I have learned to never feel lonely. Never to need others’ company to cheer me up, never to need them to appreciate who I am, simply because I have learned to enjoy myself before I learned to love anything or anyone else. This is the only way one would never feel lonely, because one will have to be alone at some point and at a certain frequency in one’s life, and not having to depend on anyone for happiness is just about the most powerful asset that can ever be possessed. Learning an instrument, reading, writing, doing one’s nails, gardening, those are all things that a person can learn to occupy his solitariness. Now this is not something I just came up with: I have struggled with loneliness my whole life, battling it until there’s nothing else but this one solution. I learned it the hard way, but it works.
However, this little thesis of mine was challenged on a summer day several weeks ago, when I was rambling through the chaotic pool of people in the streets of Vietnam and suddenly a sole image of a girl froze my mind. She was a teenage girl wearing a high school uniform, hair pulled back, shoulders dropping and pulling her sullen face with it. The girl struggled to climb onto her bike, clutching her clumsy shivering hands on the wheels, liquids dripping down her face that soon became so overflowed I couldn’t quite tell if they came from her eyes or her forehead, or both. And the thing was, the girl wore the saddest face I had ever seen. Her face was quite pretty, but her black eyes were void and paralyzed with something I couldn’t tell—a touch of something that was incredibly, overwhelmingly sad that I couldn’t quite describe, probably because I registered that feeling with feelings of my own and not my head. Her lips were a pale purplish gray, and the outlines of her nose were so pathetically flat her face looked like wet paper towels, the sad ones that were crumbled and stepped on on the ground. Surprisingly enough, as I came closer I figured she wasn’t crying. When I thought about it again that day I didn’t find it surprising though: I guessed when I myself was frustrated, hurt, broken, angry, I poured my heart out with tears, I screamed, I crawled on the floor, my throat dry and my face wet. I erupted with emotions. But when I was sad I never did those things. It was more about suppression as opposed to explosion, oppression by either a solid being or figurative forces—so much nothing really got out of me. No tears, no words, no vowels. Sadness was an inactive emotion. It groaned timidly, wept covertly, and sighed softly.
That was why when I was sad I seemed to swell up while looking like I wanted to shrink down. Into an infinitely small creature that I felt like I was.
Anyway, I approached her and asked her what the problem was. She said everything in her life fell apart. Her boyfriend just left her, her mother did a long while ago. She didn’t know why because no one told her why, but for some reasons her breakup left her angry at herself and not the guy. She had no one to blame, nothing to break, but herself.
“But you have yourself left, right? Only yourself can be enough.”
“But he is here no more.”
When I told mom this she told me I was wrong. She told me I didn’t get it because I had never been in love.
“What does love have anything to do with it?”
“Love is giving and taking. Love takes away a part of you and fills it in with substance of its own. When love leaves, it takes that part away with it, so you’re left with a void. Sometimes that void can never be filled on your own.”
I thought about it the next morning when I was looking into the mirror the next morning during my hygiene routine. “Love becomes a part of you”, was as much as I could grasp among all the things she said. I guessed it meant that it would grow into something much more than “a part” of you, like the part that you loved the most about yourself. It became your identity, which was why it became irreplaceable. It would even grow to be the only part you loved about yourself.
Should it though?
I say that if love makes you something less than yourself, it’s not love. My mom is right that after experiencing it love makes the game quite different, because it does make you feel incomplete. However, you can totally grow that missing part out again. When you are in love, with someone that loves you back, it is the art of giving and taking, but it’s not just one part of you—it’s diffusing each other’s bodies, fulfilling every molecules with this new substance, so that when the two separate something leaves but everything stays. That substance, that influence the other has on you is still here even though the person isn’t here anymore. Anyway, what I mean to say is that you are still you, not a broken, partially lost you but a new you. A new you with a touch of this thing you’ve recently been through.
Now this has turned into something quite different than what I had intended it to be, but the bottom line is, you should learn to love yourself first and foremost, and loving someone else shouldn’t interfere with that self-love. Don’t feel incomplete when someone leaves your life, because they were there in the first place just to leave that little substance in you. When they’re done they leave, when they’re not they stay, and it’s ok either way. So love your own company, that’s the only person you ever really have.