By: Michelle Wong
I never thought I’d ever be writing a paper on love in college. Just to be clear, I’m not the sort of person who lives with her head in the clouds, dreaming about rainbows, puppies, and unicorns. I’m a STEM major, for crying out loud. The last thing I expected out of my college writing class was to acquire insights that were actually applicable and relevant in my life. I mean, you can only learn so much when you’re churning out paper after paper on stuff that only lonely old guys have the time and mental capacity to write about, right? And who else has time to think about the incredibly abstract topic of happiness anyway? I was wrong, to say the least.
As the quarter progressed, Natalie, my instructor for the course, infused some of her own life lessons around the readings and challenged me to rethink how I was approaching different parts of my life. The two things that stuck out to me the most were 1) the concept of approaching situations with love versus fear, and 2) resistance. Early on in the course, Natalie said something that stuck with me: “You can either come from a place of love or a place of fear.” True science major that I was, I thought this was completely “woo-woo” at first. But as I thought more about it, I realized this was true. We can either work hard at our jobs or studies because we love the process of learning or because we fear failing or getting fired. We can eat healthily because we love nourishing our bodies, or because we fear being judged for being overweight. For each of these cases, our experiences differ greatly depending our approach to them. With fear, we will often find ourselves facing a ton of resistance and stress. (Resistance, in a nutshell, is basically self-sabotage that arises when we are reaching towards any goal. There’s probably an article on this website about it that I can’t find at the moment. In any case, read it.) The process becomes arduous, and we often fail at overcoming resistance because of fear. However, if we choose to love our situations, we will be able to recognize this resistance and simply move past it. This is because the very nature of love is patient, enduring, and joyful. It allows us to channel our pain and frustration with any situation towards conquering resistance.
In fact, I was able to apply these concepts to the process of writing my final paper for this class. Since the topic dealt with suffering and happiness, I decided to apply my newfound understanding by arguing that we should approach suffering with love rather than fearing it. I was definitely met with a lot of resistance. This paper was perhaps the most difficult thing I ever had to write, as it dealt with abstract concepts such as love, fear, hope, and joy. Sometimes, my resistance had me thinking that all I was writing was BS and that I would never make a coherent argument. I even confused myself with my own reasoning at times. But I chose to love the process. I loved this new, important realization, and felt the conviction and passion behind it. And because I approached this task with love, my frustration gave way to better writing and more profound ideas. And at the end, I finally had a paper that I was proud of and that carried a lot of weight and meaning for me.
You may call me that naïve girl who knows nothing about suffering and only thinks about love. You can even call me that girl that dreams about rainbows and puppies. (But never cats. Please no cats.) But I think you should try embracing this love versus fear philosophy. Choose to plunge yourself fully into facing your trials, knowing that you will come out a better person. Going though pain of any kind tends to improve us if we conquer it. It may sound weird at first, but I promise that as your awareness of this truth increases, the way that you look at your trials will be different. And as a result, you’ll be a lot more joyful and productive, and a lot more prepared for what trials may come your way.
(Note: At the time of writing this reflection, I had absolutely no idea that Natalie already had written an article on WHIL about this topic, but now that I’ve read it, I’d encourage you to go and read her insights.)