What I Know About Love & Worth

I’m not looking for somebody who will 
whisper sweet nothings into my ear to feed the ravenous ego of my heart. But someone who can look me straight in the eye and say, I love you, whether you fail or fall, just as you are.
— Beau Taplin
Love has been on my mind lately. No, it's not because I'm experiencing it or anything (almost thought I tricked you!) but since there has been a lot of dark in the world as of late, I feel like I need to grasp onto something that keeps the light on. It feels like everything in my life is driven by love. Not always the romantic type—a lot of the time it's the love for my friends and family. I'm not ashamed to say that my life is shaped by it. I want the people that I love to know that I love them. Love is what gets me out of bed in the morning and it's the thing that puzzles me the most. 

As I age, I watch people break-up, ruin marriages, ruin relationships, ruin each other, and sometimes stay-together-for-the-kids. The biggest question I ask myself is where does the love go? Where does it go when a relationship ends, a dissolution of marriage, or when there is infidelity. Does it fade with distance? Does it survive the darkness of infidelity? Or does it become soiled and dirty, unable to be seen or felt? Does someone just have a realization one morning? Or does it gradually disappear? It's not an understatement when I say that I was a bit pessimistic about love for a few years. If watching everyone you love get hurt by the people that they love doesn't turn you off of the concept of love, then your own break-up will. After that happened I wasn't interested in romance; I rolled my eyes at couples I passed on the street, I scoffed at any boy that tried talking to me, and had no interest in pursuing anyone (and maybe sometimes I jokingly yelled LOVE IS DEAD out of the window in a moving car, but that's another  story). When you watch enough people that you love fall out of love with people that they love, you begin to question the permanence of love and how easily it can fade and shift and disappear. 

And then, earlier this week, someone asked me this question on Tumblr:

How do I feel worthy of love even though never having had a relationship in my life. I just cant seem to find someone I like that likes me back and it's starting to feel like it's not happening. Everyone around me is meeting someone new, talking to, liking someone, etc. and I'm just floating, alone, feeling so behind and less worthy, almost like there's something wrong with me. How do I get over this?

It made me think of who I was pre-relationship and post-relationship; how I once had a glossy image of love before dating and falling in love, and how love left a sour taste in my mouth after all of that ended. I wanted to believe love was this thing that would change me for the better. We are taught that we are supposed to want and crave and seek out love, but never taught to deal with the aftermath of the loss of love. What happens when you finally get the thing you've been told you need to have a perfect life and it disappears? You begin to feel unworthy of it, like you're tainted and used up. All of that isn't true—your worth is not dependent on those who cannot love you, or choose not to treat you with respect and dignity. Your worth is not in question whatsoever. Your worth is not based on who is interested in you. You aren't unworthy of love because you've never experienced it before, or because you aren't confident, or because you're too young or too old, or because you are struggling in any aspect. You aren't unworthy of it because you've watched the greatest people you know love and try and have it all fall apart. You aren't unworthy because your friend stopped talking to you or a family isn't interested in having a relationship with you. You aren't unworthy because you're scared or scarred. You're worthy of good things, love being one of them, because you're you and that is enough.

Love is the thing we're all here to do. It's what all of the songs and scripts and essays are written about. It's engrained in us. It's in the chats I have over coffee with my friends and in the hilarious conversations I have with my mother. It's the thing that I try to spread to each one of my friends through texts and care packages and late night phone calls. It's the thing that I write about constantly—to remember what it feels like and to pay tribute to its ability to bring people together in the darkest of times. I know that not everyone I love, platonically or intimately, is going to respect me, or treat me properly, or love me the way I want them to. I know that love is not supposed to be smothering, it's supposed to be freeing. I don't want to be someone that turns away from the world because she doesn't feel worth it for people that don't deserve it. 

With all of that said.. I got to go to a wedding last week. Since I went as a platonic date to one of my best guy friends, I was able to spend a lot of the night watching love right before my eyes from everyone in that small, but very full, room. It was my first time ever attending a wedding, so I embraced my front row seat and I watched as love appeared all around me as boys twirled and dipped their girlfriends on the dance floor, and as the bride's father clearing the tears off of his wife's cheeks with a tissue, and as a boy slide off his suit jacket and placed in on the arms of his girlfriend to wear in the brisk summer night. Little signs that love exists, even when it breaks and burns and ends sometimes (and even when that happens, we're still worthy of it—even if it's hard to believe)

This essay was originally published on my newsletter, Living Lightly. For more essays & thoughts like this, subscribe here.

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