It was almost four years ago now – Valentines Day Weekend.
I was 18 years old. A freshman in college. I had just finished my Intro to Music History class, Tuesday/Thursday, 11 am-12:15 pm. I grabbed a to-go sandwich from Belmont’s cafeteria, probably PB&J. I grabbed a backpack full of clothes, hopped in my car, and drove, hardly telling a soul where I was going.
Out of Nashville. Out of the South. Through the entire state of Illinois. Once I got to Wisconsin, I had to start talking to myself and blaring Owl City to stay awake and keep me from going insane (or was I already?). I tried sleeping in an Amtrak parking lot somewhere in Wisconsin. I just couldn’t stop envisioning a crazed man breaking through the windshield of my car and kidnapping me. So I drove on. When I got to St. Paul, Minnesota, my destination, it was 4 am. No one was waiting up for me. I tried sleeping in a church parking lot – no one would kidnap me here, right? – but even though I was incredibly tired and drained, the sleep wouldn’t come. So I got breakfast at Perkins at 5 am, chatted with an old couple, who I’m sure was very curious about my presence there.
I finally found a Target parking lot to sleep in for a few hours, leaving my car running in the Minnesota winter cold. I woke up, drove to McDonalds, grabbed my backpack, and headed to the bathroom to ready myself for the day. After all, I was going to see him today. The one I hadn’t seen in months, the one I talked to every day, the one I loved for a year before he even noticed me, the one I called mine now.
I don’t remember much about that Friday – just that I did something crazy because I loved somebody. I don’t remember if we gave each other anything for Valentines Day or where we went out to eat or what else we did besides sit in his tiny dorm room at that private baptist university after visitation hours had ended.
I do remember the stories that came after. I remember the shocked looks, the raised eyebrows, the dropped jaws. And most of all, I remember the true words that cut me deep: “He would never do that for you.” But I was so excited about loving that I did it so fiercely. I would spend my resources, my time, my energy – whatever it took – to make sure he knew I was there and was always gonna be.
That relationship ended a long time ago. It doesn’t matter how; it just wasn’t meant to be, our paths were supposed to go in completely opposite directions, etc. But boy, did I have love wrong back then.
I recently came across a reading about love, splitting it into two different types, passive and generative.
Passive Love: caring about another person’s well-being and acting in a way to please them, putting the needs of another before your own
This is the way I used to picture love. This kind of love has its place, certainly. But this kind of love has no regard for a definition of self, and it is often the way many people, especially women, are taught to be in relationships. We are often told that this kind of love should receive highest honor. But there is a balance; we do not have to abandon ourselves and our creativity to love.
Generative Love: discovering what it is to be human and alive through relationship with another
Love can be mutually beneficial. We can grow with another; we can maintain our sense of self. It can be a true partnership. Love does require sacrifices. But our entire life does not have to be a sacrifice. We can still think of ourselves as people who can stand alone, not as half of a whole.
I don’t claim to know everything about love, or even the majority of what I should. But I do know that I should be able to maintain some sort of self-identity, even if I am in love. I’m ready to be generative; I’m over being passive.
Maybe I will drive through the night like a crazy person to see someone I love again. But I’ll do it for someone who will at least give me a place to lay my head down.