I have always wanted to fall in love. Who can blame me? It’s (supposedly) the best feeling in the world. Understanding, bliss, romance, friendship, passion, and caring rolled into one elusive and potent mega-joint of emotion. Just from a simple life-experience standpoint, love is a drug I’m desperate to try.
I’ve always wanted love because it’s been sold to me as the ultimate form of happiness. It’s being six and watching Cinderella’s life turn upside down after the Prince spots her at the ball. It’s being sixteen and hearing Elizabeth say she feels complete and perfect and incandescent with Mr. Darcy. As far as I’ve been told, love is the missing piece that will one day come and save me, solving all my problems and making me complete.
While the notion that love is meant to complete you is an entirely different issue, the point is that love’s reputation precedes it.
You might hear all this and think “You’re nineteen, you have plenty of time.” You’re right. I do. That’s not the problem. I feel confident that one day, eventually, hopefully, the magical gift of love will be gently placed in my hands. The problem is that I want it now. Not because I want to be in a serious relationship at nineteen, but because I want to stop having to think about it. I’m tired of hearing all the love songs and watching all the rom-coms and wishing I understood. I want to know if love is worth all the hype.
In high school this really wasn’t an issue. I didn’t want to be in love and more importantly, there wasn’t any pressure to be in love. I was a teenager and, according to the movies I adored, that meant it was okay to focus on school and friendships. I was coming of age. I had a free, media-granted pass to spend these years discovering myself and making mistakes. Moving into college, I was no longer cast as High Schooler but instead as Young Woman. Suddenly in the same age group as Elizabeth Bennet and other young bachelorettes, I was supposed to start the hunt for love. In this new narrative, being single would only be acceptable for a limited number of years before it would just become sad.
As time has gone on and the pressure to find love has only increased, I’ve adopted the stance that my I-want-a-boyfriend mentality, while seemingly innocent, has more to it than meets the eye. At its core is a dissatisfaction with life as it currently is and a lack of appreciation for the already present sources of love in my life. In constantly dreaming of and anticipating an element of the future, I cannot be fully present.
Plus, lusting after love serves no actual purpose. Call me a romantic, but I don’t think love is a game of strategy. In the age of dating apps it can be hard to remember that no amount of camera angles, smart comments, and interesting hobbies will change the chemistry between two people. You’re either right for each other or you’re not. It’s a game of luck. Thinking about wanting to win the lottery all day doesn’t make you any more likely to win the lottery—it’s just a waste of time and energy.
The counterargument several of my friends have presented when I tell them I’m giving up on finding love is that my negative mentality is hindering me. I need to have hope that someone good is going to come my way, they say. In Gen-Z terms, they think I need to manifest the love life I want. While I know this advice comes from a place of good intentions, I can’t help but retort that holding on to hope is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. I cannot simultaneously long for a boyfriend and be completely happy without one.
So, although I say I’m giving up on love, what I’m actually meaning to say is that I’m coming to terms with myself and things as they are. I’m learning to reject pre-written narratives, let go of expectations, and “control the controllables,” as my mom likes to say.
I’m not completely satisfied with my singledom just yet. However, since starting to let go of my hope of finding a perfect match, I really have been more present, content, and grateful for my life as it currently is. I have a family that checks in on me every day to make sure I’m doing well, and I have fantastic friends who constantly make me feel understood, valued, and listened to. Though it may not be the type you “fall in” to, I am certainly not lacking for love. In fact, I have an abundance of it—and I’m finally able to fully appreciate it.
By Jill Risberg
Illustration by Yoo Young Chun