The Dreaded “I Love You”

Why is this phrase taken so seriously? It’s not scary for me to love pizza, but it’s scary to tell your friend that you love them (particularly if they’re the opposite sex, or same sex if they’re male). I’m not someone to say “I love you” often as I personally believe that not handing it out aimlessly gives it more meaning. But after a good day spent with a friend, or a meaningful conversation on the phone with a family member, why is it oddly uncomfortable for some people?

Perhaps a part of the discomfort is owed to our flawed language. As many of you probably already know,  english seems to use the word love for everything while other languages have words for love that pertain to different things. For example, there are several greek words for love, which include love of the self, lust, a deep friendship, etc.

In english there is a staggering, and even offensive generalization for the word love that other languages would be appalled to discover as there are so many different kinds of love, and pertaining to different kinds of relationships.

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Deformities aside, language itself operates through our own personal associations. When we are learning the meaning of the word, we often have our own unique experiences shaping the definition of that word. It is as if each word has one standard definition that is very loose and malleable, with several subdivisions within it depending on the circumstance, and depending on a person’s history with that word. For example: “I have a barrel of oranges” means different things to different people. For the blue collar worker, it is “Oh no, thats another barrel of oranges that I have to process.” For Stacey, a nutritionist, that is a lot of vitamin C. For Bob the business man, that is $0.20 per orange, 300 oranges per barrel, 300($0.20)= 1/12  month’s rent. For Cindy who is allergic to citrus, it is a trip to the hospital. To Jerry the fashion designer, it is a barrel of oranges. It goes on. There is an emotional sheath coating each word that we’re not always aware of.

I love words, and I love language. I write because I do not have the artistic skill to create certain things otherwise. I cannot paint or draw the images that haunt me, so I craft a story that I can insert them into. I can’t always photograph a feeling or thought that I’ve had. So I use words, which gives me an infinite pallet immediately at my disposal. Despite this, words fail me all too often. Words sacrifice accuracy in expression for instantaneous communication. This is how words can separate us even further.

I do not have the psychic capacity to know what “I love you” means to all of you, but I can identify what it means for me personally. To me, the phrase “I love you” is often a reflex of having someone in my presence who did or said something so hilarious that it returned me to the moment and made me feel joy. It means I value your position and involvement in my life, whatever that may be. Lastly, In a very unique way, to say “I love you” is as if my heart is saying thank you.

Don’t be afraid to express your appreciation to your friends and family for the holidays this year. It may take time to find the right words and the right setting, but don’t blame that on yourself. Blame it on the limitations we’ve cultivated in our modern language.

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Thank you Marci Stern for becoming a patron for Metanoia! Please check out her beautiful artwork and publications (can be found on her contact page).

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Featured photo from lleana Skakun

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Misguided Advice: An Experience With Undergraduate Advising

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”

-EE Cummings

I’ve recently read the novel The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Although it is a little long for my taste, it’s extremely well written, with several brilliant take away messages. There is only one brief observation Tartt made in her work that I wish to focus on. It is how she describes college from a young Theo Decker, who applies to the University early due to circumstance.

Tartt chose to write about Theo’s perspective of his college professors. All of a sudden, you see that every adult in his life is certain about his interests, and think they know him and what he needs. The Philosophy teacher sees that he is obviously a philosopher who should get involved in their events outside of class. The English professor sees a paper he has written, and believes he must be dedicated to the topic he wrote about, as does all his other professors, who urge him to come to their club meetings and be involved with their pursuits. It reminds me of the expression “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”.

These people take what they know best, and project it onto youth as if it should be their truth as well, the only truth, rather than taking themselves out of their limited perspective and placing it in other positions. With good intentions, its all they know how to do, as that is how they became the people they are in the first place, seeing it as the best method.

   Ive experienced this as well. Everyone thinks they know what you need, and who you are. So much so that they are comfortable with defining you without close inspection, asking broad questions that, at best, link your identity to how you want to make money rather than your character or integrity. It is a fad carried by a world that doesn’t think for themselves, and believes whatever they are told growing up and into adulthood from people in seemingly (and I stress the word seemingly) higher positions than their own. They follow blindly without really asking any questions and assuming their given role indifferently. There are little opportunities, all which mask individuality and demand that you look like everyone else.

At my University, I learned that advisors don’t like it when they ask you what your goals are, and you inform them that there is nothing quite specific in mind, but rather a desire to be involved in something that has a positive impact. That is the answer I gave my undergraduate advisor, that I wasn’t certain exactly where I wanted to end up after this last year of college and beyond that. As long as it felt constructive and that I was doing something meaningful, it didn’t matter to me.

This answer went over her head, and she supplied a response that completely missed the point, blatantly ignoring my expressed desires, with the simple advice to research what employers want, take actions to become exactly what that is (like I couldn’t come up with this obvious plan on my own at this point in my life), and that perhaps I should look into sales (mind you, I have an Environmental Studies major).

I have to admit this pained me quite a bit. I patiently listened to her rant, politely nodding my head in between sentences and quietly giving her a restrained approval at each point made. “Your help is not helpful” I wanted to say. I shook her hand, and left her office feeling alone with my thoughts, sadly without much surprise either, filled with the helplessness of not knowing if there was anyone in this world I could approach who saw things differently. I knew in my core that what she said was so inconsequential to myself and my purpose, so useless that it hurt to think I was expected to adhere to people like her. Certainly I was not the only person who felt this way, (although I don’t know where to find these kindred souls), but was there even any other options to begin with? Did she give this response because there really is no way to make a difference and support oneself simultaneously? Are there no openings for improving the environment despite everything thats wrong with the world?

Many thoughts came to me as I left south campus and drove home. How she was just doing her job, and her advice is a product of the corporate world that we live in, which wasn’t wrong, but not necessarily right either. Where people, as I just explained, only have what they’ve pursued. They’ve followed what they were told to do out of fear of not being able to have the success others defined for them, not driven by integrity, but by what everyone else is doing. It seems that anyone who strays slightly from this line will either be excluded, or take on the allegedly difficult task of creating a place for themselves out of nothing.

“What am I going to do when I know I don’t belong in this world?”, I thought.

I didn’t know, still don’t know a week deep into my last year of college, and probably never will until everything is said in done in the next chapter of my life.

Unlike most of my posts, I didn’t write about this to prove something or produce some kind of conclusion, but rather draw attention to this. The lack of integrity. The scorn for being unconventional. Schools that aren’t focused on preparing youth for our broken world, but rather for the promise of a paycheck. No one asking the true state of things, or challenging what they’re given. Has anyone else noticed?

Thanks University, and thanks society, but I think I’ll be much better off without your ill-advised guidance.