1. You cannot force it.
Sometimes it’s been so long since you last felt the rush of infatuation that you are ready to answer any OkCupid message, accept any date, and meet any available friend-of-a-friend until you get it back again. It’s like a drug that you have gone so long without you can feel the withdrawal lingering in your bones, and you know that it’s somewhere to be found, you just have to look hard enough for your fix. But there are few things more exhausting than repeatedly, painfully looking for romance and trying to force it to happen, only to end up alone on yet another Friday night. Now, beyond the frustration of not having a relationship in the first place, you feel like an absolute failure because look how hard you’ve been trying. But it’s not a school project, there is no amount of baking soda you can pour into your vinegar love volcano to make it explode. It just has to happen.
2. It comes in all forms.
You know those moments where you’re waiting for a particularly promising date to text you back, and every second that ticks by is absolutely agonizing, and your friend texts you asking you what you’re up to while you are in the midst of waiting and it’s all you can do not to throw your phone against the wall and scream “FUCK YOU BITCH DON’T YOU KNOW I HAVE NO INTEREST IN TALKING TO ANYONE THAT IS NOT THIS AMAZING PERSON WHO WON’T TEXT ME BACK?????” You know those moments? Yeah, well, that friend who is texting you really loves you, too. You just don’t notice it, because you’re too busy looking for it to prove itself in other forms. But we should all be paying attention to it more.
3. It makes everything seem better.
When we focus on the love we have — the love for friends, the love for family, the love for our neighborhood — everything seems brighter. Everything is more in focus, tastes better, sounds more pleasant. It’s like when you’ve lived in a city so long that you’ve completely forgotten all the beautiful monuments and awesome restaurants which are right within walking distance of your place. Then a friend comes along and you show them around, noticing as you go how wonderful everything is, and how easily you forget it. All it takes is focusing on one bit of love in your life and you’ll realize just how surrounded by it you are. Even those birds over there love you, but mostly because you have crackers.
4. You can fall for a project.
Get a sketchbook. Get a few nice pencils. Start drawing, start writing, start taking notes of things you see when you sit alone in a coffee shop. Start reading a new book. Start writing a new book. Join a new class for a dance or sport you’ve never been brave enough to try before. Pick up an instrument. Start running. Watch yourself become infatuated with these things and with yourself for doing something new and actually getting better at it.
5. People already love you.
If we all made a list of all the people in our lives who actually cared for us, who listen when we have something we need to say, and who would be terribly sad if we were gone — it’s likely that it’d be pretty long. And sometimes we don’t even know who they are, because we don’t pay that much attention to them, or they are nervous to tell us. We take our parents’ love for granted, we let friends come and go, we think that the people we know online aren’t “real” friends, but they are all part of our lives and there for us even when we think we are “actively looking” for love, as though it’s lingering under a specific rock.
6. It isn’t a contest.
Despite how much pressure we all may feel at any given moment, there is no reason to view the concept of love as some kind of contest that we are vying for a first-place spot in. Someone you know getting engaged, or breaking up, or having an awesome first date, has no bearing on the path you are taking in your own life. It’s easy to feel like we are either going too quickly or not quickly enough — that the trajectories of all our friends means something about how capable or desirable a person we are — but at the end of the day, we are the only ones who have to live with ourselves and our choices in relationships. Being able to announce that you’ve found someone may feel good, but unless you are really happy in it (and not just doing it because you feel that it’s “the right time” to be settling down), you’ll never actually win.
7. Self-love is just as important.
It’s a cliché because it is true. If you are not happy with yourself and willing to show yourself the same kind of love and respect you want to give to others, no relationship will magically fix you. And while it can certainly be tempting to jump from relationship to relationship, because the space in between them is scary and unknown, learning how to demonstrate that love and compassion for yourself is essential (and surprisingly fulfilling). Going on a solo vacation, or even spending a few days alone — leaving your laptop at home, if you can manage it — might seem like a strange way to feel loved, but if you can be happy with your own company, you can be happy with anything.
8. Many good things will happen along the way.
For those of us who have a wonderful friend who was once a failed attempt at romance, I think we can safely say that some of the not-so-hot dating moments end up only being further proof that people can be wonderful, and that things don’t always work out the way you expect them to.
9. Searching is never a waste of time.
We are so quick to act as though “looking for love” and “having it” are completely separate entities, as though offering up our vulnerability and honesty to new people in the hopes of finding something wonderful is not an amazing thing in and of itself. Even if someone rejects you, the strength and experience we gain from being open about how we feel and going for something scary and new is worth so much more than a thousand successful dinner dates. There is no such thing as wasting time when you are actively looking to meet new people to share something special and human with.
10. It isn’t actually something you can give up on.
In all honesty, we are only kidding ourselves when we say that we are “giving up on love.” Even if we could cut out every connection who cares for us, we would still be capable of feeling empathy, and desire, and compassion. To give up on love would be to give up on the sun, to give up on air, to give up on everything good about day-to-day life. You might delete your dating site account, you might say no to someone who asks you out on a Friday night, but you will still know what it looks like when someone wonderful comes into your life. Opportunities will come along and you will be only too happy to receive them, and that doesn’t make you needy or desperate. It makes you human, and capable of love, and very much worthy of having it in your life.