Yesterday I was at a craft fair at Nokomis Park and saw endless art with quotes akin to “all you need is love.” At this point in my life, I am finding more and more truth in this phrase. On days when nothing goes as planned, I have someone else’s boogers on my eyebrow, I can’t remember my last shower, I have spent half an hour looking for my keys, 2/3 kids have ear infections and even a vacation feels like a terrific undertaking, I will be okay if I feel loved when the day ends. The significance of love is so tangible to me at this point in my life, I am struck by the doubt I cast in it earlier in my life. In fact, as a leader, teacher and mentor of hundreds of young women and girls throughout my career, I admit that I attempted to teach them something contrary. I have now been completely sandwiched between caring for grandparents, parents and children. From this wonderful, uncomfortable, memorable and exhausting place in between, I can finally see that my greatest resource is love. So, to all the youngsters out there I have mentored, led or taught, and to those yet to hear me from my soapbox, I have not been thorough.
When I was a young women, I remember being taught again and again, over and over, that I was to put myself first. I was to love myself, find myself, go for my dreams and not compromise. I was to be strong, be able and be driven. I was certainly not expected to compromise my goals for a crush, put another’s goals before my own, or become beguiled by love interests. I will go so far as to say I have since been employed to distract young people from relationships, crushes, sex and the consequences thereof. It’s with much chagrin that I now come to the realization that all we need is love.
Here are the details; at the end of the day, love will hold you above water, love will empower you, love will create your family and love will make life more whole. But first, you need to discover yourself, grow independently, express your individuality, and follow your dreams. First come to know the love of friends, family and community. Witness love in your heroines and elders. Think critically about love in the stories you read and the offers you are extended. Honor yourself, delay sex and be the world’s student. Soon enough, love will matter most. You must, unequivocally, put yourself first, choose wisely, and use birth control. Your adventures, your life lessons, your mishaps and your accomplishments are important in and of themselves, but everything we do to make ourselves whole people will eventually matter because it will increase our capacity to care for others. Someday when you are feeling particularly lovable because you have loved yourself first, it’s the man or the woman or the child or the village or the cause that you choose to love that will get you through the day.