Don’t lose sight of life

by Steven Snyder

Ask anyone about love, and you’re in for a long story. As much as we pretend to be above it, love is still the one thing that drives us, changes us and creates our most potent memories. A few days ago, as I asked people about the love they’ve felt through their lives, I was surprised by the intricate memories they recalled – memories about first crushes, first kisses, first dates and first heartbreaks. It’s a human truth: We live to love.

And as I sat down to write this column, it was not Iraq, taxes or reality TV that filled my mind, but love. Almost everything I know about love has been thanks to one beautiful person. And recently, through my short-sightedness and boyish stupidity, I lost that love perhaps forever.

It’s not something I take lightly, and this column is not my self-serving attempt at self-pity. I merely want to use this space to talk about something that so often goes unaddressed on these opinions pages – what really affects our lives and our happiness.

Oh sure, the prospect of war with Iraq is frightening and a possible tuition increase will create additional hardships for working students. But when you really come down to it, what matters more: love or money? It is the debate that has nagged poets and playwrights for centuries. I will not pretend to know the answer.

What I do know is that this is tearing me up inside. I care about someone who does not feel the same for me. And, honestly, I don’t care about anything else right now. President George W. Bush vs. Saddam Hussein, who cares? Tax increases, so what? In some of my classes, we learn about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For me, it all starts with love.

I have started wondering whether my perception of love is flawed to begin with. I believe in finding someone to care about and in sharing something meaningful. But going to bars and clubs and parties, it’s obvious that others feel differently. They want something fun and frivolous. They want to date around. Maybe they’ve seen something that I haven’t.

So, what’s the right answer? What is love in college supposed to be? I talk to so many different girls and almost all are involved with someone. It seems like people genuinely want to be in relationships that matter. But then again, so many others are intimidated and, honestly, freaked out by a guy who wants something consistent.

I’ve also found myself plagued by the bigger life questions. I’m sure you’ve heard them before. If something’s meant to be, will it be? Or, do we need to put effort in to get something out? If we love someone, does that mean we never need to work at it? Or, after a while, do issues other than love enter the equation? Is there one person out there for each of us? Are we capable of genuinely loving several people throughout our lives? Does love at first sight actually exist?

I admire a movie called “Waking Life” because it presents dozens of opinions regarding the meaning of existence. There are scientists, theologians, prison inmates, teenagers, senior citizens, drug addicts and characters from every other imaginable walk of life. The film portrays all the things we never have time to discuss during our busy lives. Sure, “Joe Millionaire” was a hoot, Bush mispronounced some words yesterday and classes always suck, but where are our talks about life and happiness? When was the last time you talked with a good friend about love or the meaning of life?

My thoughts here might seem random and unconnected, but if you look closer you’ll see what I’m trying to do – give you a sense of perspective. I’m a politically minded person. I’ve written about Iraq and the University before. But, honestly, on our deathbeds, it won’t matter.

What will matter is the kind of person you were. What kind of life you led. Who you loved and who loved you. In my case, I too often got caught up in current events and directed my energy toward things that, in retrospect, were foolish. And I’m here to tell you: It’s not worth it. Slow down, take a deep breath, ask questions and really live.

Take this as a cautionary tale if you like. If you value the wrong things, you’ll lose those people that matter to you most. Go out of your way to show your love. Tell those who matter what they mean to you. Talk to your friends about more than just TV and current events.

This column will no doubt touch those who are experiencing a similar change in their lives – those who are in love, are losing love or are falling in love for the first time. To you I say congratulations. Good or bad, you’re living life, you’re growing as a person and you’ll never be the same.

And, just like me, you probably don’t give a damn about Iraq right now.

Steve Snyder’s biweekly column appears alternate Wednesdays. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]