Navigating the world in front of us has become more complex than ever as we attempt to make sense of all the violence and chaos surrounding us. There are countless things wrong with the world that have laid some sort of dissociative veil over our eyes as those in power continue to make those of us that aren't as fortunate into numbers that can be depleted. I feel like I am experiencing my life second-hand while someone else has the reigns. In times like today, how does one continue to go on? How can someone continue to live and attempt to make something of their life when the world is figuratively and literally on fire? There is only one everlasting thing that will continue to fuel human's need to persist: love.

   As I go through life as an adult, one theme has come up time and time again, which is the idea that at the center of everything is love. It doesn't matter what I do in my life, as long as I love it and am happy. It doesn't matter what I'm doing even if it's seen as wasting time by others, as long as I love it and it makes me happy that is all that matters. Both of which are concepts I wasn't comfortable agreeing with until very recently. Growing up has made a lot of things, such as college, money, and success as I viewed it when I was younger, lose or change their meaning to me, and that in turn has caused things like love, compassion, and connection to be made a priority. Before I started living for myself, I was genuinely so lost. I couldn't understand why I wasn't happy. I had money, which is all you need to guarantee a successful happy life, right? The idea that money can buy happiness is something I often find myself falling back on, regardless of how false it is. Money can most definitely make achieving a life in which you are completely content more within reach but it does not guarantee a life wherein you feel fulfilled. What matters more than money in life is the love you give to the world and others and the connections you make with them. I do believe that career is important, especially if you're someone that prioritizes that, but at the end of your life more often than not the connections you've created throughout your life will be what is given to you to look back on. Allowing yourself to create connections with people allows you to become more comfortable extending love toward others which also makes it easier for your love to reach those with whom you have no connection. Strangers, just as much as your family and friends, are people just like you and deserve the same amount of love you show those closest to you. There have been a couple of times where I have caught myself before I have said something under my breath about another driver while driving and when I notice it happen, I'm disgusted with myself. What has this person done to deserve anything but love from me? Why am I comfortable speaking badly about someone simply because they have no way of hearing it? If you would like a more extreme example, I'd like to bring up the show Beef, which follows the lives of two drivers with road rage as they act in increasingly cruel ways to a stranger that is not deserving of any of that. Even if you are met with an incredibly annoying situation, you should meet others with compassion and patience. If you're spiritual, perhaps the idea that those you have met in your life are all versions of yourself, just as you are a version of every person you pass by, will allow more compassion to flow from you. That idea might be more difficult if you're not at a point in your life where you are able to feel love for yourself, unfortunately. While this is unfortunate, it's nothing to get too worried over as just like everything else in life, this can also be worked through and used as a stepping stone toward a life full of love.

   The love you put out into the world is important but what is almost more important is the love you feel for within yourself. Before you can properly give love to anyone or anything, you must be comfortable feeling your own warm embrace. There is no one more worthy of love and patience than yourself, so don't forget to look at yourself with unconditional love. Oftentimes, I criticize every movement I make and talk badly about myself to myself and I have to sit back and think, "Why?" This is my life, this is my body, this is the person that I am, why am I so quick to belittle her? Why is it second nature for me to look at a simple mistake I could have made as a perfect excuse to hide away from everyone? As I'm sure I've said before, it is much easier to be sad than it is to be happy. The hate I so often show myself comes from a place of laziness. Learning to love parts of myself that I have hidden away because I have convinced myself they weren't worthy of love is incredibly mentally draining and it's not something that can be fixed in an instant. It takes time to unbury all the beautiful parts of yourself that you locked away and it takes even more time to begin to feel love for them. Remembering to show the same patience you show others to yourself will help in learning to love yourself. A simple mistake is nothing more than that, a simple mistake. Nothing that I have messed up on in my life has made it so I am unworthy of love from anyone, especially myself. Viewing myself from an outside perspective has also helped in feeling more love toward myself. I often find my thoughts full of cruel things about my hobbies or my appearance, while I never view anyone else through this lens. It does feel a bit dissociative to try and view yourself from the third person but it's honestly so helpful. I am not a boring person for sitting at my computer messing with DAWs I have little knowledge of, instead, I am an artist learning how to create more art to put out into the world. Learning to be proud of the things I create has also been a journey in and of itself, which I believe I might have gotten into a little bit in one of my previous posts. The me that I am today is good enough and worthy of being loved and as I continue to change and grow into the person I was intended to be, that will become even more true.

   The part of my journey into centering love in my life that I currently find myself on is the most difficult yet for me. I have begun to show love towards myself and compassion towards anyone in my life but I could not have prepared for finding out that I was incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of being loved. This is a feeling I can look back and realize I've spent most of my life feeling, even though I wasn't aware of it. The vulnerability that comes with opening your heart and allowing someone else to enter was not something I was ready to face, especially at what seemed to be a climaxing point in my 20s. I am still working on this every day and I don't think I'll ever fully be comfortable with being the object of someone else's affection, just as I don't believe I'll ever love every aspect of myself. Expecting to go from feeling nothing towards myself and the world to radiating love towards everything and everyone makes no sense. That should not stop you or me from striving for a life where that is possible though, as none of us really know what the future has in store for us. I would like to believe that once I reach my thirties I will be at a point where the things that I will continue to dislike about myself don't matter anymore. After all, I don't have to love every aspect of myself to be happy, I simply need to be content with the person that I am. By pushing myself and pursuing love in my life, I have started to feel love from others for the first genuine time, platonically and romantically. Moving forward in my life, I have no expectations set for the love I am meant to receive and will instead let it flow organically and enjoy being surrounded by the warmth of those who love me. I used to have a very specific picture of what "love" was in my head and if I could, I would go back in time and slap some sense into myself. Expectations lead to disappointments, which leads to fear then more expectations based on that fear; a vicious cycle I found myself in. I still get scared sometimes when I allow myself to be open with the love I feel for those in my life, but every time I feel my skin brush up against another's accidentally and I'm not met with embarrassment but instead joy and thankfulness for having them in my life, I realize it's all worth it to push forward.

   Loving others, loving yourself, and feeling loved; as I continue down the path of love, I'm faced with the realization that all three of these are interconnected. As you begin to feel more love for yourself, you begin to radiate more love. As you begin to feel more comfortable receiving affection, giving it will become second nature. It is imperative that as humans we begin to revolve our lives around love. The only way we will be able to continue our existence long-term is if we prioritize showing love and patience to all souls we meet. Of course, it goes without saying that this same compassion does not extend to people who have done irredeemably evil things, but a majority of the people we pass by every day are just like both of us. Next time you notice your mind slipping and you begin to think cruel things towards yourself or others, stop yourself. Remember that the only thing that will ever get you anywhere is love and kindness and, to repeat what I was constantly told as a child, treat others and yourself the way you want to be treated. Love has always existed and it is kept alive by every kiss a mother lays on her daughter's forehead before bed, by someone holding the door open for a stranger, by a friend saying "No, don't worry, I got it!" when their friend forgets their card, by a cat licking her kitten's wounds after a particularly violent wrestling session with his brothers, by a mother carrying her tired son on her back, by every smile exchanged as you walk down any street, and it will persist forever.