Several months ago, a student of mine fell in love, as teenagers are apt to do every so often. He thought he was doing everything right: writing songs for her, learning to play the ukulele for her, buying her stuff, flattering her, taking her on walks, and all sorts of things a young hopeless romantic assumes will build a case for his courtship. For a time, she humored him, and then abruptly dumped him for the guy who had just moved in next door. To this day, they watch endless television and giggle the hours away, with neither song nor ukulele serenading their union.
Never in my life have I witnessed someone cry as much as my heartbroken student. For days out of months I would sit there in my classroom handing him tissues, listening to endless, “I love her!”s and “I would do anything for her!”s and “I would’ve died for her!”s and “What did I do wrong?!”s. And all I could offer was, “I know, she knows, you know, and you did nothing wrong.”
How can I tell a young, hopeless romantic the horrible truth I have yet to truly learn myself? – No amount of wanting something makes it happen if it just wasn’t meant to be. Just because you want it, even if you want it with every fiber of your soul, doesn’t mean you get to have it.
It seems like a matter of justice: to want something so much and to not get it, for in our stories, those who seek shall find, those who want shall receive, and those who persevere shall conquer. I speak of beyond just love, but also of dreams. Sadly, here in life, outside of our imaginations, desire is a comedy, and rejection, its punchline.
I remember my college days – I engaged in a three-year pursuit of a colleague of mine, to no avail. I thought, if I never give up, then fate will reward me for my loyalty, and over time, I fooled myself into believing it my right to be happy, to be fulfilled by this fruitless pursuit, and perhaps the longer I wait the better, without really considering the cold hard fact that maybe she just didn’t want me and never would. That’s not how it works in the movies, if I am to believe myself to be the protagonist. Desire always prevails. I refused to believe it would end in empty loneliness. Not after all I put into it for years on end.
I was a fool. With no consideration as to the whims of the would-be lover, I believed in my right to be loved…
…and I was, albeit by other people for whom I did not care. An endless circle of rejection and heartbreak – Comedy gold!
Perhaps I was the villain after all.
Tonight, years later, I am lonely. I have been lonely for a long time, for nearly all of my twenties in fact. And yet, I know of people who would fly halfway across the world to be with me, people who would write songs for me, just as I might write songs for someone else. Some have cried for me, as I have cried for others, being to each other nothing more than unfortunate annoyances. Where is the justice?
My Dear Student: We are not entitled to the affection of others just because we want it so badly. We have no right to it, nor can we earn it. Sure, we can put ourselves in a position to receive it, much like we can climb a mountain to best catch the wind, but that does not mean the wind must necessarily blow. To think otherwise is to fail to understand that love requires enough empathy to know that at a point, effort is powerless to change the chaotic and often arbitrary weather of feeling.
Days ago, while looking around in frustration at those rivals who enjoy loving relationships, my student exclaimed to me: “I work so hard at this, I go to the ends of the earth, I try everything I can, and all these guys have to do is put their dick in their hand and tell a funny joke!”
It made me laugh, because looking around at Teenageland with all its senseless and seemingly arbitrary pairings, he’s right. But he should not mistake it as a matter of justice, for perhaps that’s all some of them need right now: funny jokes and dicks in hand, with or without ukulele. I cannot judge; to each their own. We cannot create wind, nor can we change its direction. We can only hope to catch it as it blows by. Some of us are fortunate.