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to be loved is to be changed
I stayed up until 5 AM yesterday, something I never do. I’ve never been good at staying up late in any context. I would take naps during all-nighters even when cramming for midterms. I never enjoyed obliviating myself with alcohol, though sometimes I still did, like that time during sophomore year Halloween when I threw up partially digested pierogis from Veselka all over K’s guest room.
But this weekend I’m at an immersive event that mostly occurs after 9 PM. I ran into several friends last night. I didn’t know they’d be there, because I didn’t do any research, but I probably could have guessed. It felt like a metaphor for my entire time in SF: I crawled into bed and considered passing out at 11 PM, but I wandered out at 1 AM and immediately bumped into two people I know. I met both of them through friends years ago, which is pretty much how everything in my life has happened.
I enjoy relationships where the unspoken sense of shared context propels you through everything. This is why I moved back. Last week my therapist asked me who I spend the most time with and I explained all the little groups: L and P and C, M and M, K and N. And I thought about how much of a relief it was to have friends I really loved, how my life seems sometimes like it just consists of bumping into people I like in hallways, in doorways, at parties and parks, and that is maybe exactly how life should be.
It’s been 3.5 years since I first met A and I’ve grown up in that time. I am more confident. And most importantly I’ve become more sincere.
Sincerity has become an a project for me in a way it never was. I’ve always been more interested in hiding away than revealing myself. I think some of that comes from embarrassment. From fear of facing the core questions: Can I be my actual, non-performative self and be accepted by both myself and others? What does it mean to be accepted? What is the love that I believe I deserve?
Attachment is so thorny. I have to admit that I’ve pretty much lost interest in dissecting myself. I am familiar with the language of anxiety and avoidance but I don’t reference those terms anymore, really. I know now that the most important thing I can do is to give love and accept love in a way that feels earnest.
There are so many things I used to do out of obligation. Shoulds were the building blocks of my world. Well but I should be nice to him. I should reach out. I should go to this meeting even though I don’t feel like it. I should stay up later. I should work out today. And the thing I’ve realized is that sense of obligation was often how I ducked out of recognizing where I actually was, what I actually felt.
To be loved is to be changed. The people we love shape our language, our thoughts and our choices. We can’t learn security in a vacuum. Independence won’t save us from having to depend on others.
I used to feel such a sense of shame about the mistakes I’ve made. How I’ve hurt people or disappointed them. How I’ve said the wrong thing, didn’t call back, made you feel betrayed, got mad at you even though you didn’t deserve it. I used to feel overwhelmed at the impossibility of figuring out what the right thing really was—should I have given her space, or texted her right away? Have I been a bad friend, a bad partner? Mistakes in love can feel existential.
But I am learning to look at myself with compassion. Like everyone else around me, I am figuring it out. When I approach love sincerely, I can live with myself.
I saw a Tiktok the other day that made me tear up. It was about how we can still root for people who are no longer in our lives. Like most, I have people I don’t talk to anymore whom I used to be very close with. Some of them I dated. Some of them are friends where the friendship became too thorny or too complicated or too sad. I still think about them a lot. In so many ways their fingerprints are all over me. To be loved is to be changed.
I like the idea that love sometimes means supporting someone from a distance. That their happiness can still be my happiness.
When I think about the people I am close to now, I hope that we can be close forever. But more and more I understand that I’m not the one who gets to choose that. I can only try my best.
When I like a piece of clothing, I wear it often. I treasure the flaws that develop over time—holes in sweaters, worn-out soles. Use is beautiful. I hope I always remain conscious of what good fortune it is to keep getting older in my body. I hope I always remember how lucky I am to argue with you, to watch our relationship change and warp and deepen. For something to change, for something to age, means that it still exists.
We use what we love constantly, but we’re also responsible for taking good care of it. I am trying to be more careful about how I change other people. When we love each other, we alter how we move through time.