I am 27 years old and I've never been in love.
Yep, I'll admit it: I have never changed my status on Facebook to "in a relationship" or posted photos of my boyfriend and me vacationing on tropical islands. My parents lovingly joke about how they will never have grandkids (and often suggest that I just marry one of my best girlfriends and call it a day) all because I have yet to bring a guy home for dinner.
Old friends tell me to be less picky and new friends don't believe my relationship virginity to be true. It seems like as days pass, more of my friends are getting married and having babies and going to Coachella with the loves of their lives (or so Facebook tells me)… and yet, I DON'T feel left out.
Sure, every now and then I get FOMO (fear of missing out), but it usually is not in reaction to cheesy wedding photos or trips to Disneyland with five toddlers. Rather, my FOMO is for road trips on sunny days, tanned bodies on warm beaches and how it seems like nobody has a job, yet still manages to make enough money to backpack around Europe, shop at Urban Outfitters and go to every music festival known to man. (What is up with this, Millennials? Share your secrets! I'm tired of waitressing!)
I feel so lucky to be amongst a generation in which we are encouraged to pursue a fulfilling life rather than just meet some socialized status quo. Yet, there are times when I have a late night off of work and I'm sitting on my couch with a bottle of red wine and my mind wanders to what it would be like to have THAT kind of love in my life.
What it would feel like to wake up next to someone who doesn't want to be anywhere else in the morning except next to me? Someone with whom to plan a big adventure, to just drop our lives and go live in Costa Rica for a couple years? Someone to bring home to family dinners and watch as he laughs and drinks wine with my parents?
I ponder these things as if I am completely missing out on my one true love. I feel like I should have this by now — not necessarily the forever kind of love, but some sign of it that affirms that I’m not doomed to live on this couch with wine forever.
But, even as I sit and think that I SHOULD be in love by now, I can't help but feel like I AM in love.
Dozens of beautiful faces pop into my mind and instantly fill my heart. Love is not a status on the Internet or a movie romance. It is a spectrum, and that spectrum of love fulfills my life because every loving relationship I have feeds my heart.
What do I mean by love is a spectrum? Think of all the times in your life you have thought to yourself, "Wow, that felt a lot like love.” A close friend at work, who feels like more than a friend; a three-day, whirlwind romance on your trip to Paris; your girlfriend, who knows every single intimate detail of your life and heart; the super-hot cashier at Whole Foods, who always chats you up and makes you feel like you are the only girl in the world who buys chia seeds — they can all feel like love.
While none of these situations may lead to wedding bells and babies, they all rest somewhere on the spectrum of love. Just like a gray scale, on which nothing is black and white, there is more than "love" and "not love."
Modern dating can seriously suck. People are so afraid to create meaningful connections because being in a relationship now requires the whole world to see the label (i.e. Facebook official). When those labels only include "in a relationship" or "single," most people will choose to avoid dealing with labels altogether, as they are so limiting.
There is so much more to love than just this! Instead, we "swipe right" and keep it casual with emotions out of the equation. We call it "modern love" and don't allow our casual heart flutters to fall anywhere on our spectrums of love.
This is when the real relationship FOMO sets in; not allowing yourself to have love in any form because it does not fit into a socially constructed label will definitely lead you to yearn for something more. I would much rather have a beautiful, emotional relationship with someone whom I may never bring home to my parents or with whom I may never celebrate a one-year anniversary but who allows me to fulfill a particular part of my love spectrum, even if it’s not the full-blown, head-over-heels, movie kind of love.
We should be happy with identifying experiences and feelings of love on a spectrum because we need to be more open-minded about letting all types of love fill our lives. I have felt discredited and ashamed so many times in my life because I have not had a traditional relationship. I have had to constantly explain to other people and remind myself about different forms of relationships that I have had over the years and how they have shaped me.
I am tired of feeling like I am missing out on something because in actuality, I need a bigger heart to hold all of the love that I feel.
So, stop comparing yourself to anyone and everyone else. You are loved, just like you are beautiful, just like you are smart and just like you are happy. Like everything in life, your love is on a spectrum that is unique and special to you. No one can tell you if the love in your life is right, or good, or enough.
Hold onto all of the love in your life, all the "almost" love, the "kinda felt like" love, the "never gonna happen" love and the "I'm so lucky to have had this" love, because on a spectrum, all love is enough.
Ultimately, love is just love.
Photo via We Heart It