It can be tempting to think of love as a commodity, a milestone, another step in the long list of things you have to do in order to have a successful, happy life.
It can become an ingredient in a complex recipe – one that only works one specific way and at one specific time for a specific type of person. A recipe that you have to follow to the t, just as every other person has done, in order to have what the world considers a good life.
We forget that love is not a thing. Love is not a bullet point to check off on a to-do list. It’s not a requirement or an accomplishment or a degree that you attain. It’s an experience, and a complicated one at that. It’s at all times exhilarating, inspiring, terrifying, painful, addicting, beautiful, incredible, and frustrating as hell. It makes you happy and crazy and grateful and insecure, all the time.
There is no climactic point, in which love is achieved and then everything else is a simple, downward slope into normal adulthood. Love is constantly changing, molding, and adapting to the way in which your life is happening. It’s anything but consistent.
But it sometimes seems like a simple stepping stone that leads you to the next phase of life. First you “get” love, and then once you have that, comes the marriage and parenthood and the suburban lifestyle that everyone expects you to have.
So when you don’t have love, it’s natural to treat it like a thing that you have to chase after.
Because the world makes you feel weird for not having it. You go to parties and weddings and family reunions alone, and people want to know why you have yet to settle down, as if there’s some secret they expect you to share with them that explains your horrifying singleness. As if there’s one little thing that, if you could just get it under control, would fix everything and would lead you directly into someone else’s arms.
It’s absolutely not that simple, but it’s easy to fall into the belief that you will not be normal until you attain this tangible idea of love.
People don’t talk about it. People don’t want to admit that the world treats love like a formula, like a simple catalyst that will lead to your perfect wedding and marriage and life. It ruins the mirage. It forces us all to consider that maybe we’re not supposed to think about the process finding our lifelong partner in such a stoic and sterile way.
This is why love feels so hard to find. Because it feels like a thing. Something we have to grasp our hands onto before it’s too late – before we reach the age where it’s considered too late to get married or “start” a life or to raise a family.
Love is not something to chase. It’s not something that will help you measure what in your life is right, and what still needs work. It is not the thing that begins your life, because your life has already started.
I can’t promise that you’ll find love. Nobody can. And if or when you do find it, nobody can promise that you’ll keep it either. It’s not a right, it’s not an automatic, it’s not a guarantee. It’s a privilege – a beautiful, mysterious, painfully wonderful privilege.
But what I can promise is this: you will never find love – in its purest, most genuine, and most beautiful form – if you think of it like a required milestone in your life.
Instead, look at it from afar with wonder, and appreciation, and gratitude. Not as something you deserve and must have in order to be happy, but as a beautiful experience that brings a little more goodness into the world. That way, if you’re lucky enough to find it, you’ll know exactly what to do with it.