I was taught to love.
I was taught to love myself and to love others. I was taught that no matter what happens, no matter what difficulties you might face in your relationships or your endeavors, you will always be alright if you have love. And you know what? I think I’m in love with love.
I come from a small family preceded by big ones. Do you have a Jewish friend? Do you have any idea how many cousins they have? Do you have a Lebanese friend? Do you have any idea how many cousins they have? The answer is that I’m half Jewish, half Lebanese and I have so many cousins I don’t know their names. They’re far-flung to all corners of the world, displaced by holocaust and civil war. The family I know is too sparse, an assortment of chess pieces that has dwindled from a handful to a fistful in my lifetime. That’s why each relative is so precious. We fight all the time, we make up every day and we always show up at Thanksgiving because we were taught to love. Not every family is so lucky.
It’s something I don’t see enough of these days, people loving each other, and it hurts me. I see the freshman boy smoking a cigarette on the steps of Baldwin auditorium with his first Shooters hookup under his belt and his ex-high school sweetheart on his mind. I see the senior girl, who has just pushed him away because she’s moving halfway around the world in a week’s time. I see the cis-gender men and women, the gay and lesbian individuals, the bisexual and pansexual members of the community, the gender queer and transgender humans around me, the monikers I’ve never heard of and those of us who are still searching for a letter in an ever-expanding acronym, sitting and yearning as love passes languid through our periphery.
I say “our” because I’m just as blind, and there have been times where I caught love in the corner of my eye, turned around and watched it walk away.
I’m reminded of an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s "Four Quartets," which reads:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
I took a gap year last year and this quote saved my life. It’s what brought me back to Duke and it’s what brought me back to myself. It’s about the quandary of living, a basic human desire to arrive at a singular point only to realize we’ve been running around in circles. It entreats us to become different and it reminds us of whom we once were. It’s a dejected strip tease in front of a full-length mirror.
I’ve learned that love is not a place you find, but rather a journey you take. You get lost, disoriented and exhausted, worried that you may never again find equilibrium. It’s the epic mountain climb amidst the greatest beauties of our world, only to reach the summit and ask, “How long are we supposed to stare at it?”
And that’s fine. We’ll end up back home with a shoebox full of photographs and plane tickets, the backs of our passports stamped with red lipstick Visas. We’ll all get old and frail and stop climbing mountains. We’ll discover that love is the empathetic look you give that person, that beautiful person, who remembers every mountain you climbed, who remembers every kiss above the clouds as the sun sets over the world and is just as happy with kisses at sea-level.
So now that we know what we want, how do we get it? Fred Rogers said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest people.”
I’d like to dedicate that quote to the Class of 2018. There’s a 110 percent chance the Valedictorian at your high school said something like, “College is a fresh start, an opportunity for a new beginning" in his or her commencement speech. But it’s too tempting and too easy to interpret that statement incorrectly. He or she did not mean, “Dress better and try not to ruin your reputation again.”
He or she meant that college is a chance to course-correct, to undo the negative reinforcement of those who misunderstood you in their adolescence. Be honest. You don’t have to be the person who knows everything about sports or fashion, but you must speak fervently about your own unique passions. If you love yourself, chances are other people will love you just as much.
Congratulations, you’ve completed Mushy Love 101. Don’t worry—the next article will definitely be a lot juicier. This is going to be a sex and relationship column. It’s not going to be a list of awful sex tips full of Duke and Blue Devil puns. It’s going to be about the real issues surrounding sex and dating at Duke that bother the average student. I’m going to wax poetic on love and intimacy, conduct interviews with experts and important relevant figures, open the floor for discussion for sex-positive students, share my stories and experience, connect you with the right information, field questions about anything from my readers and explore the many ways in which sexuality presents itself.
Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Max Tabet is a Trinity junior and vice president of Alternative Sexualities at Duke University.