I’m sitting on a bench in Battery Park at the very bottom of Manhattan, right by the water. I’ve got a book open on my lap, On Writing by Stephen King, and a lukewarm coffee sitting to my right.
This is my favorite part of New York City. It’s peaceful. Instead of smelling like concrete soaked in urine and stale gasoline, it smells like the earth. The breeze from off the Hudson wisps around the smell of fresh flowers and the water splashing on the dock.
I have a ticket in my left hand that I had been using as a bookmark. I’m not sure what it was for or how it came to be the placeholder in my pages, but it reads “WAARDEBON, 0,50€” which is Dutch, so I think it’s for a tram or bus in the Netherlands. In my right hand is a pen, like I always hold as I read. I scribble in the page margins. Sometimes the notes are useful, other times they’re reactional, like ‘LOL’ or “No way!’ chicken-scratched next to a passage.
I’ve always done this. For some strange reason, it makes me feel like I am creating a connection between present me and future me, when I inevitably read the book again. Because I always do that too. It establishes a weirdly intense feeling of kinship for me to imagine a past me reading certain parts and laughing. It usually makes me laugh too all over again. I wonder what that version of myself would want to tell me now. Something tells me it would have to do with love.
At that moment, the song flowing out of my headphones changes. I had the immediate urge to blast it, so I cranked up the volume.
It’s the kind of song that needs to be listened to loudly. I stop what I am doing and think about this deeply.
You know what I’m talking about. Certain music is meant to be blasted and danced to with careless freedom. It’s meant to sweep you away in the passion of its melody, and strike you right in the chest with its magic. Just like certain films are meant to captivate you entirely, and certain books are meant to extrapolate you into an entirely different world with each sentence your eyes pass over. It’s the sights that leave you standing in awe, unable to comprehend the beauty in front of your eyes. It’s the art that touches you.
It’s the moments that take your breath away, and you know for certain that the experience deserves the reaction it’s conquesting, straight from your soul.
That’s what love is supposed to be like. Isn’t it?
But we settle, constantly.
We accept less than what we need out of expectation, obligation, convenience or fear of loneliness. We say to ourselves “This is as good as it’s going to get for me,” which is just a nicer way of saying “This is all I think I deserve out of life and love.” And just a deceptive way of saying, “I am just too afraid of heartbreak, isolation, and rejection to demand more for myself, and walk away.”
It’s a trap we all fall into, especially with the mundane and often disappointing nuisances we encounter every day in this life. Sometimes they appear to not only be reality but normality.
And that can be true. A lot of things in life will be mediocre. But love should not be one of them.
Love should be the song you have to listen to loudly. It should be the experience that awakens your soul and rips you wide open. It should be terrifying and exhilarating but also feel like home at the same time. It should be brilliant and vibrant, challenging and encompassing. It should lift you up. It should make you feel like your insides are lit with a cool fire that burns life into your veins.
Love should be a dedicated, unwavering friendship that provides you with a blanket of comfort nothing else in this world could ever compare to. It should be a connection that’s simultaneously grounding and freeing. It should make you feel needed, wanted and desired. It should make you feel so, so special.
That’s the love I want. I want nothing less than everything. Don’t you? If we deserve anything in this life, shouldn’t we at least deserve that?
I don’t want love that’s out of obligation. I don’t want love that’s hesitant or tentative. I don’t want love that’s contingent on circumstance or timing. I don’t want love one day and neglect, anger or jealousy the next day. I don’t want love that changes with the weather. I don’t want love that’s inconsistent or fearful. I don’t want love that’s selfish or shallow or superficial. I don’t want love that’s only partial.
Basically, I don’t want love that’s half-assed or half-hearted. I want the whole damn heart and the whole damn ass.
And you should too. Because that’s what you deserve. That’s how you deserve to be loved.
You deserve to be cherished, respected, honored and desired. You deserve forehead kisses, surprise date nights and love letters that land on your pillow out of no where. You deserve someone to lift you up on your worst days and push you on the days you need extra encouragement. You deserve someone who listens to you. You deserve someone who treats you and your body with complete, unfailing care, and couldn’t imagine the thought of hurting you. You deserve someone who shows you off to their friends and family, and wears you proudly on their arm like the gift that you are. You deserve someone who sees the best in you, and relentlessly reminds you of that.
You deserve someone who is honest with you, always. Not sometimes. Not when it’s convenient or easy. Not from now on, always.
You deserve someone who genuinely delights in your passions and shares their own with you. You deserve someone who will read out loud to you, bring you soup when you’re sick and rub your back when you can’t sleep. You deserve someone who will go out of their way to build relationships with your friends and family. You deserve someone who brings you into their life, but also makes an active effort to be a part of yours, and eventually builds a life that is equally both of yours. You deserve someone who would never take away pieces of who you are for their own gain.
You deserve someone who wants you for you, who wants you even when you’re broken, sick and difficult. You deserve someone that’s considerate and thoughtful in all they do, and treats you like a true partner. You deserve someone who only has eyes for you. You deserve a love that makes you tingly all over. You deserve a passion that makes you shiver at the thought. You deserve a partner who wants you to feel that way, all the time.
But more than anything, you deserve to know you deserve these things from love.
If you’ve ever been with someone who treats you this way, that helps. But it’s not everything. It’s not enough.
You need to feel it in your bones. You need to know that real love is worth all the heartbreak that led to it. Real love is worth the pain. Real love is worth the time it takes to get to it. It’s worth the journey. It’s worth the confusion. It’s worth the setbacks. Because it’s like nothing else in this world.
It’s the love that ignites that fire in your soul. It’s the love worth fighting for. It’s the love worth believing in. It’s the love you deserve.
I look back down at the pages of the book sitting on my lap, again.
I imagine this is what future me would write in the margins if she could.
“Wait for this kind of love, because it’s the only thing truly worth waiting for.”
I write that down.