Two children stand on the shoreline.
The first one restlessly kicks up the sand. With an elated cry, they sprint forward, wind rushing past, and they leap. Right into the surf. They pound forward, lifting their legs higher and higher until walking is impossible, and they dive headfirst into the water. Their head emerges as they gasp for breath, already tired but thrilled. The child jets forward, swimming for the horizon, swimming until they can’t swim anymore. Their eyes always on the horizon.
The second child gazes after the first child in awe. Their feet burrow in the warm sand. They’re safe. Grounded. This child also looks toward the horizon, and feels a pounding ache in the deepest reaches of their stomach that reverberates until it hurts to breathe. Slowly, the child wrestles their feet from underneath the sand and steps forward. Step by step, the child approaches the water. Warm, soft sand yields to cold, firm sand, which then melts into sand saturated by water. The child’s feet sink down, and they hesitate. They move forward until the surf buffets their thighs and threatens to knock them over. But they continue moving. Their eyes always on the horizon.
Which child is more courageous?
Which child should be dubbed the hero and which the coward?
When we talk about love, we tend to categorize people into the courageous and the cowardly. The ones that are open and the ones that are closed. The first child and the second.
So let’s just get one thing straight: Loving differently does not equal loving incorrectly.
Love is terrifying. It is exhilarating. It is painful. It is somehow healing. Love isn’t something that can be easily described or held. It can only be felt.
And if love exists in such ambiguity, then who are we to place standards on how people should love?
Isn’t it less important that one hesitates, and more meaningful that they’re trying? From the moment the second child is standing on the beach, feet buried in the sand, the child is trying. From anyone else’s eye, they’re stagnant. People will encourage them to move. Tell them that they’re not living until they sprint headfirst into the water. But the child knows. The child watches the brave, sometimes reckless, strokes of the first child as they’re tossed backwards by waves, submerging and surfacing, but always moving.
People who are guarded know what they’re missing. They watch those who express their feelings readily and wish they could follow suit. But not everyone is built the same. Whether they learned to bury their emotions after too many broken hearts or they’ve simply been this way for as long as they can remember, this is how they love.
They tip toe forward, and with every laugh, every kiss, every secret told, they inch closer to the water.
Part of the joy of building a relationship with someone is in the discovery of how they express themselves. One person may show their feelings through spontaneous roses sent to your work, while another may make sure that your gas tank is always full and the engine in perfect condition. One person will sprinkle I Love You’s throughout your day, making sure you know without a shadow of a doubt that they care deeply. Another will only utter those words when they’re so overcome by love that they must say it immediately, for fear they’ll burst into shards if they don’t.
It is when we begin judging the love, when we begin ranking actions from least to most romantic, that we lose the core truth of what it means to love someone.
Some people love openly, fall fiercely, scrape their knees and get right back up, terrified but eager to do it all over again.
Others do not. They take precautions. They meticulously choose the people they let into their world, and when they stumble and hit the ground, they stay down longer, terrified of making the same mistake twice.
It doesn’t matter if you’re one or the other or anything in between.
The success lies in taking the step, whether it’s a running leap or a painstaking crawl. It’s about continuing to keep your eyes on the horizon, no matter how long it takes you to get there.