’t want it. If love was searing pain and crushing disappointment, then it could take its pointy arrows and stay the hell away from me. Then I passed out.
As you might notice, I’ve not had the best track record with love. I’ve never had a boyfriend and that was the end result of my first crush. With Valentine’s Day coming up, I figured I’d ask the question, why do we love? From years of being the designated third wheel and patient therapist, I’ve heard plenty of stories about relationships and crushes, and I’ve noticed a few things that worry me. I often see that people use significant others as crutches to help face personal insecurities. A lot of first years end up clinging to the first person that is nice to them because it’s such a relief to have a social lifeline, another person to drag to parties or use as an introduction to a wider group of people. Other times, it’s simply a matter of not wanting to be alone. School and university are times of great stress and trial, and it only makes sense to crave the comfort of having someone that you can always count on to hold you and tell you everything is going to be okay when it doesn’t feel like it will. Lastly, there are even instances in which people have self-confidence problems and want a relationship or flings to feel good about themselves, to be reminded that someone out there thinks they’re fantastic and worthwhile even when they don’t feel they are.
I’m not judging at all because I am guilty of doing the same, of using people to fill gaps within myself that I haven’t quite figured out how to fill. I don’t blame us for doing it. Take a second to consider just how early on in our lives we really are. Granted, some days I feel ancient and worthless because Elvis had become a superstar by 19 and here I am with nothing but buckets of student loans to show for my 19 years of life. But really, as people we’ve only started to finally figure out who we are and what we stand for. Most of us are still struggling to create a personal identity and I know I’m still trying to understand how to love myself despite the bruises and the scars. With all these changes and personal metamorphoses, it’s not surprising that the issues that plague our internal monologues often mark our relationships. We’re growing, and sometimes we drag someone along to keep us company during the process.
That’s not to say that we don’t love because their laughter brings an involuntary grin to our faces. We put on our helmets and prepare for the pain of heartbreak because they’re worth taking a few metaphorical blows for. My eyes may water, but it’s from uncontrollable giggles that take over my body as he tickles me though I’ve told him that tickling is my kryptonite.
So here is my philosophy of love. First and foremost, love yourself. Find the activities that make you feel light and joyful; go on the early morning runs that fill your eyes with the rosy hues of shy, sunrise skies or sip a warm cup of chai and curl up with a mystery novel. At the end of the day, we all need to know how to be alone. It’s not fair to deprive yourself of the chance to see how much you can truly achieve on your own; it’s equally unfair to use someone as a space holder until you figure out what you really want in life. We should try and be whole as people because that way when someone special does comes along, we can appreciate them for who they are and not whom we need them to be.
Secondly, don’t rush into anything. A friend of mine from high school got engaged the other day, so I understand feeling like you’re the only one that’s behind in this love business. But don’t settle for anything because you’re scared that you’re somehow behind in the cosmic timeline of life – because you’re not. Everyone does things at their own pace, and love is something that is far too crazy and complicated to make rash decisions about.
Finally, for the love of love, make your own rules and just go with it. Don’t listen to what other people say you’re supposed to do or how you’re supposed to love. Life is complicated, people are complicated, and then you have to add emotions on top of that. Nothing will be simple, but that’s kind of the fun of it. Love means being confused and a little scared and utterly at a loss for what to do next, but being happy enough just to figure it out with them. So why do we love? We love because all of the failures, moments of agony, frustrating conversations, and tearful nights are worth it for those sleepy Saturday mornings when everything feels just right and you know in your heart that there’s nowhere else you’d rather be.
*The content of Perspective articles, as with all articles posted on the Tribe, reflects solely the views of the authors. The opinions expressed are not those of the Tribe as a publication or necessarily those of any other member of the editorial and/or writing staff*