On the subway this past Friday, a disheveled man who looked like he hadn’t slept indoors in a while turned to me and said, “It is my job to find the one that I love.” Then he continued his rant about how many push-ups and pull-ups he does daily, using the train’s metal poles to demonstrate. I mustered a polite smile, in accordance with one of New York’s many subway etiquette guidelines (along with “let people off before you get on” and “if you see something, say something”). But it was hard to smile, because his words struck a nerve with me.

I have made it my mission to be loved, and it is slowly tearing me apart. Yes, my family loves me, and so do the friends that I constantly count on. But I want the type of love that does not fit into any boxes—one that’s not strictly romantic, platonic, or familial. It is warm, and thinking about it makes me imagine running through the woods without ever having to stop, free of worries. It is the type of love that would hold you back from doing anything horrible.

My elementary school teachers used to teach us to take a moment while we were reading a novel to reflect on the story. Now I do this with my life. I ask myself, Am I happy? At first, I answer, Yeah, of course—I just hung out with so-and-so. But after a few moments have passed, I realize how temporary that joy was and that I have been lying to myself about my own emotions.

I don’t want to feel as though my life will be validated only if I get that kind of unconditional love from another person. I want to be able to wade through this seemingly endless river of confusion without holding someone’s hand. ♦