Last week I was on my way to NYC for an Odyssey convention and platform release when I befriend an older man on the bus named Joe. Believe it or not, it was my very first time in New York even though I was born and raised right in Atlantic City, only a couple of hours away. I was minimally nervous about going somewhere I had never been before, all by myself, while having to navigate through basically the busiest city in America, but was excited to take on the adventure as well. Joe, my newfound bus friend, helped me figure out where to go, how to get there, and the safest and cheapest routes possible…he was my hero of the day, but oh so much more than I even realized at the time.

New York was amazing and I had an extraordinary time seeing new places, meeting new people, and eating some of the best food I've ever had to this day. I made it through the city on my own with little complications and when the day was over I was ready to get back to my bed and pass out immediately. While sitting on the bus for the trip back to Atlantic City, coincidentally, Joe sat down right next to me and was beyond anxious to hear about my day. I told him everything and heard his day as well and, before I even knew it, we were basically exchanging life stories with each other. I discovered that Joe was 67 years old and had four kids and a wife he loved dearly and was married to for 36 years. He was retired and used to move around America working for an environmental firm that he was extremely passionate about. Joe was full of all sorts of life advice that he was willing and eager to share with me like to live it up in college and to never bet too much money gambling. The one piece of advice that stuck with me though, was about his life long love and marriage.

I am a 21-year-old girl in college and, trust me, I have my fair share of fun, but I can't help but to think about my future, especially future relationships that will come about, alter, or go away with time. Joe told me that the most important attributes any successful relationship can have is communication, honesty, and, to my surprise, friendship. Obviously we have all heard that prosperous relationships require honesty and communication, but when he mentioned friendship I asked him to explain what he meant:

“Imagine being with someone for the rest of your life who compliments everything you have to offer…. who you can be your complete and total self around every day, all day, day after day without the fear of them not loving you anymore. Being with someone who makes you smile and fills your day with laughter. Clearly there will be bad days and there will be days where you slightly want to murder them, but that’s what makes a relationship grow. When you marry your best friend you aren’t ‘making a commitment to them,’ you are simply choosing to be with someone every day for the rest of your life that ultimately becomes a part of you. And the best part is that when they become a part of you, odds are it will be the best, and your most favorite, part of yourself.”

When he finished his explanation I was slapped in the face with an epiphany it took me 21 years to become conscious of. You can love a person, in fact, you can love a lot of people, but there is a distinct difference between loving someone and lusting someone; a difference that is so discrete that I think sometimes we forget that love and lust are not nearly the same thing. Of course the confusing part of it all is that, although different, they both have a lot in common too. In order to feel love or lust there needs to be a level of attraction and magnetism toward the other person. They both require levels of commitment and they both (usually) end in attachment. When I say the word “lust” I am not strictly referring to sexual desire or attraction- to lust is to crave and you can crave any and all different parts of a human. You can crave their presence in any way shape or form that it comes in. You can crave their thoughts and their mind and their words. You can crave their scent, their warmth, the sound of their voice, and the overwhelming exuberance they bring to you. Yes, to lust someone is gratifying, thrilling, and wonderful in whatever way it may happen, but to love someone is dangerously magnificent and beautifully everlasting.

Loving someone entails all the characteristics that lusting someone has, but offers so much more that I was unable to realize until a stranger on a bus made me open my eyes. First and foremost, love is a process that does not come quickly and grows with time…as people say: some of the best relationships come from years and years of friendship. Love requires a compassion and understanding that defeats all odds and overcomes all obstacles. A patience is necessary, but easily achieved when you do, in fact, love someone. A patience that remains calm and humble when all else is chaotic and is fierce and passionate when all else seems to go awry. Love enables the best parts of ourselves to be passed on to the other person, and in return we obtain their cherished qualities back into our being. Love diminishes wrongs and flaws to allow for unknown and different perspectives to be seen, felt, and understood…something lusting someone usually fails to do.

All in all, do not rush love. Be in the moment, take advantage of your lust, and in the end maybe it will turn into your lifelong journey with another person. If not, there is no wrong in that and there is no shame in that either. One day, maybe even tomorrow, you will stumble upon a person who makes you feel like no other and when that happens, fall in love with being in love.