“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’” -Maya Angelou
There are things I know a lot about, and I’m not really all that modest about it: Statistics. Skin care. Birthdays. (I never forget a birthday. It’s really weird; I remember, like, the birthdays of everyone in my third grade class. I’m dead serious).
But one thing I don’t profess to know a lot about is personal relationships. Back in elementary school, too much reading of Judy Blume and Babysitters Club had me convinced that all I ever need was a best friend. But I was a little socially awkward, and, to my credit, I went to a very small Catholic grade school with only seven other girls for seven years. And I didn’t get the life-lasting friendship I was looking for until I was nearly thirteen and had basically gotten over the idea.
Even now, I don’t know if I’m the best socially. I am a solid public speaker, but I feel awkward sometimes at parties. I tend to leave early, give gifts that are either over-the-top or not enough, and cringe internally at poor responses from others. For someone who is very sure of herself when it comes to her career and professional life, I can feel a little like I’m wearing two left shoes when it comes to my personal life in relationships and friendships: painful and awkward.
And then, this week, I met up with an old friend. She’s in town because she’s getting married this weekend. She’s a dear friend and one of my all-time favorite people. We’ve seen each other through a lot of ups and downs, laughed and cried through our fair share of awkward clumsy moments. And during one of our lengthy heart-to-heart conversations, she told me to go after love in my life the way I go after my career: “Be a warrior for love.”
Not just romantic love, but love of all kinds: friendships, family, coworkers, acquaintances. I’m admittedly by nature an over-the-top kind-of person, the sort of person who likes to show up with the giant gift basket or put months of effort into a handmade card, but I’m often reining that in so I’m not embarrassed or rejected, essentially to meet the expectations of others. But her words resonated with me.
You only live once. So whether in your career or your friendships or your romantic relationship, go big or go home. Tell people you love them. Greet them with a smile and a big hug. Tell people how you feel. Spring for the goddamn special order Kitchen Aid mixer for $50 more just because it’s the exact color your friend painted her kitchen. Whisk your friends off for a girls’ weekend and your boyfriend out for a fancy dinner, just because. The only negative potential is feelings of rejection; the upside is enormous, with renewed connection, happiness, and, well, love.
Be who you are. But most of all, be a warrior for love. Fight for it. Had I not wished so long for a best friend when I was a child, my true friendships wouldn’t mean as much to me as they do today. Whether you build relationships or your own character, be a warrior and fight for love of all kinds.
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