From our first months as freshmen until our last days before senior week, the literature we read at school continually reinforces the misconception that love is pain. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester goes blind from his love for Jane. In The Great Gatsby, Jay dies for loving Daisy. And in Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers commit suicide. These epic loves always seem to end in tragedy.
Writer and TED speaker Mandy Len Catron says love doesn’t have to be this way. In her 14-minute talk in Vancouver, she debunks the belief that for love to be real, it must somehow be hurtful. She blames this fiction on the metaphors we use to describe being in love: “smitten,” “mad,” or “burning with passion.” These common expressions make love seem like a destructive force that we can’t hope to control. But true love doesn’t have to be like that.
In Ms. Catron’s words, love is collaborative art that must be constantly created and recreated by both parties; in strong relationships, each person trusts the other to keep creating. To sustain love, then, people in relationships should stop thinking about what they need from their partner and instead think about what they have to offer. In this way, they trust each other to give them what they need.
What does all this have to do with us? We are merely high schoolers. Well, often times when we read or hear “love” stories, we identify with the characters and convince ourselves that our lives must play out similarly. But just because Allie and Noah from The Notebook live in years of pain before being reunited doesn’t mean we must. Sure, one may paint like Allie or may have a beard like Noah, but that doesn’t mean their love stories will follow the same path. In the real world, it’s okay if students date and break up. It’s okay if they date a series of people during their high school years. It’s okay if they don’t date anyone. Despite what we’ve been taught, love doesn’t have to be forever, and it doesn’t have to be heart-wrenching. If we make art well with one another, why change? But if the art is beginning to look distorted, we don’t need to keep trying to turn it into something. In Ms. Catron’s words, “the goal is to keep creating—and co-creating—our own love stories.”