By Serena Lin
In order to better build the reading experience, the writer suggests listening to “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele while reading.
I consistently tell my friends, “If a boy tells you he loves you, and if you don’t feel the same way, just say thank you.”
The younger, middle-school me would have scoffed at my seemingly closed, emotionless self. She gave that word away easily, to boys she just met, activities she just started — and thought she meant it the whole time.
My younger self and my present self encountered each other a few years later when my first boyfriend, and I talked about what it actually meant to love someone. I started to understand the weight of what it really meant because he took it so seriously, and I suddenly felt overwhelmed and fearful of what it actually entailed to really love someone. In that moment, I started to see love in a different way, peeling back the layers of conversation and action to really figure out what it meant to me.
Sitting here now, I realize that a part of me wishes the past me hadn’t said those three words so easily. The other part realizes that those words mean nothing without the actions and thoughts to back it up, and that my demeanor exposes my love even when I don’t have enough strength to admit it aloud.
Like many people, I think about when to finally say “I love you” to someone. Like many things in life, Wikihow can offer some advice, “If you love someone, it’s not always good to tell them. After you have worked out that you do love a person, take your time to work out how he/she feels back.”
So how is it possible to figure out how someone else feels? I find myself noticing little things here and there that suddenly click in my head and signal how much I love someone or how much someone loves me. Growing up, my dad would always kiss me on the cheek and say, “Be safe!” before I left for school. I had always found this comment odd because nothing dangerous ever happened to me. However, one day, as I crossed the street heading to class, I realized that this was his substitute phrase for what he really meant: “I love you.” I have found certain phrases that I continually repeat because of the comfort and the emotions I associate with them, which is why I can substitute them for “I love you.” This comes in different forms, whether it be sending a sticker on Messenger or endearingly calling someone “annoying.”
To gauge my own feelings, the thoughts that float through my head easily remind me of the depth to which I care about someone else. A few weeks ago, I thought about one of my dearest high school friends and snuck a quick prayer in for him. I later messaged him, and although we have not been able to have an in-depth conversation, friendships like this make me realize how much I care for certain people regardless of distance or availability. I wish them well and worry about them even when nothing remains in my control. These thoughts mean more to me than those obligatory lunch dates.
On the other hand, spending time together still reveals investment in a relationship. I gladly accompany the people I love to doctor appointments, simple errands and late night talks in the car. The activity simply does not matter, and I have learned to just soak up and enjoy their presence. Realizing that people who cherish me to this degree means an immense amount, and finding that I care this deeply for them reminds me that the relationship has been built on a solid base.
In such a tangible world, thoughts and subtle actions rarely mean anything. However, I want to challenge you to start looking for the little ways that love can be shown. You don’t necessarily need to do anything about it, but take a moment to savor it and express it if you feel ready. The words that indicate love may be simple, but the heart behind it remains the actual core that needs to be developed. Now, I hang up many phone calls with “I love you,” saying it easily because I know the rest of me has already revealed this truth.
The old me and the current me actually have more in common than expected because of our willingness to say “I love you,” but our reasoning behind it could not be more different.
Contact Serena Lin at serenal ‘at’ stanford.edu.