It is no secret that our generation is, at times, obsessed with knowing the “what” of things. Whether in the classroom, at home, or within our minds, trying to find a proper definition for every word we encounter has become the order of the day. And questions that begin with what, the burden of our soul. I plead guilty of having searched the definition for natural selection in biology, what friction represents in physics, and of course, lately, what the symptoms of Covid are. And yes, I have gotten useful answers that have helped me write reports and understand school subjects. That has never been a problem. The problem began the minute we decided to rely on a search bar to understand things that go way beyond whatever definition Oxford English Dictionary or encyclopedia can offer. Love is one of them.
For centuries, people have tried to materialize the feeling; either through scholarly definitions, universally accepted icons, or an entire aisle in the nearest retail store. I mean, we have a whole day dedicated to celebrating love. But what exactly is love? Well, that I cannot tell you, for in doing so, I would be falling in the never-ending cycle of using a one-fits-all approach to define that which cannot be defined. Unlike other concepts like evolution, magnetic fields, and stoichiometry, love goes against all odds. It is never experienced by all in the same fashion. And the loss of it is not grieved by two the same way. Everyone has their own history with love; some more tragic than others, but never less important. Therefore, trying to put into 10 words or less every tear, every smile a lover has stolen, and every night someone has stayed up on the phone talking low -almost whispering- to their significant other seems just wrong. Again, I cannot tell you what exactly love is. I won’t even try to. But I sure can share what it means to me.
Love is respect. Love is mutuality at all times and regardless of the situation. It is giving 100 percent and not having to worry about getting less than that in return. It is extending your hand and knowing someone will be there to grab it, tightly and secured. Love is listening to “Sparks Fly” by Taylor Swift on your way home and realizing someone’s name is now engraved in the lyrics. It is never feeling afraid of opening your heart and expressing that that has kept you awake long after 3:00 am every day for the last three weeks. Love is listening, but it is also being heard. Accepting each other fully; weaknesses and strengths, good and bad days, smiles and tears. Love is growing together but also individually. It is not losing yourself to someone but finding a little bit of them in you and a little bit of you in them. It is sacrifice, but not the kind that destroys you or invalidates your feelings and needs, not the one that neglects the love you have for yourself. That is not love. It is that type of sacrifice you make by going to the movies with someone and letting them pick the movie and snacks. Or being in the car and letting the person in the passenger seat choose the next song even when you are 100 percent sure they’ll replay “Love Story” for the millionth time. Why? Because you know that your little sacrifice by making that person smile will make you smile, too. Love is never having to feel speechless and knowing that your words matter as much as the other person’s. Love is saying you did not like what they said or how they acted towards you without fearing being called mad, crazy, or dramatic. And understanding that each other’s feelings matter. Love is consuming but also rewarding. Love is passionate and crazy, but it also offers calmness and comforting silence. Love is indescribable, but it also makes you learn a thousand new adjectives. It is cheering each other up, celebrating each other’s accomplishments, and picking each other’s pieces in times of despair, sadness, and hardship. Love is also letting go, acknowledging neither of you is owned by the other. Love, in a more political way, is freedom of expression. And in a more philosophical, freewill.
But love is also friendship. It is going with your gals to a fancy Italian restaurant every Valentine’s day, even when you are surrounded by couples. Love is going to a street intersection in the middle of the night to decorate a Christmas tree that one of you saw in a video on TikTok. It is organizing an election because you need help deciding which version of Chemtrails Over the Country Club you should buy. And having a 100% voter turnout. Because if it matters to you, it is important to them. Love is receiving a text from your friends saying that they will ask for the day off at work so they can go with you to order your Aggie Ring. It is cooking one of your country’s traditional dishes so your two friends can try it. Love is staying up with your friend, who lives a thousand miles away, every time Taylor Swift decides it is a good day to drop a new song or a new album. It is receiving 30-minute-long voice messages and getting excited to listen to them. Love is found in the playlist your kindergarten friend made for you and titled for my kindred spirit. It is going to a store, seeing anything Easter-themed, and remembering your friend because she loves bunnies. Love is exchanging TV show recommendations. Watching the first episode of The Vampire Diaries or Anne with an E and sending a reaction selfie to those who suggested watching it. It is all the laughs and smiles and dancing around. But it is also being there to wipe each other’s tears when the lows are too low and the highs, not high enough. And now, in times of a pandemic, love is also going to get a test before making plans with your friends because you just could not stand anything bad happening to them. It is setting up a whole restaurant in your house and inviting your friends over because they had a rough week. Love is sending memes when you are short for words but want to keep the conversation going. And discussing the new episode of WandaVision each Friday at the same time. It is bringing lemon tea to your friend when they feel sick. And, before the pandemic started, going every Friday to your favorite dining hall to talk about everything that happened that week. It is agreeing to watch the movies Nacho Libre and Space Jam because they make your friend laugh.
Love is all kinds of things, but never just one. The principle of parsimony does not apply to love because love is not simple. And should an exact definition still be so necessary, let us then take every letter sent, every kiss and hug given, every look and smile exchanged. Let us take it all and put it into the biggest compilation of all time, for only then will we get a little closer to “defining” what love is.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your loved ones!