We are the generation that fears feeling too much. We are afraid of caring. We swipe on dating apps as though people are dispensable, we ghost one another rather than expressing our truths, and we pretend we don’t have feelings for people when deep down we know that we do. We pretend to be okay with hook ups when we really want something real. We play the texting game of waiting just long enough before responding, and we overthink whether or not we should text first. We are afraid to show people that we care. We are afraid that caring will scare them away. So we try to keep everything on the surface. We keep our options open. We try to play it cool.
And when someone special does come along, we are afraid to let them touch our hearts because we are worried that the moment that we begin to care, the moment that we become emotionally invested, they will leave us. We worry that caring too much will overwhelm them. That caring too much will be a burden, that it will be overpowering and will scare them away. And we fear that if they do leave us, we won’t be able to cope in the aftermath. We won’t be able to handle the riptides of feelings that will overcome us.
We are afraid to care because caring means putting our hearts on the line. And the concept of letting others affect us deeply is terrifying. We are hesitant to say “I love you” first because we think that saying it will mean that we feel “too much” or that the other person will never reciprocate our feelings. We are afraid of falling deeply in love with someone who may never love us back. So we don’t tell them. We hold it in our chest and wish we had the courage to wear our hearts on our sleeves.
And in the rare cases in which we do allow ourselves to be vulnerable, the times in which we do put our hearts on the line, we get let down. And we feel defeated. We wish we didn’t care so much. We wish we hadn’t invested our hearts into something so transitory and instead played it safe. We feel as though we wasted our love on someone who didn’t care about us.
But caring about them was never a character flaw or a weakness. Caring deeply didn’t imply that we did something wrong or that we need to beat ourselves up over it. Because caring deeply is never a sin. Caring deeply is never something to feel embarrassed about. Just because someone couldn’t reciprocate our feelings doesn’t mean we never should have cared about them. It doesn’t mean we were wrong in caring about them. It just means that we shared a piece of our heart with someone who wasn’t ready for it. And we are brave for doing so.
And when it doesn’t work out, we don’t have to hide our pain. We don’t have to pretend that we are fine or that we don’t care. It’s okay to cry in public at a coffee shop. It’s okay to feel heartbroken and to send an accidental drunk text. And it’s okay to feel brokenhearted, even if the relationship was fleeting, or even if it was never an “official” relationship. Because it’s okay to care. It’s okay to wear our hearts on our sleeves. It’s okay to fall for someone who is unable to fall for us. Because it shows that we are able to care deeply. That we are able to fall hard. And later, when we meet someone who is able to share their heart with us, we will be able to be vulnerable with them. We will be able to care for them with our whole hearts, despite our fears, because we will be braver. We will be stronger. And truth be told, sometimes we have to fall for the wrong person before we meet the right person.
And when we do find the right person, they won’t be scared away when “I love you” accidentally slips from our lips. They won’t back away when we cry about something that we don’t have the words to explain. They will wipe away our tears and stay by our side. They won’t mind that we are “too” emotional or that we love with our full hearts. They won’t mind how much we care about them because they will care for us in the same way.
And to find irreplaceable love, we have to have the courage to care. We have to be brave enough to show up. We have to open our hearts up, even with the knowledge that we might get hurt.
Because love is precious and life is precious. And caring for another person is one of the most beautiful things we can do in our time here.