From the moment we become self-aware, we’re taught that there is something brave in aspiring to be in love. We are told that the greatest gift that we can give another person in life is love. Every holiday and major social event seems to catered around the idea of two people being able to partake in it and those who are alone always seem to end up feeling like they’re missing out on something crucial.
From the first time we hand over a Valentine’s Day card, to the first time we hold a cute classmate’s hand, to the time someone makes our stomach feel like it is about to fall out our butt- we’re taught that it is brave to expose our heart. We’re taught we should be bold and passionate by bringing our loves flowers and making grand gestures like standing in the rain with a boom-box over our heads like John Cusack in, “Say Anything…” From teenage-dom onward we’re told it’s braver to give our heart to someone than it is to give our body. That it is stronger to be powerful and moving and reckless with our love because if it’s passionate, we’re taught it must be strong.
We’re told that it is brave to stick with someone who is going through a hard time in their life. Whether it is depression or substance abuse or the myriad of other personal demons, people look at us and respond, “oh, you must be so brave to stay by their side.” We rarely feel brave when we’re in these types of situations. Love has a way of making us feel contractually obligated to stand by a person even when they’re slowly burying us along with them. It is strong to understand that our only obligation is to ourselves and that the rest are a facade we have built to make ourselves feel important.
We’re taught that it is brave to hold out for the one we truly love, even if they may only see us as a friend. We think that if we show them time after time that we’re there for them, and that we always will be, that something will click for them. It’s one of the scariest and bravest things we can do to let that idea go. What we’re waiting for to click rarely does for the other person. All the signs we desperately see as being there are all smoke and mirrors created by our own minds to keep the comfortable illusion we’ve created sustained.
Do you know what I think is truly brave when it comes to love? Knowing that even though we are not solitary creatures, it is completely possible to find self-actualization outside of another. Ask most people what their greatest fear in life is and most will respond with, “I am afraid to die alone.” It takes a brave person to understand the type of love they require to feel warm and lovely, and it takes a brave person to accept anything other than the type of love they so desire.
It is scary to wonder if in the end, does someone always end up settling in a relationship? Does one always secretly lose out on the hope that a person will come along and sucker-punch them in the heart and completely shift their focus on the world? Does someone wake up one day, roll over and see the person next to them and think, “well, I guess this is it,” ? Is it possible that someone always ends up feeling like they got the bad end of the deal.
It takes a brave person to lift themselves up and understand that settling in love will never do for them. They would rather spend fifty Christmases with family explaining why they still haven’t met someone or travel all the way to the Eiffel Tower with only their camera by their side than to settle on someone. They know that if they were to bring someone along just for the sake of not feeling alone, that the chasm would eventually rip the two of them apart anyways. People have an innate way of knowing when another person will not completely fulfill them. It runs deep through our veins, and one of the bravest things you can do is tap into that feeling.
One could argue that the people who want spine-tingling, stomach-elating, life-crushing love are people who are naive. I would describe them as brave. There is something gorgeous in the idea of growing old by yourself when you know you never compromised what you held to the highest esteem simply because you wanted another face to come home to. The bravest people are the ones who are ready and willing to choose to be alone because they’re willing to walk away from the love they know isn’t whole.