Every once in a while, more than I want, I sit alone in my room with dread — not because I’m tired from getting four hours of sleep the previous night or because I’m stressed from my 10 unwatched lectures that I promised myself I would get through by the end of the day. Quite the opposite actually. Because I spent the day before with my friends. Sitting next to them trying to do homework, but instead talking the entire time. Because I felt wanted. Because with my friends, I feel loved and without them, I feel lost. And sitting alone in my room I realize how much I hate myself for needing that love. How much I desperately crave that feeling of being loved. And how much I am willing to do to experience that love.
When I was younger, the thought of love made me uncomfortable. My mother would tell me multiple times a day that she loved me and I would sit there silently, frozen. Every time I heard the three words, it felt like the first time. But not in the way of my heart filling with joy because no one has ever said it to me, but in the slightly cringe and not-knowing-what-to-say way, where I would just pretend I didn’t hear what she said, so I wouldn’t be required to say it back. The idea of being loved always made me uncomfortable.
Later, I’d see my friends in relationships, deeply in love, and I’d never understood the big deal of it all. How their happiness was so dependent on a random boy from their math class. How they’d be so upset every time they were in a fight with this random boy to the point it became all they could think about. It consumed them to a point where their well-being was dependent on this boy’s love for them and how strong that love was. They wouldn’t eat or sleep anytime they questioned his love for them, which was most of the time. Even when the relationship was in a good place, they worried about the possibility of him not loving them anymore, leading to nightmares or constant worrying. They’d want to spend every waking hour with this boy. They’d miss him after not seeing him for just a day and would prioritize their love over everything in their life, losing themselves in him.
I always saw my friends go through this and despised it. Not because I was sad they were no longer spending much time with me or because I was jealous and wanted a relationship of my own, but because I hated the thought of them losing control over their own lives, where their lives were dictated by whether or not they were loved. I was proud of myself for not caring about that stuff and not relying on love to survive. My friend group was not the type to show love for each other; while we may have loved each other, we never showed it. We strayed away from being vulnerable or showing emotion to each other. So the feeling of being loved was not something I was used to, and I didn’t want it to be. Being loved by my family was different. It felt required, a bond created by blood and that’s it. I had no way of knowing that they’d love me if I wasn’t their daughter and simply just someone they knew. But as I got older and became friends with other people, the love was sort of forced onto me.
The girl in my history class quickly became my best friend and at the time I hated it because slowly I got used to the idea of being loved by my friend. To the point that I started to like it. Where I’d smile every time she gifted me something I really wanted but never told anyone because it meant she knew me, better than anyone else. Where I’d feel cared about every time she sent her routine check-in text whenever I was somewhat distant. Where I’d get excited she had shown up to my dance performance an hour away with her family just to see me on stage for a two-minute performance. I got used to it to the point where I’d be sad the entire day at school when she wasn’t there. To the point where after a hard day, I want to call her and only her instead of just wallowing in secret, something I have done my whole life. To the point where the thought of losing her as a friend and losing her love makes me cry just thinking about it.
Through her love and a couple others, I realized how much I crave it. Now the thought of no longer being loved by anyone scares me, even though I had gotten so used to the idea as a kid. And now, I’m mad at myself for having to rely on other people to be happy — where I slowly give up parts of myself to fit into what the people around me want or do things I am uncomfortable with, all so I don’t lose their love.
And I’m embarrassed to admit how badly I want to be loved. I want unconditional love and acceptance. I want to be loved so badly that they miss me after not seeing me that day. I want to be the person they call after a bad day or right after anything good happens. And I want to be the person they call home and can’t live without.
MiC Columnist Roshni Mohan can be reached at email@example.com.