For a long time, I thought this was so.
I thought, as someone who had built her identity around being “unique” and “different” in order to bulwark her self-esteem after years of social exclusion–and in a way I am unique, but so is everyone else—no-one would be capable of understanding what it was like to be inside my head, see the world through the lens of my eyes, experience my thoughts and feelings. And what was more, I certainly could not know what it was like to be in someone else’s head, no matter how far I strained my imagination or empathetic powers, for each human heart is the greatest mystery under the sun. According to this logic, then, there was no point in, or no possibility of, anyone truly loving anyone, as we were all puzzles, impossible to get close enough to properly solve, and therefore properly love.
I was wrong.
You don’t need to understand something to love it, a rule applicable to almost everything in life. I don’t understand life, yet much of the time, even in the throes of despair, I still subconsciously love it, adore the emotions coursing through my veins, the black misery pumping in my heart. I love the universe even though I find its complexity baffling. I love writing and the creative process, but, once again, I don’t understand exactly why I love it, or how it works; all I know is stories and characters come to me, and they need to be written down, almost as though I have been assigned to do it, and it makes me very happy to do it even when it is hard. So much human effort is spent on figuring things out, decoding and dissecting, and while that is not a bad thing—curiosity has landed us on the moon and given us fantastic works of literature and computers and light bulbs, just to name a few—sometimes, one simply must accept things, like affection or art, without trying to deduce its origins.
I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the only ones to true happiness, or at least satisfaction, in life. To just enjoy whatever comes to you, each a little tidbit of happiness to be savored, with the deep, subconscious awareness that life is beautiful, even when it is bad, that life is a gift, even when it pops open like Jack-In-The-Box in your face, that life is something to be loved, even when you don’t understand it in the slightest—just like love. Whenever someone says “love is the meaning of life”, many people believe they are referring to romantic love, or the love one feels for family or friends. But that’s not true. Family and friends and spouses and children are often not enough to sustain a person. What they truly mean is that love for everything, for every facet of life, from the tiny dead flies on the windowsill to the sun shining in the sky each morning, delight at the immense complexity dancing and shivering around you, is where the meaning in life lies. Love is what propels us to do whatever we do, to struggle and work in face of meaninglessness and loneliness. We don’t understand anything, but we love many things, so we use that to keep us going.
Like everyone, I have loved before. And I’ll tell you this: all love is the same. Whether it is love for a man or a woman, or a brother, or a book, or an art form, or any piece of the universe, it gives you the same sensation of happiness and pleasure inside your chest. It reaches down into the very nooks and crevices of your essence, in tiny, golden spurts of liquid happiness. It also often aches, pain experienced along with the pleasure, because all sources of our love are transitory, including life itself, but it is a nice ache, nice and beautiful, just like everything else, a kind of sweet agony.
My advice to you, then, is to love freely, passionately, and deeply, without fear of failure or pain. When you love, inevitably, you will fail, and you will get hurt. But you will also succeed and experience moments of such blinding joy it will be as if the sun is shining out through your pores. In the past, I have not followed this principle of acceptance. For instance, for many years, I denied myself my love for writing and the imagination, believing I was no good at it and would never be any good at it after a bad incident with one teacher; but these days, I don’t think or worry so much, and just follow the honey-trail of love to where it leads me. I have also avoided people I loved, not only because I did not love myself enough at the time (an enormous problem when it comes to forming any relationships), but also because I was afraid of trusting love. I was afraid of getting hurt, abandoned, feeling lost, ashamed or rejected. I was afraid they would not understand me and my anxiety, my myriad quirks that make it difficult to feel comfortable outside the home or amongst society, especially when my struggles already made me feel defective. Should they have shunned me or exhibited scorn at my shortcomings, my heart would have died. So I pushed them away, and pushed them away hard. It was the right decision at the time—but perhaps a great deal of suffering could have been lifted, had I simply allowed myself to accept my feelings, followed them to wherever they might have led me, be that the tip of a cliff or the depths of an abyss.
This principle, to love something or someone, even when you do not understand them or it, is very useful when it comes to fending off existential angst. We don’t understand life or death, so we are afraid of both, and thus never really live or die. We just exist in this perpetuity of fearful stasis. Don’t do that. Trust love. Trust it. Whenever something speaks to your heart, makes it curl over and purr like a contented kitten inside your chest, do it, speak to it, work at it, look at it, enjoy it. That is what it truly means to follow your heart: whatever gives you a great leap of joy can only be good for you. Love desperately and passionately and gloriously, and when the end comes, remaining loving until the very last second, kiss the world goodbye with a smile on your face and a tear running down your cheek.