6 Things You Learn About Love


1. It Comes In Shades, Hues, And Styles

There is an idea that love exists as uniform, capital-L proper-noun obvious form that I view as tyranny. It’s dumb, and it’s linguistic paralysis. Think of how many words we have to describe a hamburger. Now think of how many we have for romantic love. We have so many different feelings wrapped up in “love” that to make it universal and blank, generic and prepackaged, does us all a disservice.

Also, please don’t forget you can love in fractions, in mild percentages that creep up in growth. You can love someone a little, or a bunch, or some, or some and it’s tricky. Please, please please do not feel bound to convention or propriety or officiality or anything like that. I promise you the world needs more unbounded optimism and nuanced romantics, okay? Err on the side of loving a little when you like a lot.

2. You Will Love Differently

Don’t be alarmed. It’s okay.

Sometimes it’s a “how did I get this lucky” type satisfaction that resonates you with wonder and joy so much so that every moment with them feels like a sort of boast somehow, a human embodiment of whistling in a cartoon, and a moment you know as you live it you want preserved safely in the past coupled with a vast expanse of present wonder – that’s a love.

Other times it’s a bittersweet, lingering affection not quite spoken but refracted over time and miles, from abroad and distorted, communicated in whispers of looks and texts, late in the night as you think and drink, in a space where happy and sad meet in a ponderous gray, beautiful like a Drake song — that’s a love.

Sometimes it’s just the wildly nice experience of being in their company, and they like hamburgers and the right kind of hamburgers, and you pursue them with the eager, calm excitement of a friendship gone deeper. You bring them to parties and lose them in the midst of fun only to find them again. It’s pleasant as hell.

Sometimes it’s an illogical, even inconvenient love for someone so other, so different and alien that it stretches you. It grows you, and you grow them, and you spend time baffled, excited, calm, worried, and everything else with or without them. It’s a love that perplexes even as it fills you.

It can be a different type, too. It can been a love that just elevates and expands you, an endearing, smiling “look at this text message” type affection that makes you want to hold their hand and have them in your bed because they’re cozy and they fit, fit in some crook of yourself you didn’t know was missing. And it might not even be missing. But when you’re with them, you feel more than yourself, more than complete, some 128%-type odd fraction that just exceeds the life you had before. You feel present, too, living in live-action moment not thought in a dreamy, every-moment-stretched-and-savored type way of elevation — that’s a love, too.

Again: the takeaway is it’s different, and you’ll experience it differently with different people at different times. Don’t be blinded.

3. Love Does Not Conquer All

This is awkward.

Love doesn’t conquer all. Love is an emotion, a feeling, and a powerful one but it isn’t magical or to be taken for granted. Here are some things that damage love, that batter it and can leave it mangled and warped: anxiety, distance, ego, selfishness, time, bad choices, mistrust, and even other loves.

Love is strong, but not infinitely so. Protect it, grow it, but be aware. Be the gardener of your life.

4. There’s A Bias Against Loving

There’s a bit of a bias against loving that stems from a fear and anxiety about being wrong. Love is a risk, a fear, a plummet you take by yourself hoping to be caught on a gust of the same. Opening yourself to that is risky. Love itself is illogical and difficult, and we get our cues from exaggerated media. I don’t feel as obvious as this bland Romantic Comedy lead, and it isn’t that easy or clear cut; thus, I figure, it can’t be Love.

Some questions about love: can you love someone you dated for five weeks? Can you love someone a little? What about “kind of” loving? Does love allow for partial credit or a sliding scale?

If you thought about any of those questions you’re doing it wrong. You’re allowing words and thoughts to fight against a deeply unthinking and wordless experience. When structured, love is always on the defensive.

So, back to the above: if you counted “five weeks?” and did the math, you’re pushing love back for the sake of numbers.  If you tried to define “love” and “a little” as opposed, you’re limiting love again, forcing the infinite to exist in a neat package for your own consumption. And if you’ve never “kind of” loved someone, you’re wrong: you have, and just refused to allow yourself a fraction of love because it would be harder to reconcile.

There’s a bias against love, or rather, of accepting it. Don’t be so dramatic. There’s a world outside capital-L-proper-noun Love from movies. Love on your own schedule, whenever you can. Catch it in scraps, find it where you can, and savor it, okay? You might as well. It makes Drake lyrics that much better.

5. Love Survives

It can shift and soften, hibernate. Sometimes it even transforms into hate. But that energy rarely dissipates completely. Your ex will never just be some rando: at the very least they’ll be preserved in memory, in time and experience from love alive. Remember that song “somebody that I used to know?” That was a huge hit because of that haunting, bittersweet loss of love but also that quiet permanence. Even shrouded in a chorus and past tense — somebody you used to know — that knowing remains, distant but true.

Don’t believe me? Get a “hey” text from an ex at 9:14 PM on a Tuesday, something platonic but sudden. See what your body says about it — your heart

6. Love Is Universal

Love — and heartbreak, its mirror — are universal and inevitable. There’s a petty narcissism that assumes anything big and new to us must be new at large, and over generations we find (or “invent”) music, sex, drugs, thought, etc. Eventually, though, we stumble on love. Even though love is deeply personal and transformative, it’s also universal. Love is the invisible force that keeps us tied and tethered to something bigger than logic, money or numbers.

The good news is you can see it around you and find it when it seems absent or misplaced, that you can find love in any corner, with crumbs of it hiding in the crooks of hours and days. Drake exists for a reason. Love is there, presently, and you are not so uniquely alone or bad as to be exempt from it. Your existence alone leaves you open to its grace.

The bad news are those couples on trains. Overall, it’s a fair trade.