Time, as I’ve increasingly learned lately, is an elusive thing. In the past year, I’ve traveled to a different country, said goodbye to graduated teammates, saw my favorite artist live, drifted away from friends and lost someone important to me — all experiences and people that I will never have back. Things are over before I know it. I struggle to “live in the moment” or “be present” because I’m too worried about losing the moment in front of me and if I’m truly enjoying it to the fullest. Do I look to the future too much, should I dwell on the past less? How can I thrive in the present?
This has been increasingly occupying my mind as I near closer and closer to the ever-anticipated study abroad experience — the 17-week period where I get to live out my dreams but also live 6,000 miles from my friends and family. How can I relish this time with the people I love, before I blink and I’m on a plane unable to see them for five months?
Feb. 14 rolled around, and the solution to my dilemmas may have too. The day of love has reminded me the importance of practicing it and its languages — but, in this case, quality time might be the most important one. The problem isn’t about me receiving love, but needing to give as much as I can before it’s too late. My friends deserve attention, a helping hand, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a teammate to depend on. I can commit myself to giving quality (and as much quantity!) time to those I cherish. So, readers: execute those meal plans, go on those weekend trips, tag along to the bowling alley (even if you despise bowling), say yes to the Oxy “party.” Time moves fast.
My best friend Ananda and I spent a night in on Valentine’s Day. She made me a beautiful little card and we spent our night watching a movie on her Letterboxd list, and ordered some Din Tai Fung. It was so nice just spending quality time with the person whose presence I admire most.
For me, love is giant. It is powerful and expansive. I let love guide me and my relationships like a Newfoundland on a tight leash. Or even a bear. If I love you, you will know it.
It’s hard to argue with the common Valentine’s Day slander, but I still frequently find myself guilty of searching long and hard for meaningful gifts and moving words. Even the dramatic gestures, though, don’t live up to how largely I commit myself to love daily.
A powerful gesture of love to me is remembering your Green Bean order. Or looking for you at the fountain to sit with at lunch. Or that jumping, ecstatic feeling I get when I see the people I love. Love does not simply exist in temporary spaces or empty holidays. To me, love exists constantly, fluidly and dramatically in the small actions I incorporate into every day of my life.
I love expressing my love. It fulfills me and energizes me. Valentine’s Day allows me to be corny and expressive with my love, but that does not mean it isn’t abundant the other 364 days of the year. I make a commitment to myself to show at least one act of love everyday, and to feel the love from one external force each day. It has brightened my life immensely. Love is the center of me.
What is love? Many people describe it in different ways which makes my job of retelling a moment of love practically impossible; but, I guess I’ll try.
If love is patient then it must refer to the times that I wait while you tear apart our dorm room to find your phone that’s been under a blanket for 10 minutes. Or maybe it’s when I sit and listen to you admire the nuanced flavors of olive oil that our dad got from Costco.
If love means being annoyed, then it must relate to every time you copy my lunch order at the dining hall. Or, maybe it’s when you walk two steps ahead of me and accuse me of ‘walking too slow.’ Maybe that’s love.
If love is indescribable, then it must refer to the feeling that I get when I tell a joke and no one else laughs but you. Or, maybe it’s when you fall down the stairs and I can’t tell if I’m supposed to be worried or hysterically laughing, but by the time that I do, you’re already sprinting away to avoid being seen by anyone.
If love means that you never leave someone’s side or can’t fathom life without them, then I guess that refers to the time that we traveled the world together on our own, or when we’d stay out surfing at Castles Beach until the moon started her shift.
Who knows what love is? In the nearly 21 years that we’ve had identical faces, it’s never really been said. But, if love is all of these things, then I guess I love you — whatever that means.
If you look through my phone at the texts between me and my brother, you will see a stream of blue (my texting him), and the occasional gray text bubble (him semi-replying to me). He’s now becoming a fully grown human, and as he turned 16 this past Feb. 19, I can’t believe the tiny annoying kid I used to mock and call “Freddy” (because I thought he looked like a little tadpole), is a human being with friends, drama, decent music taste, passions, thoughts, a girlfriend, and an A on his AP Physics midterm that I don’t think he really studied for.
Like most siblings going to the same school and involved in the same hobbies, people would try and see how different we are, and I used to think we were. And while he will always be a cat person while I’m more of a dog person, the more he comes into his own, the more I see us being lifelong friends. I see this in a shared love for Cross Country skiing, a penchant for doodling on homework, our matching earrings from grandmas, our blunt humor, an obsession for our Dad’s Sri Lankan food, fabulous hair and the tendency to get incredibly hangry. So, Dulan, please reply to my texts, at least so I can know you’re alive.
K and I have been best friends since the fifth grade. We have the kind of friendship that’s the stuff of preteen movies: full of legend, ritual and memory. Seniors in college now, we both laughingly acknowledge the anachronism of calling each other “best friends.” But childlike as it may seem to use such a categorical label for something as complex as a relationship, that is the only true one.
Perhaps the act of looking back, or memory itself, flattens reality. Unable to hold the continual thrum of millions of moments in their full volume, our minds use their own heuristics to choose the salient moments, to sketch lines around the years and shade them into life, like panels on a flipbook approximating motion. When I look back at middle school, when our friendship was just budding, I tend to focus more on the perfectionistic tendencies and anxieties that weighed me down. Even now, when I think back on my tween and teen years, it’s my awkwardness and mistakes that come back to me — the cringey things I used to wear, the extremely weird things I would do to seem cooler, like wearing a cape everywhere. But when I look back at them with K, those memories take on a softer, kinder focus. I see myself and her as the children that we were and in many ways are, how yearning we were, how longing and learning, how expressive and funny and strange. We were just growing up, and my childhood was perfect because she was in it.
According to her, our friendship began on the first day of fifth grade, when I asked her (in the school bathroom, no less) whether I would be her best friend. I contest this version of events, but it too is part of our shared history, one which we continue to debate and revise and revel in. I’ve looked at our photos together so many times that those still moments have come into their own as living memories, whether I remember the moment of their capture or not. With her, it does not matter which of our memories are strictly factual; what we imagined and each experienced, together and apart, are interwoven into our shared history. We were two dorks navigating childhood together, our familiarity so great as to vanquish our differences. K will never have to get to know me, for she is the stuff I am made of.