When we think of love we think of relationships. We think of falling into the arms of someone who understands us or being with someone whose heart sings of forever. We think about dates and sunset walks, hand in hand across moonlit beaches. We think about two pairs of shoes by the front door or two toothbrushes in the cup by the sink. We think about crossed paths and intertwined dreams. We think of love as this answer to everything we’ve been missing.
And yes, love is absolutely and without a doubt beautiful. But when was the last time the word ‘love’ crossed our mind and we thought of ourselves?
When I was younger, I was excited for the prospect love in my life. A hopeless romantic from the birth, my heart burst at the thought of having someone to pass notes to in my seventh grade math class or sit next to during lunch. I was excited at the idea of cuddling up next to someone in a movie theatre or staying up late talking about goals and dreams by the light of the stars.
I was always imagining my future life, future person, bright and bigger than he was. I was always thinking that when I found him I would feel different, have this sense of life that I never had alone. I was always chasing relationships, chasing people, chasing the feeling of someone’s arms around me.
I was always believing that true love would finally set me free.
But after falling for men who didn’t turn out right, after breaking my heart over and over, after loving and learning and shattering and rebuilding, piece by piece, I now know that love is not about finding a perfect person, or even a person at all.
Love is what you pour into yourself, the way you rescue your own heart from the silly belief that your worth is defined by who holds you in their arms.
Love is the way you look at yourself in the mirror, the way you forgive yourself and move forward when you lose your way. Love is the laughter that fills your lungs when you’re doing something you’re passionate about or finally understanding the path you’re meant to walk. It’s the fullness in your chest when you surround yourself with what you believe in and feel motivated by. It’s finally understanding that you who you are, and are meant to be, is not solely dependent upon a relationship.
Love is freedom. And yes, you can find it in the lips of another person. And you undoubtedly will when you find the right one. But more important than the love you seek in others is the love you’ll find within yourself.
True freedom is realizing that you are a powerful being, just as you are. It’s recognizing the ability you have to grow, to change, to learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward. It’s listening to the beating in your chest and letting that rhythm guide you into places you can only discover when you’re walking alone. It’s discovering your own melody and dancing to that music until another person comes with a harmony that perfectly fits.
Don’t get me wrong, there is beauty in falling for people. There is freedom and passion and fullness in finding whose heart meshes with yours and learning how two people can become one. There is power in setting aside our own selfishness to give and take with someone else.
But romantic love is not everything.
Sometimes the truest form of freedom comes in fighting for our own hearts, in wildly pursuing our own self-love.
So fight. Fight for the freedom of your own heart—freedom from others, from rules, from the desires of other people that so often fall before your own. Fight for the life you want to lead, one that’s just as strange and unique and challenging as you wish it to be. Fight for your selfish pursuits, for your dreams, for your plans, understanding that one day they may shift to accommodate someone else. But when you are ready, this will be beautiful, not a sacrifice.