The older I get, the more convinced I am that people have never been taught to love properly. And I know that sounds a little weird because you shouldn't have to be taught to love, and there's no way to love properly. Except that you do, and there is.

A lot of people, myself included, have somehow become really selfish with love. Not in a way that means we don't love enough people, or that we don't show that love, because those are not necessarily true (and also completely different issues). What I mean is that we love in a selfish way. Clear as mud, right? Don't worry, it gets worse.

Look, I'm not one to drag the Bible into my blog (because, among many other things, I don't like to shove my religious beliefs down other people's throats), and actually I'm just going to paraphrase from that love verse in 1 Corinthians because it's more convenient than looking it up. Somewhere in all that talk of love, it says that love is not self-seeking; that's what I mean when I say we're selfish with love. We're self-seeking. We want love to build us up--and the best kinds of love do. We want love to complete us, even though it probably shouldn't. We want love to light a fire in our souls; it will if we kindle it. We want to claim those we love, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My instagram is full of pictures of Melissa and Laurel with captions along the lines of "Look at these beautiful creatures who have graced me with their friendship 10/10 would recommend." I'm guilty of constantly looking around at those I love, and those who love me, and thinking mine.

Except they aren't. People don't own other people--I belong to nobody but myself, just like all the people I love. We look at love through this lens of "what can they do for me?" How can loving this person benefit me? Maybe it'll make me feel better, maybe it'll make me whole, maybe it'll keep me from being lonely. Because people are inherently selfish, love itself is selfish. We want those we love to be completely devoted to us, to give us their all--all their energy, all their affection, all their love. And in that way, we are self-seeking. We want love, but only if love is 110% obsessed with us and only us and will never ever do anything we do not like. 

Love is not about possession or ownership. It's about breathing life into others. It's about offering yourself to another person. It's about handing your heart to someone else and saying, "I'm giving you the power to crush it and having faith that you won't." It's about treating their heart like a baby bird, holding it delicately and helping build its strength. It's about understanding that you are not the only important person in their life; in fact, you may not even be the most important person in their life and that's okay. The great thing about love is that it only grows as you give it away; do not ask someone to limit that.

I am next-level needy, okay? Like, imagine the neediest toddler you've ever me. Now multiply that by about twenty-seven and you will almost understand how needy I am. The irony of me telling people to chill out is not lost on me. I struggle so much with this instinct to hoard the love I get because it never feels like enough. However, I'm growing and learning. It's easier for me to remember that not everyone wants or needs the constant validation and affection that I do. We love in different ways. I'm understanding that mine can be a bit...obsessive, maybe...but I'm getting better at channeling it in a positive way. I once told someone that I wanted to the embodiment of a forest fire, but I've changed my mind. I'd much rather be candlelight; still radiant, but not so aggressive. Something that people appreciate, not something they run from. 

Love cannot be controlled, and that's beautiful. Love is not about ownership; it's about offering. Offering all of yourself to someone offering all of themself. Let love in and let it wreck everything. Love unconditionally, messily, loudly, selflessly. Just love.