Multiple Definitions of Love

Love is just one of those emotions, one of those abstract concepts that humans have wrestled to define for hundreds of thousands of years. And its definition has done well to remain elusive to the vast majority of us. That’s probably because love means something different to everyone; it brings to mind different images, events, people, and reactions depending on each person’s experience with it. But, even though it’s arguably the most individualized emotion; it’s also the most universal.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

Everyone wants to love and be loved in return. It’s one of our needs and desires embedded deep within human nature. Often times, we think of this love as romantic; the kind that occurs with a significant other. But there is more than just this romantic, passionate, all-consuming love. There’s love that surrounds us on a daily basis though we may not always feel or recognize it.

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There’s the love that you receive from your friends. I believe friendship is the most underrated form of love, because it occurs in a connection that isn’t defined as romantic. Instead, it’s platonic and constantly subject to change. In some cases, it can be strong, and in others, not at all. Friendship takes a lot of work to survive the years, but once you form a connection with a friend—a friend who is worthy of your time and trust—it can be one of the strongest manifestations of love a person can experience. I’m fortunate enough to have made some spectacular friends in my life who continue to support me and inspire me through their caring and loving natures, even though I might not always spend time with them.

There’s love that comes constantly and unconditionally from your family. Fights and disagreements that might break up friendships and other relationships have no power over family. They are the people who are always there for you, even though they might not always understand how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, or even who you are as a person. Most people, teenagers especially, take their families for granted (myself included). When you’re young, they’re always around; they’re your one constant that provided the support, encouragement, and love you needed when it was lacking in other areas. And one day, when you’ve grown up and moved away, they’re not there; but the love and support is. That never goes away and that’s why Family is such a powerful love to which we should hold tight and close to our hearts.

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There’s self-love, which constitutes having a positive relationship with your mind, body, and soul. I particularly struggle with this, especially when I find myself alone in my college dorm room surrounded by silent walls and anxiety. And, when this one is particularly lacking, it can be even more difficult to recognize any of the other types of love in your life. That’s why it’s the most important. Because, if you can’t recognize that you’re imperfect but love yourself and recognize your worth anyway, you won’t be able to love someone else for the same reason.

“You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.” – Jodi Picoult

Because it’s Valentine’s Day in the next few days, I will acknowledge the fourth type of love: the romantic kind, the kind that keeps you up at night with butterflies and idealized images of conversations and encounters that you desperately wish would manifest in reality, the kind on which all the romantic comedies, merchandisers, and love songs build their revenues.

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We see it portrayed in so many different ways: crushes, relationships, marriages, dates, death, depression, and euphoria. But, speaking from experience, being in a romantic relationship is so much more than what they let you glimpse in the movies.

They don’t show how much more nerve-wracking decisions on what to wear, to open up with and share (and how much and when), to do, to address, to work on, and to sacrifice. They don’t convey the longing and desire that becomes so painful and personal when all you want to do is spend time with your significant other, get to know them, and share memories with them. They don’t emphasize how scary it is to devote your time to one person, to trust one person with your heart, and to rearrange your life to make this person a priority. And, above all, they don’t tell you how it all just happens without any warning, control, or choice.

It’s scary and amazing; it’s the most wonderful and the most fragile feeling. Some people get it right and they end up finding their person, for others it takes longer. In the end, we all experience the rollercoaster of emotions that is romantic love in some capacity. And, it all affects us differently: both good and bad. But, the important thing to remember is that THERE IS ALWAYS LOVE PRESENT IN OUR LIVES, though we may forget that it’s there in light of all the negativity that overpowers it.

“‘After all this time?’
‘Always,’ said Snape.” – J.K. Rowling

So don’t worry about not having a Valentine this Tuesday, look for the other versions of your life instead; they’re just as fulfilling…if not more.

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