i work with a young woman who has quite literally been chasing the ‘love of her life’ for months. it’s heartbreaking watching her leap over fences and crawl through valleys for stolen moments and misguided intentions. the object of her affection has been illusive and flighty. in some cases stringing her alone while in others directly stating their heart belongs to another. but the determination of this young woman to win the prize is at times inspiring while at others heartbreaking.
the other day she came to me after her heart had been torn out once again hurt confused yet still passionately holding on to the dream that one day some day they’ll be together. looking at her made my own heart ache. i remember teenage-hood. i remember what it was like to want something so bad it hurt. literally hurt. when we’re young we have so few life experiences that we can’t imagine a grief that actually ends. as she sat across from me sunk in on herself her eyes full of longing i stopped talking to the girl and directed my inquiry to the woman she is becoming.
‘what is your love worth?’ i asked her.
she was confused and put off by the question. ‘what you mean? like what have a i spent?’
‘no. i mean what is it worth to you?’
‘like a car ride…because i don’t mind driving them where they want to go.’
‘no. i mean what does it cost to be with you?’
she looked at me then unsure.
‘you’ve given so much of yourself. your time. your attention. you’ve even given things. but you haven’t expected very much in return.’ i looked at her. willing my will to see into hers to give her a teaspoon of middle age-ness to compensate for the loneliness of her own inexperience. ‘do you value yourself? what do you think you are worth?’
this is a young woman who has been privy to many of the fine things. her parents dress her in all the latest fashions. she has a better data package than i do and drives a low mileage used car, never having worked a day in her life. she is one of the privileged and outside of the realm of the ‘relationship’ a commodity in her community.
‘i’m worth a lot.’ she answered defensively toying with her $250 watch.
i sighed, ‘then why do you give yourself away so freely?’
‘what you mean?’ she got defensive. ‘i’m not having sex!’
i didn’t mean to but i did laugh. we never seem to grow past the sex as value, sex as love, sex as everything phase. but i didn’t think this was the time for that conversation. ‘you give yourself away but you ask for nothing in return. and when crumbs are offered to you you get ecstatic because crumbs are more than you’ve valued your love. when will you ask for what you want?’
‘but what i want is them!’
‘even if there is no you left?’
her mouth gapped open. she stared at me in quiet. i decided i might as well go on, ‘this is not a bad person. this person you’ve decided to care so deeply about. but somewhere along the way you’ve gotten confused into believing that they are more valuable than you are. and that is a dangerous path to walk. you have to decide and decide now what your love is worth so you don’t end up giving it away without expectation. you have to decide now to value yourself no matter the situation to never forget your worth.’
‘so are you telling me to walk away. to just forget about them. because you can’t help wanting what you want-‘
‘that’s a movie, darling. twilight, 50 shades whatever y’all are reading or watching now. that’s a line people say in movies or books. in real life you are always able to choose. in real life the credits never roll and because the choices you make effect so many parts of your life, they have to be smart.’
‘but i tried. i tried to forget them. i tried to let it go.’
‘what was your alternative? what did you tell yourself?’
‘that they weren’t worth it,’ she smiled shyly. ‘but they are. they are so worth it.’
‘ah…so you never thought to tell yourself what you are worth?’
‘while you’re thinking of all the ways this person is wonderful even though they don’t call or text or tweet or whatever they get to walk on water while you’re drowning on land?’
shoulder slouch, something is sinking in.
‘you have to remind yourself of your worth. every time you make someone or something else important remind yourself that you’re important too. that you’re valuable too.’
‘you should write a book.’
that’s when i thought, maybe i should.