Over the past few months, I’ve been experiencing an increase of loneliness and depression, both emotionally and physically. This being so, it’s led me to think an awful lot about what love is and what it means to love, as well as what it means to be in love. It’s a vast concept, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

One of my favorite pastimes is people-watching. It’s interesting being able to watch people go about their own lives, writing their personal stories with every step they take and every interaction they have. It was here that I started noticing love in action.

For about six months or so, I was working my first job at Whataburger (a Texan burger restaurant chain). I started working off as a cashier, so I got used to seeing a lot of people of all variations. Young and old, short and tall, thin and thick and so on. However, there was one couple in particular who I remember still. They were a very elderly duo, late 70s if not older. Every day at five in the afternoon (punctuality was their specialty) they would come in, sit in the same booth and order the exact same meal.

Every day I came into work, they would arrive without fail. They were the definition of what it meant to have a good relationship. From what the other employees told me, they met when they were in their 20s, soon after got married, and they’ve been together ever since. I feel like those two are the definition of what it means to be in love. To be so captivated by your partner that you want to do nothing more than just spend the rest of your life with them, even if that meant going to the same restaurant and ordering the same meal; because no two meals together were the same, they would always have something to talk about, regardless of spending a majority of their time together. They made every day special, you could see it in their eyes. It was beautiful.

I also got to see my first girlfriend fall in love with someone else over social media. It was strange. I had dated my first girlfriend, Lucy, for a little bit over two years. She was my first everything. Yet as fate would have it, we had a falling out. Our relationship did not really end on the best of terms and we resented each other for a very long time. I don’t know how she feels about me now, though I have seen her pop up on my feed at random points throughout my life. At first it started off with vague statuses about her meeting people and flirting with them. When I first began taking notice, I was still bitter so I was not bothered. As time went on, however, I began seeing an occurrence of one specific guy, which I assumed was her new boyfriend. That was when it started bothering me a bit. It was such a strange thing, just a few months ago I had punched a hole in my wall because I could no longer stand her and now here I was lying on my bed going through her feed, jealousy arising quietly within me. Over the next few weeks I had begun keeping an eye on her postings, only to see this boy pop up more and more. She posted about the dates they went on. About places we had gone to, doing things we used to. It was so strange to feel this way. I saw her fall in love with someone else and I was here. It wasn’t until I started talking to someone dear to me where I began to realize that she had moved on and now it was my turn. There was no point in looking back at what could have been. Ironically, soon after, BuzzFeed posted an article about it and that helped me understand that I was worthy of being loved and I was worthy of finding new love.

One final matter I wanted to share was what I believe love to be after 18 years of experience. Inspired by my muse, I want to tell you what I have learned about what it means to love and to be in love.

To love is to put someone else before yourself. When you love someone, when you are truly lost within love, you begin to lose a certain aspect of oneself. I don’t mean that you are no longer an individual, but rather, you are no longer all about yourself. You are all about that one person. You are no longer as self-absorbed; you are invested in that person. To be in love means to appreciate one another, where every single day you get to just see them grow and develop and you fall more in love with them because daily they are becoming who they were meant to be. To be in love means to be romantic. I mean seriously guys, chivalry is not dead and neither is romance. If you truly love someone then you go above and beyond to do things for them. Even little things, little reminders for her to know that she is still the apple of your eye. To be in love means to be equal with your partner, you see eye to eye. There is no “you are too good for me” or “I’m not worthy of you” situation going on. You are able to be two independent people who come together and learn to depend on one another. To be in love with someone means you can be yourself in your purest form. You can be the person you are with your family or with your closet friends. You don’t have to mask yourself or hide certain parts of your personality away. When you’re in love your partner becomes the perfect standard for what beauty is; all their attributes are what you look for, only to realize that no one can compare to them. Even though I’m only 18, love has taught me a lot about itself and its character, and I hope to one day pass this on to someone else.