A while back I had a conversation with a friend about "true love": she argued that love develops over time, that she didn't believe in love at first sight. Every bone in my body disagrees with her. Love, to me, is an emotional spectrum, like happiness, varying in length and intensity. You can be completely consumed by your feelings for a person, and you can be merely content with their company. Your feelings can last forever or for a moment.
But it's all love.
When you are initially attracted to a stranger, you create an idea in your head of what that person is like, and it's possible to fall in love with that idea. As you get to know them, you'll remain in love if they continue to meet your expectations. Or, if they exceed your expectations, your love will grow stronger. Or you'll fall out of love if they disappoint.
"True love," then, is love that has endured. The odds are against it, and it is precious because of its rarity. But that doesn't mean that short-lasting love is any less honest or beautiful. The problem with the term "true love" is that it makes love seem like a destination when it's not -- like happiness, love is the journey.
When I'm sure about how I feel about a girl, I have no qualms about telling her I love her, no matter how long I've known her and regardless of whether she responds in kind. Sure, my feelings may change, but in the moment it was true and honest. I want to share emotional truth, even if it's risky.
But, in my opinion, people who hold back from giving love are taking a bigger risk. They risk not appreciating the people and things that matter to them before they're no longer around. I live in a perpetual state of gratitude, not because I'm strong-minded but because I'm afraid -- except I'm more afraid of regret than of looking like a fool.
My friend Sean wrote an insightful essay -- "When Good Things Come to an End" -- about his dog that recently passed away, a radio show he loved that ended, and why you shouldn't hold yourself back from giving love. I'll end my essay with an excerpt from his:
[T]he things we choose to let become important ARE strange, surreal and often times silly. And one must be grounded enough to know which ones are which. But because of this awareness, I often hold myself back from falling in love with someone, some animal or something. I force myself to see this affection through the lens of others and cower in embarrassment. Piper was only a dog, but goddamit I loved her. And I loved that radio show. And I loved Startropics on the NES. And I loved every page of Tom Sawyer. And I loved my grandpa. All lined up in a row its easy to suss out the ridiculous ones, and it doesn't take a moment to assign them importance. But what I'm talking about isn't importance. I'm talking about love, and whether or not something coaxes it out of you -- even the tiniest of drops. A life full of love, from the silly to the essential does a good life make.