“No thing defines a man like love that makes him soft. And sentimental like a stranger in the park” – Noah Kahan.
When I heard those words, I knew I would try my best to hold on to them.
It is so unfortunate that we’re conditioned not to be expressive and open and soft with love. I think we’re very concerned, understandably so, that if we show the world what things matter to us, they will be taken. So we keep our love hidden in an attempt to protect it and to protect ourselves. The truth is that love is awful. It’s painful. It’s frightening. It makes us vulnerable in ways that nothing else does.
I’m not halfway through this, and I’m seriously debating switching it up and talking about how awful love can be and how much it hurts. But that would not be honest because I know I don’t believe that. I don’t despise love; I just wish I could do it with the guarantee of reciprocation. The world would be so much better if we could guarantee reciprocity, and I’m so sorry that we can’t. It’s so unbelievably risky to give your heart to a partner, a friend, a parent, a sibling, or a pet, knowing that at any point they could leave and take your heart with them.
Life should not be about trying to minimize this risk. It should be about accepting it. Loss is inevitable, but it’s not here yet. So in the now, say “I love you” instead of letting it sit on your chest, hug more often and hold on a little longer, be generous with kind words, say “I’m so happy to see you” and “I missed you” when you feel it, celebrate everything that feels like a win, dance and sing with people when you want to, be excited for the things that excite you, and just show up. Love is truly wonderful and beautiful. It’s beyond words. It feels like the reason why we are here, so we should be experiencing it more. It is too precious to be kept hidden. Your love is too precious to be kept hidden. You deserve to be seen, and the people around you deserve it too.
I know I said that life is not about minimizing risk, but I do have a piece of advice that I think will help. It’s learning to love yourself. I can guarantee that I will always have love in my life because I love myself. I can be kind to myself. I can be forgiving and understanding of my shortcomings. I can appreciate and celebrate myself. I have found that the more I loved myself, the more I could love others. It helps me be brave, knowing I can rely on myself for love. The way I see it, that’s the healthiest way to live with the uncertainty of loving others.
(It’s worth noting here that I disagree when people say that you must fully love yourself before you can love others or that you need to be “healed” before letting someone else love you. You are worthy of love as you are, and you can grow as you go.)
Even with all that, a big part of me is still scared. What if my happy ending is hinged on having someone next to me? What if I find love in all its glory yet lose it all? Will the love I have for myself be enough then?
It’s overwhelming at times, but my fear will not define me. I want to be defined by love, the type of love that makes me soft and sentimental like a stranger in the park.