Last month, my parents celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. 37 years. And I’m not talking 37 years of tolerating each other. No, they celebrated 37 years of life well-lived and well-loved, still full of excitement for all the adventures yet to come.
My parents still look at each other with light in their eyes that I’ve envied since I understood what loving someone really meant. It’s a seriously beautiful thing that I have been privileged to witness all my 30 years.
You could probably call me a romantic (ok, I am a hopeless romantic, I admit it). So yes, I confess I’ve dreamt up scenarios of tall, dark, and handsome men bumping into me at the grocery store, sweeping me up in their arms, all while catching my runaway eggplant. Or, a mystery blond on the beach, who sees me awkwardly trying to sunscreen my own back and then subsequently cancels his flight to spend just one more day with me – a total catch (obvi). Whatever the ridiculous scenario, believe me, I’ve thought of it.
Truth be told, I’ve probably read too many Nora Roberts books (boy I’m being very transparent right now) hoping for one to manifest itself to life right in front of me. It’s a fool’s errand I know, but still, I look at my parents and just can’t help but know that kind of love exists. And I ask myself the question: where has all the commitment gone?
It’s not a new query for me. I’ve thought on the subject a great deal over the past few years – more so lately – and I’m simply, dumbfounded.
What is it about the idea that frightens people so much?
And, I’m not just talking about men that have come and gone in my life, devoid of the skill of commitment. I’m talking about all relationships. So before you tune out, close this page, or stop reading until the end, hang with me for just a bit. I’m getting to my point.
People make this life worth living.
I’m not an individual who likes to stay in one place. I’ve lived my life here and there over the past eight years, and enjoyed almost every minute. I learned that distance is hard – on every relationship – whether it be family, friends, or a romantic exploit. Relationships are difficult, and they take work.
Most would probably think that being a bit of a gypsy and wanderer, I would more likely be someone who doesn’t want to run the risk of commitment entanglements. I thought the same when I first started out. Yet, I found the more I traveled, the opposite was true. This life and the world we live in is such an amazing place. Yes, goodbyes are hard, but they’re worth it. The sheer joy and awe we see on this earth is so much better when shared with someone – be it a friend, lover, or random acquaintance from your local hostel. Connecting with someone leaves an imprint on your heart.
I read an article the other day on the problem with modern relationships, and it voiced all of the thoughts that had been running through my head recently. We are afraid to connect, because of how vulnerable commitment to someone – or something – makes us. Committing doesn’t let us just cut and run. It’s an investment.
“A good investment yields a good return. That’s just business. You know, you reap what you sow?”
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always thought that was one of the most beautiful pursuits in life – to love and be loved in return by those around you. Plus, a good investment yields a good return. That’s just business. You know, you reap what you sow? Really committing to the people you love, in the end, also gives something back to you. Your vulnerability, if you would let it happen, yields nothing but reward.
So what is it about life in the 21st century that makes us have such an aversion to building long-lasting relationships?
I honestly wish I could answer that question, but the reasoning and rationale behind it escapes me. Perhaps you’ve been hurt in the past, and that’s your excuse. But if we’ve made it through puberty, chances are we’ve all been in the same boat. We’ve all got scars. So if you’ve been burned by someone before, that doesn’t mean you should close yourself off from the world and those willing to love you.
I made the decision to keep an open heart and be generous with love (and believe me, there were times that was the hardest possible thing to do), but because I did, I’ve received it back 1000-fold. If I’m perfectly honest, I don’t deserve the amount of love from the amazing people in my life, but they’re there for me anyway, as I am for them, because we decided to make commitments to each other – and keep them.
That’s why I can say I have a home in so many places: Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Morocco, New Zealand, the United States. The list goes on. I have traveled a good chunk of the world, and my willingness to be vulnerable has given me this amazing gift of love from friends that became family, and more beautiful experiences than I will ever deserve.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows, of course. When I’ve had that commitment thrown back in my face (multiple times) those people who stay have been my safety net – the individuals brave enough to share their hearts with me too.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that if you are someone who has routinely run away from those that would open their hearts to you, simply because it’s a scary and frightening thing (because, you’re right it is), I hope next time you pause before you run. Think about staying…just this once. The risk is so worth it.
Your heart will be in danger of exploding from all the love you’ll have around you.
“But that makes me a hopeless idealist, an idiot.”
Sometimes you’ll feel like that statement is true, most times you won’t.
If you think that’s a silly idea to entertain or risk, consider, instead, that there are a lot of other people existing on this planet. 7 billion actually. I think that with 7 billion people in the world, there is surely one other – even just one – who hasn’t lost the naïve ideals of great love, someone who sees a lifetime commitment the way dreamers do.
And when I find them (which I will), it will be the biggest, best, and most exciting adventure my traveling self has ever decided to take. A commitment isn’t a death sentence to hopes and dreams. It’s really the complete opposite. Whoever first made ‘settling down’ a negative thing, you’re an effing idiot and obviously don’t know what real adventure is about.
Commitment to family, friends, or a lover isn’t signing away your freedom. Quite the contrary, really. The love of others gives you wings to soar to your highest potential, to love fully in return, and to share the amazing short time we have on this earth with those that celebrate your brilliant light.
So if you’ve read this far, congratulations. There is hope for you yet.
For myself, personally, this is the moment I say thank-you.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those individuals who threw my open heart back in my face, it is truly your loss and my gain. You’ve kept me free from emotional chains I didn’t need to carry. To all my failed exes, you have left me free to find that 1 in 7 billion, and he won’t be an ordinary man.
None of my closest friends are either. They’re down-right flipping extraordinary on a Queen-Bey level. If you let people in, those are the types of relationships you’ll attract. Your vulnerability, your willingness to commit – to go all-in – won’t be a weakness, but your greatest strength.
I guarantee if you do that, the right people will come into your life, and they will certainly be fierce forces of nature to behold.
So as Mark Twain says: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
He only left out one thing – Love.