When I write in my journal about what I want, a constant recurring sentence is that I want to be loved.
Those who know me know that I’ve never found that relationship, I was married once in my early 20s, a mistake, and I haven’t repeated it again since. There have been men in my life, but they come and go, while the coming can be delightful, the going is always painful. Then you pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
I’m 44 years old now, and the dream of having a happy family is fading … faded … away, and it crosses my mind at times, even if I met that partner now, what good would it do? I would like to be loved. But the rest of what I wanted is out of reach. Could I accept the gift this partner would bring with grace, given the difficult feelings I have about what I lost? Except that I never lost it, I just never found it.
Thinking about it is difficult. Where were you when I needed you so badly? That’s completely unfair, and I know it, but yes, that crosses my mind.
But some days, I remember to look around and if I open my eyes and my heart simultaneously, I can see all the ways that love is present in my life.
First of all, you do not control who gives love to you. The only thing you control is what love you give to others. Are you giving to others the things you would want to find?
I think of a weekend spent going over an NSF proposal for a graduate fellowship with my research student, sticking close to the computer, reading drafts and commenting. Telling him, always, and forever, win or lose, how glad I am to have had him in my life for this wild ride we’ve been on. And that is love.
I think of my colleagues and friends, and all the amazing things they do. I try to recognize and honor those things, and let them know when I see them doing something wonderful. Because you can’t observe those things from the inside, you need someone to show you from the outside. And that is love.
I think of a difficult colleague (one whom I’d honestly rather avoid), and a talk I had with him at the beginning of the fall semester. My thought process, “I’m just going to treat you like you are a normal human being who can understand what I’m about to tell you and correct your own behavior.” (I doubt it, to be honest, but you have to give people a chance.) Even though I don’t think that is going to have the result I might desire, that, too was love.
I always think of my students, because on a day-to-day basis I spend more time thinking about how to present lessons to them and all the little extras I bring to class. It is so hard to know what sticks, but you hope that some of it matters, and you hope that some of it gives them strength when they need it. Just keep trying. Do the work in front of you. Try to get started for just 15 minutes. You are my awesome hard-working honors class. And that is love.
That last is one where I have received some feedback. I asked my students to write an optional one page (300-500 word) letter to me reflecting on the semester and telling me what they learned. It is worth 10 points to be averaged in with the rest of the final exam score. Here is an excerpt of one favorite response:
I kept preaching to myself what you have been saying all along, “I am an Honors student. I can do anything.”, and eventually series became less of an apprehensive topic and transitioned into a new puzzle for me to fit into place.
This class proved to be a real difficulty. I am taking 17 credit hours this semester, and I did not anticipate my Honors math class to be the most challenging. The course really pushed me in my intellect – discouraging at times, yet satisfying at others. My favorite memory of this semester was your positive words of advice. It may seem cliché, but I needed a role model this semester to constantly tell me “I can do anything.”, and without you being aware of this, you helped me in many more ways than just in math.
And that, too, is love.