One day during my high school years, our literature teacher asked us, “If you were ask to select just one of them, would you prefer to love or to be loved?” He asked who would choose to be loved to raise their hands, and almost all of my friends raised theirs. When he said, “And now the ones who prefer to love,” only me and another friend raised our hands. He then asked me why I prefer to love. I don’t remember my exact words, but it was something like this: “What is the use of being loved if you cannot love yourself? Moreover, love is a wonderful feeling, and missing it would be a big loss.” Even at that young age, I had some degree of intuition.

I wrote an earlier article about love and independency. This time, I want to question whether we really know how to love. Or do we only love to be loved or, even worse, pretend to love? Years ago, a master of mine asked me, “If you do not love yourself, how can you expect another person to love you?” At the time, I thought about this question a lot. In fact, this question has most affected my life. The person who knows me best is myself, although even I couldn’t entirely solve myself. If even I don’t love myself, is a person who barely knows me really going to love me? Wouldn’t someone just love the idol that he or she sees? While not loving myself, would this idol really reflect the real me? Or would I cover up the parts I don’t like with masks or cosmetics, thus showing them a very different image? What then is this idol that the other person loves? If I don’t love myself and hide myself away, when the love of someone starts to unravel my disguise, the reaction would be like seeing someone who always uses make up suddenly being deprived of it. “Oh my god, she’s not so good looking after all,” I might say. In reality, she is not ugly, but she fooled us with a fake beauty for such a long time that we compare her natural beauty with this false perfection. Then we fight with questions like “Why do my relationships end so quickly?” or “Where did I go wrong?” In general, we have a tendency to blame the other party without looking at whether we really love ourselves and the masks we use.

My birthdays are very special for me. After all, they mark the day that my existence started in this world. Could there be any more special day than this? For a person that loves life and him or herself, there really can’t be. It is the day I started in the school of the world. On each birthday, I feel the same excitement. For this reason, I always say that even once I become 80, I will celebrate my birthday. By that time, of course, the way I celebrate it will change. I used to host such big parties, so big that some of my friends met each other at my parties and later married. I then realized that it tires me to bring together people who do not know each other, so I made my parties smaller, until I got to the point where only my family was there. On my last birthday, I celebrated it alone, by which I mean physically alone, of course. After all, my phone rang like crazy that day. However, I also started to question loving that day. Some of my friends who I love greatly forgot my birthday and didn’t call. Even some who remembered didn’t call or send a message.

How do I know, you may ask? I know because they saw the picture I shared on Instagram about me celebrating my birthday alone for the first time. With excitement, I shared it everywhere. Of course, the easy option is not to celebrate their birthday when it comes around, maybe evening distancing myself from them, but I have no idea what may be going on in their lives at that moment. Firstly, birthdays are not that special for everyone. For some people, it makes them realize they are getting older, especially at my age. So, by announcing mine so loudly, I make them remember this. Maybe that’s why they try to avoid me. What’s more, if someone just writes a generic phrase on your wall, it is not really that meaningful. Maybe those who do not congratulate me at all are more honest, so on not being able think of any special note, they preferred to stay silent.  Who knows? What’s more, I have no idea what condition these people are in at that moment. Maybe they’re having the worst day of their lives, or maybe they are unaware that it is the 19th day of the month. Maybe they do not have access to the internet or a telephone. The list of possible reasons is endless, but it is difficult to consider this when your aim is to be loved, isn’t it?

How many people wrote on my Facebook wall? How many SMSs did I receive? How many calls did I get? Is it really the number that matters, or is it how real and heartfelt the messages were? I received some messages that made me cry when I read them, and they were worth more than a thousand standard congratulations. Some my friends did such things that I realized that distance is not a barrier to expressing love. It would be so unfair to compare these things with the messages written on my Facebook wall. I may have celebrated my birthday physically alone, but I felt the love of my family and many of my friends. I was mostly being grateful for my existence and for such an experience. Once in a while, my homework is to love myself. I moved gradually, increasing my grade each time. After all, through this experience, I believe I passed muster. Of course, my path is long, but maybe I can get even higher grades in future.

From here, I would like to thank everyone in my life, regardless of whether they celebrated my birthday with me or not. I am glad you are in my life. Each one of you teaches me something different, and each of you is unique and valuable. Don’t misunderstand me, however, but my existence is the most important one. The answer I would give to the question “Do you want to love or to be loved?” is still the same. Of course, I want to love.  Love is not something you just feel for people. Love is opening your heart to the mature, to all beings, to the Creator, and to infinity. If your heart is closed, even when they try to love you, they can’t enter you and make you feel that love. The key to opening your heart is to love yourself. If even you can’t open that door, who can?