Yesterday, my brother Gus left the sleepy town of Barrington, Illinois for his first day of freshman year at the University of Southern California. I make an effort to tell Gus how proud I am of him as often as I can– he never ceases to amaze me with his tenacity and grit. But yesterday, I saw a whole new side of the brother I have known for eighteen years.
Yesterday, at 6 PM Pacific Standard time, Gus’s high school sweetheart, Kelly, posted a link to this video on her Facebook page, with the caption: “Thank you for making me feel like the luckiest person alive. USC got a good one. I love you forever and always Gus Goetze.“
And if the comments on Kelly’s post are any indication, it would seem that a large contingent of the viewing audience had a similar reaction:
And my personal favorite:
Aside from how good all of the food looked, I believe there’s a reason we all couldn’t help but jerk a tear (bawl our eyes out) at Gus’s video; a reason beyond that a profound chapter in a beautiful relationship was coming to an end, and beyond the profundity of that chapter. I was surprised at how many people after seeing the video asked if Gus and Kelly were “breaking up.” To me, it seemed fairly obvious that they were. But I can understand why “breaking up” such an apparently beautiful relationship would be difficult to imagine, much less accept wholeheartedly. They love each other, so why are they letting the good thing go?
Love can be a daunting and confusing thing. Love puts its owner in an incomparably vulnerable position. When combined with insecurity, love breeds possessiveness, jealousy, and distrust. Such impure encounters with love can leave a victim with a guarded bitterness on their tongue, a bitterness with a sorry inclination to linger. Trying to love another before loving oneself is like trying to build a house with no foundation– it will be fragile assembly of bricks and beams, and collapse at the slightest wink of the wind.
Some of us shy away from love. We keep our hearts guarded and put up deep walls that keep the deeper things out. We stick with the knock-off versions we find in convenient swipes, bland first dates, and proximity friendships. We settle with this for now and convince ourselves that butterflies and fireworks don’t exist because we haven’t felt that way since Kindergarten, so what’s the point?
And it is dangerous to want to be loved. To want to be loved is to want the feeling, not the person. To want the bedside warmth beside you but not care about whose soul emanates the heat. To want to be loved is to want to feel that somebody somewhere wants to protect us and cuddle us and hold our hand, but not mind who or where they are. And that most selfish thing, that is the opposite of love.
Love is not something received. It is something given.
To love is to feel from the top of your head to the tips of your toes that you want to be there for and with another person. To love is to want to hold their hand throughout life, through the good times and the bad times and the boring and the fun times. To love is to want to be their rock, to want to be their friend, to want to hold them and tell them that everything is going to be okay. To love is to want to celebrate their successes and push them further in their growth. To love is to want to support, not to want to depend.
GIVING. That is love.
But we are the lost ones. We believe that love is something received, and we want so badly to receive it. So we sit around, eager to feast upon the fruits of another’s heart’s labor, twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the love of a somebody somewhere to come around the corner and wash over us like waterfalls. And all the while, we await a downpour that will never come.
Gus and Kelly loved each other. Thanks to Gus’s artistic talent and Gus and Kelly’s mutual willingness to share their beautiful story, the world has the privilege of seeing that now.
We the lost ones didn’t cry because it was a good thing ended. We cried because we saw that it’s precisely because they loved each other that they let each other go– to give each other the lives, the freedom, the fresh start they deserved. We cried at Gus’s video because we saw the sacrifice, born out of a wisdom and maturity far beyond their years, to let the other bloom even if it means allowing themselves to fade into polaroid memory pinned on the other’s heart.
We cried because we saw what love is, and it’s nothing like what we thought. Now, we want to want to give. We just need somebody to make us want it.