My heart breaks for the home I leave in Athens, yearns for the adventure towards which I drive, and aches to have someone with which to share it.
It knows I have a future of hope and prosperity, it knows I have the perfect partner, but it longs for the day to come when it has a partner in adventure, growth, and love.
Does that make me a hopeless romantic? Probably. It definitely makes me sound like a stereotypical girl.
I am one—a girl I mean. A young woman whose dearest friends are married. A young woman who has more wedding invitations than coupons on her fridge. A young woman who has adventure in her heart, love in her eyes, and a sliver of fear at being alone.
What does the phrase “hopeless romantic” even mean, anyway? I find most romantics I meet are quite hopeful. Think about it: in any situation, any life circumstance, your standard “hopeless romantic” can always find a silver lining, a glimmer of hope, something to cling to that pushes them forward. In fact, they are consistently some of the most hope-full people I have met. Whatever their situation, whether they are dating, married, brokenhearted, single, they always have their eyes set on the stars with full expectations of a shining future. Doesn’t sound hopeless to me.
From the other side, the side of those who call them “hopeless,” they are seen as without hope for change. “Hopeless romantics” will always be romantics; it is hopeless to try to change their minds. Please note, however, that it is often hopeless to change anyone’s mind. That is theirs to think with as they please—sometimes to the chagrin of others. As a (sometimes) realist I can see how romantics are frustrating: their hearts are ever on their sleeve, subject to whatever thorn, bug, rain, sun, wind, ice, or heat harms it. The thing about these “hopeless romantics” is that the heart never becomes calloused: it remains fleshy, tender, and often bleeding.
Realists, cynics, skeptics, and so forth see that torn heart and resolve to keep theirs firmly in their chest, where it is surrounded by a cage of bone and muscle: toughened by the hard times, maintained—but likely not softened—by the good times.
Romantics, without a doubt, experience more pain: their intense desire for love is often met with intense disappointment. They long for the perfect love stories—hard to find in an imperfect world. Realists, cynics, skeptics keep their eyes set on the imperfect world, knowing they are a citizen of it, knowing that the statistical chance of a perfect love story in an imperfect world is very, very small.
Who has it better? Who is right? I ask myself these questions all too often (I am often on the fence between being a realist and a romantic). The realist in me sees heartbroken friends, whose hearts are smeared on their sleeves. The romantic in me sees hardened friends, whose hearts are caged quite securely, rarely seen by anyone, even those they seemingly trust. All too often, the realist in me finds my romantic heart reaching through the intercostal spaces, pressing itself toward the world full of hurt and hopeful romance.
How do I keep it in? How do I deny it the small chance to find that love? How do I keep it inside, keep it safe, keep it whole, keep it unscathed? Better question: who am I—realist self—to deny it a chance to strive toward perfection? Am I not a believer in a perfect God? Do I not know that I am called toward a perfect life? Doesn’t that include a quest toward perfect love? Could my hopeful romantic self be right?
Surely not. A romantic’s life is full of disappointment: why run headlong into something you know will cause pain? It seems illogical, especially when this pain can be avoided. It is a much better idea to leave my heart inside my ribcage, where it has a unique system surrounding it, designed to keep it safe.
But. Everyone knows what happens when a living thing is kept out of the sun, away from the light and the fresh air. It fades, withers, and crumples. Even the realist in me does not desire that for my own heart. Even the realist in me admits that there isa chance, albeit a small one, that the hopeful romantic in me is right.
And guess what? I’m also a risk taker. I’m already taking a risk on a field job when I could have found a perfectly stable job in perfectly stable Athens. I’m taking a risk writing things like this, admitting I long for that elusive “love,” admitting I don’t have it all together, don’t know on which side of the debate I am.
While I’m at it, I might as well take a risk and open my ribcage and let my heart have what it wants: sunshine and an adventure towards that tiny chance of perfect love.
I can always say “I told you so.”
To which I’ll respond, “Life’s not over yet, I’m a hope-full romantic, remember?”