“I just don’t think it’s for me, that whole thing.”
“What, love?”
“Yeah, that.”

My friend turned to me with eyebrows raised, a questioning look on her face. I replied with a shrug, not even attempting to string together an explanation for the cynicism.

For a long time the mere prospect of a romantic relationship flooded me with horror. That friends of mine readily handed over their trust to their significant others appalled me. For me, the idea that I would be so open, so vulnerable, to the other person in a romantic relationship, was enough to induce panic attacks.

The truth was, I was terrified of loving.

This terror was rooted in my early exposure to failed romantic relationships — ones which were not my own — that scarred me tremendously. Relationships so catastrophically destructive that individuals are left a shell of a person in their wake. I learned young — too young — that physical pain is not the only form that violence came in.

So I vowed, I vowed to stay away from such massacre, like George Peppard famously told Audrey Hepburn,

“You’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself.”

I not only built it, I took the key, threw it in a vast of quicksand, poured concrete on it and built a skyscraper on top for good measure.

And so I thought I was safe.

Yet by caging myself in, I also forced myself to forget the joy that could also come from love. For the practice of love is not always beautiful, it is ugly and vicious, but when it is true, it is a sight to behold.

I forgot that love is not impossible if you do not make it so.

As I start to realize that I no longer want to be in the cage, another understanding followed right on its heel.

I am the only one who could get myself out.

A part of me was embodying the damsel in distress. I was waiting to be rescued, for someone to make me believe in romantic love again, to heal me. Instead, I should have expended the energy I spent pining, into building my own capacity to love romantically.

That being said, I know I cannot carry out all the healing on my own. Much like that small spot on your back you will never get your sunscreen to reach without help, I too, cannot wholly heal without the help (of my future partner[s]).

In the mean time as I continue to strive to love romantically, I am just beginning to realize how much I am loved. Despite the fact that romantic love is absent in my life, love is not.

Love is in my favorite dumplings my best friend has waiting for me when I wake up from a night of heavy drinking.

Love is in the medicine bag my mother packs for me every time I have to leave her.

Love is in my brother’s array of nicknames.

Love is in me and around me, from the ends of my hair to the tips of my toes.

I am healing, and how much sweeter it is to do so when one is loved.

I have found that it is common amongst millennials to be extremely cynical — if not downright pessimistic — about the possibility of a successful, loving, romantic relationship. Yet, as bell hooks very insightfully observed, there is so very little discussion about love, with those who wish to catalyze an intellectual conversation on the subject, brushed off as weak and/or desperate. And so, this is my measly attempt to start a conversation, because if there is one thing the world needs more of right now, it is love.