I believe in love.
I know that seems like the cheesiest damn thing to say. But, I believe in love more than anything. I believe that the power it has over us, can either destroy us, or free us. Love is such an abstract thing, that most people have a hard time defining it without using the word itself. I believe that love has, at many points in my life saved me, but also what I perceived as the absence of love has torn me to pieces.
There are many different types of love floating around in the Universe. I can be “In Love” with a romantic partner. I can love my best friends. I can love a dog I meet on the street. I can love the pasta I had for dinner last night. I can also love myself. However, it is important to note, that each of these different types of love can be forgotten if you don’t work to remind yourself of their existence.
The Variety Pack of Love
As I have learned to appreciate this variety pack of love that the universe has provided, I have discovered the most important, and likely the best kind, is the love I have found for myself. While I’ve spent the last few years processing the various demons of my past, I learned that if you have love and compassion for yourself, being alone with your thoughts becomes infinitely easier. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy spending time with myself before I loved myself. I can’t imagine how I could’ve expected others to want to spend time with me while I was pretending my way through the world, each day pasting on one of many rehearsed smiles.
People are often inspired by my story and ask how I knew it was time to begin this journey truth is that I had finally pushed enough people away, that I had nobody else around to expect love from. I had only myself, a Netflix subscription, and the four walls of my college dorm room. I spent countless nights awake trying to avoid my thoughts by watching as many female centric dramas as I could get my hands on. I would sleep all day, only getting up to eat and use the bathroom. Then, I would do it all over again day after day. It was a miserable existence. But, I learned, that no matter how loud I had those headphones turned up, there was always a little voice somewhere in me that was louder.
The voice said, “love”. That was it.
It said “love”; over, and over, and over again.
The voice had always been there. I had just run out of things to cover it up.There are only so many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to watch. One night, I was lying in bed having an existential crisis because Netflix kept asking if I was still there and I, for one, take that very personally. As I laid there in my crusty sweatpants and dirty sheets, I let my mind wander to the last time I felt real, genuine self-love.
That was at camp.
I eventually wandered away from Netflix to find the home page of the summer camp I had attended for one summer as a 13-year-old. This was the beginning of what has been the greatest life changing adventure, I think, in history. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But, I applied to work for 10 weeks. Five years later, I realize I had no damn clue what I was doing at the time. I guess sometimes it’s a blessing to be young and dumb.
I remember the first couple of nights during staff training I cried a lot. One kind soul saw my puffy eyes as I tried to get back to my cabin without anybody seeing me. She forced me into conversation in a dark gazebo, in the middle of the woods, at midnight. I thought she would try to murder me.
Then, we talked, and we talked, and the sun started to come up as I finally had the courage to say what I’d been holding in. “ I hate myself” I blurted out before I could catch the words and pull them back into my throat.
“You clearly love yourself enough to come here and talk about yourself.” That was the response. Not, a hug, or sympathetic tears. Just that. But, she was so right.
I later learned that the better phrasing of that ugly statement is something like, “I hate… about how I’m acting right now.” Or “I hate… about how I handled that.”. But, I suppose I can’t go back and change the things I said about myself then. I only control the love I give myself right now.
I believe that once the soul knows the taste of loving itself, it’ll never go back. I learned that at camp.