I thought I knew what love was…until I stepped into a classroom.
For the longest time, I thought love was this big, obsolete, intangible feeling that somehow slips into our lives, that settles like dust around the people we care for, that attaches itself to our bones and makes us feel strange and do silly things.
I thought love was something I could label, something I could understand.
But when I stepped into the halls of a high school—this time as a teacher—I understood. Love is not something that you can put your finger on, something that you can clearly define and say, ‘Yep, that’s it.’ Love isn’t really a feeling, rather an invisible, strong bond that floats in the air and connects people to one another.
In a classroom, I saw love in the traditional sense—a man and a woman, a boy and a girl. But I also saw love in mixed genders—woman and woman, man and man, transgender and bisexual, even love expressed between to people with no gender identity.
It was beautiful.
All of it.
It was love in all its forms, in all its ways.
It was love—pure love—that didn’t see a sex or race or gender. Love that didn’t label itself as one thing, but rather nestled into the hearts of people and connected them as they were. As people.
I saw kisses exchanged in crowded hallways, sweaty hands interlaced in courtyards. I saw people standing up for others that were bullied. I saw upperclassmen guiding freshmen. I saw boys and girls alike, giving others their hearts, so willingly. Not worrying about what the world would think, or if they were too naïve, or if they would get hurt.
I saw that love was fearless.
I saw that love brought about inevitable pain, but was still worth it. Every time.
I saw that love doesn’t have an age, or a set of rules.
I saw love between an adult and child, between teacher and student.
I saw love in my own heart—for students that I hardly knew, coming into my classroom with their tired eyes and guarded hearts. And I loved them. Each one.
I learned that love isn’t something that I can identify, nor something I can explain. It’s something that wafts through the halls of a high school, latching onto souls and bringing them together, even in youth.
It’s something that catches onto my own heart and makes me invested in bodies that walk in and out of my classroom, bodies that only see for a few hours, bodies that have lives and worlds outside of those classroom doors.
I saw love in its realest, most uninhibited form.
And now I get it. We grow old and we forget. We forget that love is not something we can categorize, label, or even make sense of. It just happens. And it hurts and it sucks and it’s messy. But it’s pure. It’s so pure.
Those high school halls taught me to love again.
And I won’t stop believing in it.