By Zi Ning Lau
I grew up thinking that love had to be reasonable. It had to make sense. I believed that this feeling could be encompassed by a rational list of reasons why it exists. I thought that even if love was unconditional, it had to be justifiably so. However, with time, I’ve found that love simply cannot be limited to definitive lists. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that though there can be infinite parts of someone you love, these parts are not synonymous with the reasons you have to love them.
There are people in your life that matter. People in your life that you care for. That’s the end of it. There’s no need for the addition of the word, “because”, at the end of both those sentences, no obligation to follow those statements with any explanation. Whether it’s your mom, your brother, your best friend, a significant other, a teacher, or even your basketball coach that you see every weekend, there will be people in this life who you love, just because you do.
Maybe you love the way their smile touches you with honey-golden warmth that sets fire to your soul and feels like sunshine on a warm summer’s day. Maybe you adore the sparkle in their eyes when they notice the little plants that grow out sidewalk cracks and the wonder in their voice when they count the stars that line the night sky. It could even be the strong strides they take as they walk, with hands tucked into each pocket and their head tilted down. Or perhaps, you can’t help but follow the words they speak, with each syllable gently rolling off their tongue and every subtle raise in pitch as they ramble. Perhaps you are filled with endearment when they can’t seem to explain their thoughts, hands wildly gesticulating and eyebrows furrowing while they try to articulate the inner workings of their mind. Perhaps, because of them, you begin to associate the sight of bright orange Nikes with empathy and patience. Because of them, wool-cashmere jackets from SuitSupply represent the feeling of coming home. Because of them, seashell necklaces mean Rice Krispy treats at midnight and chosen family. Because of them, silver chain-linked Tiffany bracelets remind you of bedtime fairy tales and goodnight kisses.
Or possibly, you love things about them that you can’t feel with your fingertips and process with your senses. It could be their persistence, how they stand themselves up after repeated losses and crushing failures. It could be their hope for better things, gripping onto kindness and sincerity even in the face of apathy. Maybe you can’t help but admire their willingness to trust, regardless of the knowledge that their closest allies could be backstabbers in disguise. Maybe you are inspired by their ability to take life as it comes and goes, to make peace with uncertainty and the unknown. It may be their strength that you become enamored with— their refusal to lay down arms, to wave a white flag, even when defeat seems imminent.
On the other hand, it could even have less to do with them, and more to do with you. Maybe you love the way their presence puts your busy mind at ease and messy heart at rest. You revel in the way they slow you down, reminding you to take a breath once in a while. You discover you are fascinated by their generosity, as they unrelentingly provide light to the people that surround them, seemingly undeterred by those who take without giving anything in return. You find solace in their soothing words, as they pull the weight off your heavy shoulders and push you to keep moving onwards. When you both have your heads thrown back, laughing like little kids, you might realize that you love the way they effortlessly elicit the type of carefree laughter that makes your shoulders shake and stomach muscles ache. When tears draw jagged water-stained lines down your face as you’re crying through the phone, you might notice that even without hearing you talk through your heartbreaks or gut-wrenching fears, they understand every emotion you feel. It’s possible the biggest thing you love about them is that they ask nothing of you; by their side, you are not asked to do anything but simply exist.
If time would allow it, I would hold no hesitation in listing everything there is to love about the individuals who I hold close. Without an inkling of doubt, I could fill galaxies with habits, actions, or attributes I deem worthy of lifetimes of adoration and affection. Yet, I know that, if the sun rose one morning and all these lovable traits had ceased to exist, I would continue to love them the same.
In seeing all that holds the potential to be loved, you simultaneously become a witness to all their rusted, derelict pieces that they try to hide. You begin to see scars from wounds that didn’t heal right and cracked edges that they can’t seem to smoothen. You begin to watch the phantoms that haunt them, the cynical voices that whisper in their ears, and the demons that convince them that they will never be enough. Nonetheless, your love extends to the worst parts of them. You love them despite their missteps and stumbles, despite the doubts that steal their sleep at night and insecurities that plague their dreams. You love them despite their weaknesses and errors in judgment. In times when they are battered and beaten, when the rings beneath their eyes grow heavy, when their hands shake with anxiety, your love for them does not falter. No matter how “unlovable” they can become, you will not love them any less.
Sometimes, you love someone past the furthest star and back, just because you do, and that’s okay. There’s no need to compile a list of explanations as to why your heart grows in size when they are near. There’s no requirement to provide a reason for the way you look past their flaws and brokenness. You love them for all that they are and all that they can be, and that’s enough.
Zi Ning (Zi) Lau is currently a sophomore attending Singapore American School. If she’s not writing, she can be found running around on a basketball court, playing the guitar in the band room, or composing songs in her bedroom. She loves hugs, fuzzy socks, blue dinosaurs, dad jokes, and mashed potatoes.