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  • tatum van dam

what is love?



What is “love?" Is it a feeling represented through oversized teddy bears and a diamond necklace? Or is the leading force driving insanity?


Perhaps it is just a song. For that matter, perhaps it is many song. All songs. Sad songs, happy songs, mad songs.

Where can it be found? Can it ever be found? Where does it hide, and what determines whether or not we have the ability to find it? How do we know it even exists? Regardless of who, what, where, why, or how “love” is or does, the idea of “love” intrigues like no other.


At least to me, love is one of the most interesting emotions one can experience. It’s bittersweet, electrifying, terrifying, and amazing all in one (not to forget, it can also be the lesser desired feelings such as sadness and anger). It’s like this super-emotion that has the ability to take every other emotion one could feel, and put it into one, giant, sack of, well, feeling.

It is almost as if you are taking a running start to leap off of a building with no regards to what you might crash into or whether or not you will get hurt at the end of the fall. And while all of this is happening, every other worry is being thrown out the window.


Just like what Hannah Montana says about "life," love is what you make of it.


Media and society tend to paint “love” as a fantasy, consisting of things like the fourteenth of February and red roses and chocolate and a trip to some beach-like destination, but that’s not necessarily what it has to be. It’s different for everyone. For one person, “love” might be like walking on sunshine.


For another person, “love” might be like walking on broken glass. Maybe, for someone else, “love” isn’t walking at all –– it’s waiting. Waiting for the one inevitable fairytale we all dream of to happen. Waiting for that person to realize what they’ve been looking for was in front of them the whole time, or simply waiting for things to fall into place.


There is something so thrilling about the idea of “love.”


It drives people to imagine the unimaginable. It has the ability to cause the most confident people to feel like the least confident version of themselves, and it can cause exactly what it isn’t: awkwardness. It has no boundaries and knows no distances.


Ultimately, “love” has the power to overtake everyday life. I mean, have you ever had a crush before? Just as much as it is fun to “like” someone, it's all fun and games until you begin to overthink and overanalyze any possible thing having to do with that certain "someone."

You inadvertently go out of your way to do and say things with the slightest bit of hope that this person might notice –– whether it be strategically choosing a seat in class, purposefully going to a certain cafe, or even "liking" a post (gotta love 2018). It’s like the modern-day equivalent of Gatsby throwing massive parties in hopes that Daisy might just slide through.


Although “The Great Gatsby” might not be the greatest representation of love, it shows us the irrational power that love and emotions can play into our most rational decisions. Countless things have been created out of it –– from movies and music to fashion and foods to books and buildings.


Yes, buildings.



After thinking about some of my favorite “love” inspired creations, I’ve come to realize that all of these things give us a biased idea of what love should be, but not what love actually is. Something that is “love” to me could just be any other old thing for someone else.

This feeling of "love" doesn’t necessarily have to be with another person, either. I mean, obviously, it can be, and most of the time, it is –– but it doesn’t have to be. “Love” can be with a place. A sport. The cookies from that one bakery down the street.


“Love” can be with your favorite band.


A certain instrument. A certain note in a certain song. A word or a phrase. A hobby, a study, or a passion. Whatever it may be, before loving anyone or anything, you must learn to love one thing first: and that is yourself.


It is common for people to place their happiness into other individuals before first placing it into themselves, which can often be a great downfall in any kind of relationship. I once read an article about this idea, and it mentions the rule of becoming a “somebody” before “somebody else’s” –– which could not be any truer.


Once you have the ability to love yourself, you will have the ability to love other people and other things like no other.


Although I can’t be entirely sure if I’ve ever actually experienced “true love”, I can be entirely sure of the tangible things constituting “love” for me, and furthermore, the intangible things that bring me joy.


"Love" is a strong word, and it’s not an easy one, either.


Learning more about what it is and how it manifests has helped me shape the a-little-too-long list of things that I find “love” in.


I find “love” in the little things.


“Love” is when I tell someone something, and they actually listen. (You’d think this is one of those low-standard comments about modern-day relationships that make for a good amount of retweets, but when you think about it, it really isn’t).


It’s when a person remembers the smallest detail you told them that one time and references it in a later conversation, and it’s when that person genuinely cares about what you have to say.


It is when a person is able to appreciate my little idiosyncrasies –– how I tend to stutter when I talk, get easily flustered, and, in an effort to avoid silence, constantly tap my fingers against surfaces to the beat of a song. It is when someone is able to decipher the irony in the things that come out of my mouth, and it is when someone’s level of sarcasm seemingly matches mine.


“Love” is the small gestures of appreciation and the simple intimacy that comes with holding a hand or looking someone directly in the eyes. It is paying close attention, barely realizing that you are paying any attention at all –– kind of like when you are driving a car, and nearly forget that you are driving.


It is sitting in silence because sometimes it’s nice to enjoy silence with someone else. In the simplest of terms, “love” is caring about someone who cares about you all the same.


I find “love” in my parents.


“Love” is when my mom and I are in the middle of driving somewhere, and she stops in her tracks to call my brother and make sure he records the Manchester United game so my dad can watch it when he gets home. It is the way my dad cracks jokes at my mom, knowing that no matter how funny they aren’t, she will still laugh at him like it was the funniest thing she’s ever heard in the world.


“Love” is the way my parents, as a collective, try to do their best to make sure my brothers and I are happy. It is the way they let me study whatever my heart desires to, and it is the way they support my decisions and my dreams regardless of how far-off from the norm they appear to be.

It is the time my mom let my six-year-old self paint her nails, regardless of how horrible both the color and paint job were, and it is when my dad has to fast for a medical procedure, and my mom decides to fast with him for a whole week (it is important to note that my parents love food).


“Love” is when my mom blushes after reading a silly text from my dad, and, likewise, it is the texts my dad sends my mom –– filled with heart emojis and animated faces and GIFs (that none of us know exactly how he obtains). “Love” is the fact that they have been together for twenty-six years, and it appears as if the “honeymoon phase” never entirely went away.


I find “love” in traveling.


“Love” is walking down the streets of Paris for hours on end - without realizing I have walked ten miles because of the beauty the city holds. It is the smell of fresh baguettes crossed with the various perfumes the Parisians sport, and it is the way people sit and talk at cafes from dusk ‘till dawn. It is phrases like “je t’aime,” “tu me manques,” or "la vie en rose" adorned with a French accent, and it is the memories and magic hidden in the crevices of the city.

“Love” is the stunning scenery stretching across the entirety of Iceland, and it is a British accent asking me “why I think it sounds so cool.” “Love” is a new stamp on my passport, a new language to attempt to understand, and a new conversation with someone I’ve never met –– and probably won’t ever meet again.


It is the moments created in a place completely unfamiliar to me, and it is the people those moments are created with. “Love” is spontaneous trips, whether they be down the street to get donuts or across the globe to see a new country. Just like traveling, "love" is an adventure.


I find “love” in creativity.


“Love” is music. It is creating a new playlist, attending a new concert, and finding a new artist. “Love” is the passion I share with other concert goers as we dance like nobody is watching, and sing with the slightest hope that no one can actually hear the way our voices sound. It is listening to the same playlist until I’ve listened to it a little too much, and it is listening to a song multiple times and finding something new about it with each listen.

"Love" is shuffling through a stack of vinyl and it is the unique, repeated phrases found in my broken records. “Love” is what drives me to do the things I enjoy doing most –– creating.

It is the sound the shutter makes as I click the button on my camera, it is the way my pen glides against a piece of paper and the ink that is left on the side of my palm, and it is the “zone” I get into while editing the pictures I take and videos I record.


It is the fact that my friends serve as my top inspirations and the fact that I am “studying” something that barely even feels like “studying”. “Love” is art, and art is “love.”


As I said before, the idea of “love” is a different thing for everyone. Maybe to some, it isn’t even an idea. While I derive love from things like creativity, my family, and “the little things”, someone else might derive it from, I don’t know, underwater basket weaving and magic carpet rides.


The beauty of love is that its definition is completely up to the person defining it.

How do you define “love?"

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