“Do you believe in love? Have you ever been in love?” These questions popped up when I and my 13 year old cousin were answering questions on a random quiz about soulmates. My cousin, who is in her first relationship, answered “Yes” to both of these questions so quickly: I almost saw my naïve teen self in her. Our answers matched but at that moment, I realized how the meaning of love changes with time and how lucky I have been to have this realization, how grateful I am for being able to witness the power of love.
The words “Love” and “Hate” are so commonly used these days that they’ve almost lost their weight. Everyone around me, including myself, used the word and hate very casually. It makes sense, since they are one of the most fundamental emotions that humans have. However, I have always tried to be careful of the word hate because it felt very negative. Some people tend to believe that being in a relationship is being in love and that has to be that. They have tried to simplify the strongest emotion that exists in this world. I have had my fair share of experiences when it comes to relationships but I have never had the guts to admit to myself that I loved all of my partners. However, things changed for me when I decided to leave everything I had behind and start a new life with no strong sense of identity. I had to work on myself a long long way.
No matter how corny it sounds, I am a firm believer of “You can only love another person after you know yourself and learn to love yourself for who you are.” That I learnt because when I was single in my life with no one to distract me, I had to be friends with myself when I felt like had no one to lean on and no one to give or take love from. A thousand questions would pop up in my head that I had no answers for. I did not want to fit in and yet I was frightened to be alone. I had one of two choices; either mold myself to fit in with the crowd or be myself and wait for the right people. With everything that I had gone through in life, I figured that I did not want to lose my authenticity in the least. I chose to accept who I really was deep inside and learnt to feel compassionate towards myself. By far, this reflection has been life molding for me and that was my first step towards love.
My leap of faith took me on a spiritual journey. I started to realize that kindness and empathy were the most valuable qualities a person could have. When I looked for love inside me, I found that I too had in me, the characteristics that I did not like about many people around me. I realized that we were not very different and by no means could I conclude those characteristics would make anyone less worthy of love. However, being kind didn’t come easy at first. It was all a long process of letting my guard down and exploring my vulnerabilities. When you start on a journey of self-acceptance and growth, you start shedding old habits that no longer serve to your wellbeing and toxic friend groups start draining your energy. I had a hundred break downs and there were so many times when I questioned myself. However, I just kept on going and one day it all made sense.
It had been 7 months since I had arrived in a completely different country and I had made one good friend. I didn’t feel lonely even when I was alone for days, it felt like an achievement. One day, I suddenly started crying while me and my friend were just sitting near a park fountain, talking about the infinite possibilities life held. I let myself feel my emotions and letting it all go made me feel better about myself. Right then, I had a friend who did not say anything to me or attempted to make things better but just watched me feel what I was feeling. I finally felt validated, heard and understood by another human besides myself. His eyes made me feel like I was at home; I could see kindness and compassion reflected through the sparkles on his eyes. No words could have connected us better than the silence that we shared. That particular moment, I believe, was the first time I witnessed that love is a feeling you receive when you share a feeling of compassion with the people around you and let yourself be your own imperfect self. Love is when you let the other person be who they are and celebrate their imperfect growth, just like they’d do to you.
I am pretty sure many people might have a lot of people around who they can rely on when they feel low and I believe these are very lucky people. However, for me, just to have this one company who could relate to every inch of my emotion made me very grateful and I am in awe that I stumbled upon love: love for who I am.
Sonam Dolma Sherpa