We are meant to love. We were MADE to love each other. Our body’s chemistry, biological makeup, hard wiring, is intently designed with the purpose of finding a partner and nurturing a family. Chemicals are released in our brain when we are happy and receiving affection. It further encourages and enforces the relationships that color our lives. Love is everywhere. The process of loving is more complicated though. And the experience of loving and caring and viewing the world is so vastly different depending on who you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. For the anxious, the weary, the depressed, the fighters and the ones who’ve seen and feel too much, falling in love with people and life itself is constantly a double edged sword. This is for them. An open letter. This is for me.

To you, you know who you are:

You wake up. Feet hit the ground. Day is off to a good start. Coffee was killer this morning, favorite socks out of the wash, and Pandora was even playing all your jams. You sing along with the windows down. Singing is always a good sign. Today will be the day, you say. Today I’m going to protect my heart. I won’t let darkness bring me down and paralyze me. Intentions are good. Deep breaths are better.

Except you weren’t ready. You weren’t ready to see the homeless man begging outside of your favorite breakfast place. You are completely caught off guard, unarmored and unprepared. Do I want to pay an extra dollar fifty for my favorite honey cream cheese? How could I? How could I possibly spend extra money on myself when someone just feet away has absolutely nothing? Guilt. Sadness. Anxiety. You feel it all. This will stay with you all day. And all it took was a 10 second encounter with someone you don’t even know.

Intentions are everything. Today I intend to have a good day and spread joy. Intentions are also nothing. That boy didn’t intend to hurt you when he was out with another girl, he says. But it still hurts. This is why intentions aren’t enough. There must be substance to back it up. You know this. You know you can’t just intend to protect your heart, you actually have to do it. But how? How do you shield yourself from further pain without changing your entire personality, and abandoning your gifts? Everything that makes you great is also what brings you the most pain. Many sleepless nights have been spent wondering why it must be like this.

But it must be like this. And I have to tell you why because good gracious, everyone will try to tell you to change. And you can’t change. Because the second you lose your empathy is the second this world becomes a shade darker. The minute you decide that you feel too much is the minute you are closer to feeling nothing at all. The instant a part of you gives up, the world loses someone who has spent their whole life fighting to keep the ‘human’ in humanity. We cannot afford that.

I’ve been told I’m similar to a puppy. Literally, all joking aside. My friends and I laugh about it, but the accuracy is actually quite frightening. I have an excited personality and my first instinct is to blindly love everyone and anyone I meet. I give away my trust and compassion like it’s all I know to do. And really, it is all I know how to do. After what I’ve been through, how could I not? A big fear is someone feeling the same pain that I have. A bigger fear is being the reason for that pain.

It’s kind of like a tsunami. Being a person who feels everything on such a deep level. One minute, you’re sitting on the beach, the sky is clear, and everything is good. The next moment, everything changes and you’re gasping for air.

But hear this: if you don’t connect with anything else in this open letter of sorts, please hear this. I’ve had some very smart people explain to me the difference between sympathy and empathy. Empathy is seeing your pal drowning in the ocean, and jumping off the dock to be with them, in the thick of things. Sympathy is seeing your friend drowning, keeping one foot planted firmly on the dock, and reaching out to pull them in. I can’t completely change myself on this matter, nor do I want to, as it enables me to connect with people in such a rewarding way. But reminding myself to be more sympathetic instead of empathetic? That is possible and reasonable. And it is the key for us.

The first thing I notice about someone is their eyes. Eyes tell so much and they’re beautiful. I fall in love with people’s eyes. That being said, my own eyes give me away every time. I’m told they’re more gray when I’m upset, blue when I’m sad, and green when I’m excited. When someone looks into your eyes, what do you want them to see? Do you want them to see the hurt of the world that you have placed upon your own heart, or do you want your God given qualities to shine through, undisturbed?

The moments you fall in love with life are the moments you want to hold close. You cannot hold the good times close if the bad times are taking up too much room. So that boy that led you on? That girl that’s gossiping about you? That authority figure who’s approval you just can’t seem to get? Sucks for them. Because their time weighing you down has officially come to an end.

Only someone who has lost it all can know what it means to give it all. Only when the world has tested your limits and shown you how low you can really get do you have the capacity to achieve great things. Anxiety and depression are heavy anchors to carry but even when your chest is weighed down and your mind is running in circles, you must remember you were created for a purpose.

And I don’t care if I have to remind you of it everyday. Because I sure as hell am reminding myself. You have a purpose. You’re worth it. Don’t lose your empathy.

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