how to avoid half-heartedness
A few nights ago a friend and I were talking about the moment when someone shows you their texts with their crush and asks you to analyze it with them, i.e. “Do you think that he/she likes me?” I always offer the best analysis I can because I believe it is a sacred duty to indulge your friends’ paranoia (and also I have so, so been there and appreciate people who’ve helped me neurotically analyze meaningless exchanges). HOWEVER, I do feel compelled to state that it doesn’t really matter because if someone likes you it’s usually quite obvious. Especially now that we’re not in middle school and most people are pretty good at using their mouths and thumbs to communicate.
So: if the person you like likes you back, you can probably tell. If you’re not sure they like you, they’re almost certainly half-hearted or conflicted or lukewarm. And that’s fine! It is really, truly okay if someone is not very into you. The interesting question here is why you care so much: why do you need to obsess over it, why do you need to figure out exactly what’s going on? Why are you so okay with half-heartedness?
My answer is that if you tolerate too much half-heartedness, it’s probably because you’re half-hearted. As in: anxious and ambivalent, looking for reassurance. As in: bored, along for the ride, not really sure about your own feelings and opinions. As in: external locus of control vs internal locus of control. You probably don’t have anything in your life that really tethers you to yourself—you don’t have conviction about what you love, so you’re hoping that someone else will provide you that certainty.
I think that people come alive when they’re serious about what they love—when they choose to pay careful attention to what feeds and sustains them. I love this one Heather Havrilesky line about how crushes are often just misplaced ambition. Of course crushes are more than that—they’re about nostalgia and magic and futures we’ll never access—but I think they’re also indicative of a desire to place happiness outside of ourselves.
If you want to be loved, find something you love. People can sense it when you have something you’re dedicated to. No one wants the burden of being the answer to your dissatisfication. When you’re unsure of yourself, it’s easy to be obsessed with the idea of love—the idea that happiness will arrive when someone else loves you. This can lead to you ignoring your own life.
Briana West: “You want [love] to provide for you what you think you cannot give yourself: stability, security, hope, happiness. So long as you function on this belief, you place “love” as being something that is outside of you when the reality is that you cannot see, create, or experience on the outside what you are not already.”
If you’re serious about what you love, does that mean everyone will love you? Absolutely not. People will continue to kind of like you and like you a little bit and not like you at all. The difference is that it won’t matter so much, because you already have something to pour your love into, something that nourishes you. So you don’t have to spend your time watching everyone else to see if they glance towards you and deign to bestow their love.
You have so much within you. Pay attention to it. Pay attention to your feelings of discomfort and uncertainty—watch yourself as you think and feel. The thing I like about writing is that it’s quite literally thinking—a way for me access my own interiority and construct something from it. What I write is all mine, it’s a living thing, it’s an extension of me that wanders out into the world. It is desire turned inwards instead of outwards, focused instead of displaced. It’s a way to access self-knowledge and self-respect.
Treat everything that happens to you as material and write it down. Don’t let someone tell you your experience doesn’t matter—you’re the one who gets to decide if it matters. Give yourself agency.
In a scene from We Play Ourselves, the protagonist, a playwright named Cass, confesses her love to the director she’s been working with, Helene. And in response Helene tells her that her crush is a form of deflection. Later she encourages Cass to “Choose your art, practice your art, always, always choose your art over and above anything else. If you can’t do that, then you have—what, a few more years?”
You can’t get away with half-heartedness in making art. You can’t believe that something, someone else will be a solution. It never is. If you’re fundamentally ambivalent about yourself no one else can change that relationship. Everything you’re reaching for is just a mirage.
Don’t rely on someone else to give you what you need. Choose what nourishes you every day. See how strong you become when you remember that love is just reassertation, choosing something over and over. Do it one more time & watch mundane repetition become something transcendent.