When You Know, You Know
Raise your hand if, when you were a kid (or an adult!!!!), you found yourself asking the question, "How will I know when I'm truly in love?" (Or, something along those lines).
If you know me, you know I've been obsessed with love, weddings, marriage, and all that comes with it since I was a little girl. Just the other night, after going through some very embarrassing old emails, I came across some slideshows I sent to my best friends planning out their future weddings. I will spare you the gory, truly embarrassing details, but I've included some screen shots so you can get the idea of how invested I was in wedding planning. (Yes, these are very --- embarrassingly --- real).
These four screenshots can't even begin to scratch the surface of my early obsession with all things weddings and marriage. For me, MASH wasn't a fun game you played on road trips, it was as close to a fortune telling, prophetic, truth-machine as I could get my hands on. My hobbies included spending hours looking at wedding dresses on Kleinfeld's website. In a world before Pinterest, I was a queen of navigating wedding-related websites.
You can imagine that my obsessions didn't end with the wedding planning. I wanted to know everything about true love and relationships too. You can also imagine my frustration when confronted with the age-old, cliched response to my questions about how I'll know when true live is true love, "Oh sweetie, when you know --- you'll just know."
Here's what you need to know about me, I've always been a fairly practical romantic. Big imagination? Sure. But practical with my details? Absolutely (did you see those power points?).
I love to believe in fairy tales, but I sometimes have a hard time with the logistics of them. My brain questions everything, and if something doesn't make sense I will deconstruct it completely.
So when I heard this tiny, innocuous phrase, "When you know you know," my brain couldn't handle it. I couldn't wrap my mind around this response. Whether I was 8 or 18, hearing this infuriated me. It completely defied logic in my opinion, to a degree that I began to assume there was a massive conspiracy among youth-group leaders and anyone else who dared give me this idiotic reply.
I am so sorry if you've ever said this, just know it makes absolutely no sense.
Let's break it down. When I know... I'll know?
Imagine if, the next time a stranger asks you for directions to the nearest Publix, instead of giving them step-by-step directions, you just respond with, "Well, when you get to Publix, you'll be at Publix."
We would never dare give a response like this in any other setting, and yet I heard it about a million times to my bigger, more life-altering questions about what defines true love and a lasting marriage.
I didn't want to know that one day I would have a mystical moment of becoming an all-knowing forture-teller. I wanted to understand how and why and in what way people got there.
To be honest, it caused me a lot of anxiety for a period of time in my life. I've been dating my boyfriend, Erick, for 6 years now. But for a while in the beginning I was consumed with this question, how will I know if this will last forever?
Instead of enjoying Erick's company and our time together, I was crippled by my lack of certainty as I waited for the moment I would finally "know" one way or another. I had always been led to believe that this moment would come one day.
The thing is, the older I get, the more I realize no one really has any clue what they're talking about. We love cliches because they make bigger, harder to talk about concepts accessible for us. I think it's the same with this one.
At a certain point, I realized it wasn't necessarily a moment that would determine the longevity of my relationship, but continual moments of choice (a happy one, that I'm still making today and every day).
I think most people who are married or in committed relationships don't really know how they got to that decision. Sometimes people "know" and then things change or bad things happen and what was intended to last forever just doesn't. Sometimes people get sucked into relationships quickly and without much thought and it ends up lasting forever. Most people don't ask nearly as many questions about this as I tend to, and it all ends up okay anyways.
I spent a lot of time frustrated by this response and the massive anxiety it's caused me over the years. I've talked to my friends and family about it some too, and we have a lot of the same questions. What if you date someone for years and never have a mystical "knowing" moment? What if you feel like you "know" and the relationship ends anyways?
My point is, I really think we're all just doing the best we can (including the people who say "when you know, you'll know). I think it's easy to give that advice when you're looking back on your life and it's working out mostly okay, but harder when you're making difficult decisions or things seem more uncertain.
My favorite song is A Little Bit of Everything by Dawes. Click here to listen.
In this song, there's a verse that goes like this.
Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations, To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall, Her man says, "Baby, can I make an observation? You don't seem to be having any fun at all." She said, "You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size, And rest assured that this is making me feel good, I think that love is so much easier than you realize, If you can give yourself to someone, Then you should.
That last part has always stuck with me. I think that's kind of what people really mean when they say "When you know, you know." At least, it's a philosophy I'd rather adopt into my own life. Instead of waiting for a moment in time, choosing to give love as freely and openly as you possibly can, for as long as you possibly can. Of course it's more terrifying that way, without the certainty of a revelation, but I think that's the point of loving at all. It's about risk, and opening yourself up to the possibility of pain anyways.
I'm only 23, and I don't have this all figured out by any means. But if you're 8, or 18, and reading this, I hope it soothes you a little more than a certain other response I've covered aggressively in this post.
So today, wherever and whoever you are, if you can give yourself to someone, then I think that you should.
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