Thoughts have been racing lately, more than usual. I spend nights tossing and turning hung up on a repeating series of mundane thoughts: how do I get rid of the bags under my eyes, did I save those photos, why didn’t he like my Instagram, I should do laundry, the starving polar bear, etc. But generally, these thoughts all funnel back into my greatest puzzle, what is intimacy?
Before I begin, I think it’s important to clarify here that I mean nothing physical by “intimate”, but the word explains what I’m trying to address better than its synonyms.
I’m a senior in college, finishing up my second to last semester, yikes. “What do you want to do next year?”, “Have you gotten a job yet?”, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” These questions make me dizzy. See, I get excited about a lot of things. I do everything with intensity, running, eating, singing in the car, drinking coffee, everything. I LOVE so much about this life, but when I think about what I’m supposed to do with that, and how I’m supposed to squeeze it into a 9-5 that pays for my travel bug, well, I get dizzy. I’ve spent the past 7 years or so trying to figure out what God or whoever, has destined me to do with this fire burning soul. My twisty and turny path led me through 8 introductory classes when I got to college, and now I’ve ended up with a degree in Visual Arts and Gender Sexuality and Women’s Studies. This doesn’t really surprise me. I always have a camera around my neck and you know I had a pussy hat marching down Washington. But I never really understood where these two overlapped in terms of my future. All of my art projects flowed between feminist protest and some sort of interaction with strangers. Then came a purely ridiculous summer of adventure, when I basically spent 6 weeks running around the world with strangers, talking and sharing experiences, something about the wildness felt right, but still uncertain.
The year brought two heart shattering breakups. The ones that knock you on your ass and make you stop everything. What was unsettling however, was that neither of these were very rational responses to the relationships. Looking back I realize that though I felt a closeness with both partners and was happy while I was with them, the logical part of my brain and my heart understood the breakup and saw the benefits of discontinuing the relationships. Unfortunately, the logical parts are rarely the loudest, and in both instances, my aching heart demanded center stage. This left me questioning my mental health, my strength, and my ability to stand alone.
After months of scrutinous over-analysis of why I fall in love, with everything, like cups of coffee, strangers on the street, landscapes, or cities I’ve never been to, so intensely, I started to understand my appreciation for intimacy.
The reason talking to strangers makes me so happy is because the connection goes from 0-100 so quickly, it gives me some sort of high, a high on love. Feeling so deeply about everything makes me feel like I’m giving myself away, and somehow bettering someone or something somewhere, which is irrational and probably not true. I read books like Love Does, and Love Lives Here, and Scary Close and relate because I just want to love all of the time. The reason those breakups knocked me on my ass is because I didn’t just lose a valuable person in my life, but I felt as if a form of love had failed me, and if it ended, it couldn’t have been as true and intimate as I thought.
Understanding this makes many of my other qualities so clear. I don’t like being alone because I’m not as good at giving myself love as I am to others. I love to travel and explore new places because I get to leave my love there too, I develop a connection with another place, as well as the people I meet along the way. I love being in a relationship because it allows me to shower my partner with love, and the mutual goal is to become closer. I don’t do small talk well, honestly it makes me really uncomfortable. Ask anyone who knows me, I’m the worst liar and small talk just feels like my least genuine form and I assume everyone can see right through it. I don’t like anything less than intense. I don’t care how your class went, I care about your deepest fears. I care about how you want to be loved and who taught you how to love. I care about what lights your fire and how you keep it burning. I’d be much happier talking about how you felt when your grandmother died than about what you had for breakfast today. And just writing all of this makes me realize why I become so frustrated with surface conversations, why I’m crushed when someone I’m interested in being intimate with is only concerned with what’s on the surface, or is only comfortable with small talk. But we all love differently.
I guess this means that this is where it all overlaps for me.
No matter where I end up next year or what my 9-5 looks like, it has to be working through this. Maybe that looks like asking strangers at the bus station to tell me stories or maybe it means working with a non profit helping others tell their own stories, I just want more love. More conversation. More meaning. More intimacy.
I hope that this emotional explosion doesn’t come across as if I want everyone to be like me and cry everyday about war and starving polar bears or attempt to make all of their relationships immediately intimate, because I recognized where these characteristics have made life difficult for me. But they are not things I would change about myself. What I hope you consider from reading this, is first, that we all think and operate and love so differently, and understanding who you are compatible with on this level is very important. Second, I hope you seek intimacy in more commonplaces. Talk more. Tell those you love that you love them. And if you’re given an opportunity to share this way of living and teach others about intimacy and closeness, do it. This life is hard and it beats you down. There are things like war and starving polar bears and heartbreak and hate all around and it’s okay to lean on people, but you must give the same and be one to lean on as well.
P.S. sorry that video of the polar bear really got to me.