It’s difficult to believe, but not everything you plan in college pans out later in life.
It turns out you didn’t know everything there was to know during those years.
When I was in Aggieland, my friend Katie and I had this saying that sort of became an inside joke: “The Year of Love.” Neither of us dated much (or ever), so we declared each new year “The Year of Love.” She even made me a CD one year–I know, so antiquated–with our saying as the title, and it was filled with tracks that we both loved and that were all about love. I still play that CD sometimes in my car. That’s right, I’m old school.
Like I said, each new year we would remind ourselves that her prince was on his way, and mine would likely ride in right alongside him. I guess you could call it wishful thinking, but I think we also both honestly believed it would be true. We saw most of the people around us falling in love and knowing engagement rings were on the way, so why wouldn’t we be next?
Because that’s not always how life works.
Eventually that prince did come for Katie. They have been married a little more than five years now, have one adorable little girl, and a sure-to-be-super-precious little boy on the way. Her “Year of Love” actually proved to be more of a “Lifetime of Love,” which is how it should be, anyway.
I’m not big on end-of-the-year reflections, and I really hate year-end countdowns on radio stations, but when I do think back on the past year, I think it truly was a “Year of Love.” No, I don’t have a prince, I didn’t go on a date, and I didn’t dramatically get to declare my love for someone while I was wearing a nice dress in the middle of a street or parking lot in the pouring rain. No one wrote a love song for me, there were no gazebo moments, and sparks didn’t fly when I locked eyes with some fella across the room. I didn’t dance with anyone under the moonlight, no one held my hand, and I still haven’t heard the words, “I love you” from someone who doesn’t have to love me.
But there was still love in abundance.
Sure, it’s a different kind of love, but love is beautiful in any form. It’s the kind of love you see when your students actually hear and appreciate the words you’re saying, and they let you know. It’s the kind of love you see when your sister continually shows you just how much she cares for you simply by being there–which even includes taking a crazy road trip to Tennessee with you. It’s the kind of love you see when your friends keep checking on you when you’re sick or going through a difficult time. It’s the kind of love you see when your forever friend makes you laugh when all you want to do is cry. It’s the kind of love you see when members of your life council offer you encouragement when you’re ready to do some bold things in your life. It’s the kind of love you see when the owner of a froyo shop you frequent remembers specifics about you, asks about how things are going in your life, and makes sure you always remember to use your rewards card on anyone you bring along with you so that you will get extra points. It’s the kind of love you see when your mom calls you every single day–usually with no purpose other than to talk with you even for a few minutes–and never forgets to end her conversation with, “Loveyoubye,” all strung together as if it really is only one word. It’s the kind of love you see when your refrigerator is covered with Christmas cards of beautiful gems people sent you simply because they care. It’s the kind of love you see when you realize that people are there in your life for a reason, and they want to be there.
It’s the kind of love that’s too wonderful to overlook simply because it doesn’t involve romance and kisses.
I’ve become pretty accustomed to the single life, and I’m fine with it. Maybe some day I really will find that prince Katie and I always talked about (and still do, of course). But maybe I won’t, and that’s fine, too. You don’t have to be in love to know what love is, and you don’t have to have a ring on your finger to feel love in its fullest form.
The good thing is that it doesn’t just have to be a “Year of Love”–it’s actually something that can be forever. You don’t have to wait until the new year to have love, and you certainly don’t have to contain it all to one year. Every year can be a “Year of Love,” no matter how many dates you did or didn’t go on, how many rejections you faced, or how many times you found yourself looking around a room of all couples and families and trying not to feel like the black sheep. All of those people likely love you, so it’s really a winning situation.
Sure, this year was full of ups and downs, as most years are, but there were definitely plenty of lessons that reminded me that love is so different than the word that often pops into people’s minds when they hear it. It’s not simply pink and red hearts or having someone to count down with on New Year’s Eve. It’s more–so much more.
And, strangely enough, the more you give it away, the more of it you feel in your own heart.