Oberlin Blogs

To Be Loved

September 9, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

"I'm telling you this for one reason and one reason only: No matter how sure you are of someone's love, it's always nice to hear it." ~ Mike Gayle

For the past seven days, I have been swimming in an overflowing river of praise and love that has made this the sweetest swim to date. Quite unexpectedly, people who matter the most to me have collectively added to the expansion of this river by adding their own honest feelings on how they value me in one way or another. Let me point out here that I am a sucker for flattery so the smallest of compliments can have me beaming but it is the thoughtful and sincere ones that I never forget.

In lieu of my signature quote parade, I turned to my New Oxford American Dictionary for ways to contextualize all the happy I had going on. I have since concluded that I am experiencing a large manifestation of love that is actually a daily experience for me that is highlighted by the many people who invest in me, reciprocate time and effort and choose to grow with me.

Interest: [noun] the state of wanting to know or learn about something or someone.

Want to know something that amazes me? People are interested in me as a person and I still have not gotten used to that. When people ask me about my Mellon research, what my post-graduate plans are or what my perspective is on current events or how I seemingly integrate my social science majors into daily life all the way down to what motivates me to be who I am... I am in awe. Honestly. I get really excited when people ask for invitations into my personhood rather than leave their judgements at my door. The fact that someone took time out of their day to think, "Hey, Alex is pretty great so let me get to know some part of her" it means a lot.

Support: [verb with obj.] to give approval, comfort or encouragement to; to be actively interested in and concerned for the success of something.

All my posts have some element of discussing support and its different presentations. One thing I have noticed about myself is the versatility of support that I ask for from those closest to me. I have point people for everything and they hold me down so well (s/o to y'all). I earnestly try to be there for my team as best as I can and to make sure that they feel validated, loved and like someone is always in their corner. I invest in those who invest in me and when we take steps back to see how far our mutual investment has come is incredibly humbling to see someone grow that you really care about.

Encouragement: [noun] the act of trying to stimulate the development of an activity, state or belief; the action of giving someone support, confidence or hope.

"You go girl!" was the catch phrase Martin always yelled at Gina that caused her face to light up. In three small words, her biggest cheerleader (who was damn good at his job) supported everything Gina set out to do and let her know to be fearless and to own it. I owe my cheer squad trillions of thank yous for sticking with me through everything. They let me be nervous and scared to pursue my goals for such a limited amount of time that I cannot even remember what it feels like to not make steps towards achieving what I set out to do. My team believes in me and the work that I do which is incredibly reassuring. I owe my confidence to the many people who have worked to solidify it with me as I have grown.

Belief: [noun] an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists; something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.

What does it mean for someone to believe in you? Does it place a weight on you to live up to their expectations or does it fuel your authenticity? What are your convictions? Why do you accept what you understand to be true? Are you willing to challenge those truths? I certainly do not have all the answers but what I have discovered is that the people who have asked me these questions and challenged me to find answers are the ones who have stayed with me the longest. The question of investment we have in each other is always answered with certainty. We pour into each other thoughtfulness, self-awareness and nuanced perspectives of our own positionalities.

Affirm: [verb with obj.] to offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement.

The broader point of this post is to consider all the ways in which I am affirmed (and of course to acknowledge all of that!). If I wrote all the ways and people who have affirmed me in their own special way, there would be no more paper in the world. From the smallest of compliments saying that my nail polish beautifully matches my chain (look at me color coordinating like I ought to) to the deeper and more significant you inspire me and make a difference in my life, I get affirmed a lot. In retrospect, there should never be a day where I do not feel validated and worthy because so many people take the time out to make me feel that way. I cherish that deeply and I give that out to others as well. For the person currently reading this, you are a great person who matters. Remember that!

Love: [noun] an intense feeling of deep affection; affectionate greetings conveyed to someone on one's behalf.

It is no coincidence for me to end this post where it started--reflecting on all the love that constantly engulfs me. I am incredibly blessed to be surrounded by so much appreciation, support and encouragement for the work that I do. Whether it be my research interests, personal things that I take on or whatever it may be I have the good fortune to find the kind of support I need or ask for. I love my family, my friends and my support team for consistently holding me down. The relationships we have with each other are deeply affectionate and traverse space and time. So what does it mean to be loved? Personally, to be loved is to recognize all the ways in which I am loved and to put all that love right back out there for some other folks too.

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