By Wynne Chase PZ ’26
Recently, I thought of a question which perfectly encapsulates my biggest curiosity about each person:
“How would you define love with a personal anecdote?”
I want to know what people consider love and what happened in their life to make them believe that.
I will explain my answer first to give you an idea of what I had in mind, then I will share a few answers that I received to my question. Any deviation from my original thought experiment is unintentionally beautiful and I am so happy with all the answers I received.
I didn’t realize that when I know my days are numbered in a certain place, I distance myself. I find small aspects of the place and people there to criticize. I allow the small annoyances to each feel like insurmountable struggles.
Last year, I was working on a farm with people I had never met before. During the day, passersby would stop at our stand and we would sell them honey from the bees buzzing happily just up the hill from us. The sea laid out magnificently before me while I worked, and, during slow periods, I would sit on the counter next to our products and read my book about the golden star of the Trojan War. I would taste honey and make bracelets for the other volunteers at the farm. I verbally daydreamed with the people working the drinks stand about our hitchhiking plans for the weekend. At night, all 18 of us volunteers would sit by the fire and we would sing and dance and ask each other questions that felt heavy when asked and extraordinarily light once spoken about. We learned each other and fell in love with the people around us. We giggled about our concerning lack of food and the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere. We joked about how our compost toilet was riddled with abnormally large cockroaches. We smiled when we realized that the wind had made all of our finally clean clothes fall to the ground and bathe in the dirt. We made light of the difficult around us.
Yet, about six days before I was set to leave, I would not join our community of 18 for our campfires. I would sit in my tent and pick apart the people around me in my head and in my journal. I would curse the cockroaches and the fact that I peed outside my tent with cows threatening to trample me every dawn. I romanticized my trip back home and all the wonders a non-rainwater shower would grant me. I prematurely left the place around me without ever moving my feet.
Paige, a fellow volunteer, asked me if I was okay one night when I, again, turned down the general campfire invite. I quickly pushed aside her question, but later, I walked to her tent to explain how I was feeling… without actually understanding why I felt the way I felt. I explained to her what I did know:
“I don’t like this place anymore and I want to go home, I’m not happy when I think about missing everybody I’ve met here.”
After a long conversation with Paige, we came to a joint understanding that not wanting to deal with the consequences of love was keeping me from loving where I was and who I was with.
Paige taught me that love does not mean forever. She taught me that though we may not ever be among all of these people at the same time again, the days we still have left together are not less valuable because they are coming to an end. She taught me that love consists of the memories of people that we hold with us forever, even if the people may not always be there. Importantly, she taught me that love means understanding the consequences of the impossibility of forever, and accepting it anyway as a momentary brightness that will light our way forever.
Here is what I learned about my peers on how they understand love:
“Senior year, I missed the first few weeks of second semester because I was home having knee surgery and then when I came back, my two best friends, who were my co-captains on the ski team, told me a story about how they had sat up on the ski hill at night and had a nice little cry about how they missed me and how everything was changing. And I think that love is knowing when other people miss your presence and knowing that you make a dent in the world. And when the people around you acknowledge the weight of your presence.”
Love is “How my mom stayed on the phone with me during a breakup when it was 2am her time, and she just knows exactly what I need. If she hears me crying on the phone, she gives me the steps to breathe, she always knows exactly what I need.”
“Now that we’re older, because of the age differences between me and my siblings (my brother being 4 years older and my sister being 7 years older than me) we spend less time together and more time living our lives separately, whether that be at college, spending more time with significant others, or just being more occupied with work. Over winter break this year I insisted that we all play video games together and my siblings, especially my brother, reluctantly agreed. We sat around for hours playing Mario Kart and Mario Party. Uncontrollable laughter filled the room as we sat separately on the couches in our dimly lit living room competing with each other and at times failing miserably. So many times one of us would say something along the lines of “Okay this is the last round/game” and so many times I would end the “last game” laughing so hard my stomach hurt with my siblings and yelling “one more! one more!” in between giggles. And when both of my siblings would agree despite the time of night and despite their tiredness or what they may have had to do the next day, that’s what I define as love — making time for someone or something despite other things going on in your life and making memories that’ll last.”
“A few years ago, out of the blue, a close friend of mine recommended I listen to a new song I had never heard of. Ever since then, that artist’s discography has been on repeat. I always go back to thinking how different it would be if she didn’t text me, or if the song hadn’t reminded her of me. But it did.
Feeling loved is being thought of when there is no personal gain for that person. When reaching out, out of genuine care for someone you have a soft spot for, leads to reinventing their love for music. She made my heart feel like it was being taken care of when I couldn’t.”
Love is: “when I was having a panic attack last year and my dad drove me to the beach and we just walked for so long until I was able to calm down”
Conducting this research led to revealingly personal answers from the people with which I frequently surround myself; the definition of love varies so deeply from individuals due to the experiences that they hold close. I’d love to continue to learn people through this question, and I encourage you to do the same.