by: Caroline Trustey
We need to talk about those wooden love signs.
You know the ones I’m talking about:
⁃ “I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as I will tomorrow”
⁃ “You are my today, and all of my tomorrows”
⁃ “Any day with you is my favorite day”
And my personal favorite: “Always kiss me goodnight.”
These words are painted onto wooden boards using a combination of large, floaty script writing and neatly typed words, given a rustic, vintage look, and hung up in the homes of happy families (who, may I argue, typically have style that is neither rustic nor vintage).
I used to be one of those people. The hokey quote people. In fact, I, cynical Caroline Trustey, regularly reminded my first love, Jake Thomas Scanlan, “miss you more, love you most.”
In fact, Jake and I told each other this line every single night. And on the 16th of every month, for nineteen straight months, Jake wrote me love letters reminiscing on each month of our cut-too-short, love-so-deep relationship. I never once cringed.
That’s the power of young love - well, maybe that’s the power of adult love too, but I can’t speak to that. Not yet at least. But, young love - this love that one day is the cute boy sitting across a restaurant from you, the next day he’s sitting next to you in biochem class, and before you know it (AKA after months of methodically ensuring you spend every weeknight studying in the library together and slowly transitioning from school friends to best friends) he’s asking you if you’re “becoming a thing” before finally spitting out the words to ask you to become his girlfriend - young love is something I know about. It’s so awkward. That’s the beauty of it. The awkwardness that is overcome within days and for which you make fun of one another within weeks. When you’re young and in love the world around you disappears. In my case, all the worst things imaginable (well almost all the worst things imaginable) happened with Jake by my side - I became a shell of a human, unsure of who I was and how to move forward. But, Jake knew this shell, he loved this shell, he nurtured this shell; and through months of laughs and tears, reminders of a brighter future, spontaneous dessert dates, and unconditional love, the shell never cracked, but instead it filled up and overflowed with love, and hope, and gratitude. Even in the darkest days, “any day with [jake] is my favorite day.”
Here’s the thing - I don’t think the qualifier “young” is necessary; had we met at age 40, or 60, or as old goofballs in a nursing home, our love would’ve been the same as it was when we fell into it at just 19 years old. Young love is fun and exciting. It takes away anxiety and creates protection, trust, and security - and I choose to believe “old” love does the same.
So, why not believe in these tacky signs?
One morning almost 5 years ago, Jake didn’t wake up. My “today, and all of my tomorrows” was taken from me, from his family, from his friends, with no warning. One of the best this world has had the gift of knowing, gone in a blink, from a heart problem none of us knew he had.
At first I grieved. And then I became jealous. Really jealous. I was jealous when my friends began dating; that jealousy amplified when friends started getting engaged. I cry the night after every wedding I go to, sick with guilt for feeling jealousy and embarrassment for thinking, all these years later, “that should be Jake and me.” I tried to rush to fill this void I felt, I desperately wanted to be loved again the way Jake loved me. Instead, I let myself get hurt and would get home, after once again excusing disrespect and infidelity put onto me because of my fear of abandonment, and would stare at my ceiling and cry to Jake, begging him to help me: to bring some sort of happiness into my life. Sometimes the tears would tire me out and sometimes the tears would turn to anger. WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME? YOU PROMISED ME FOREVER.
That’s the thing with jealousy and grief. We want someone to blame. Somedays, every happy couple is the cause of my jealousy. Why do they get to “love each other more today than yesterday, but not as much as they will tomorrow,” when I am living everyday missing the love of yesterdays? Other days, Jake gets my blame. He promised to be with me for the rest of our lives, but never told me his life would be so much shorter than mine. And most days, those stupid wooden signs take the wrath of my jealousy and blame.
But, the part that I can’t wrap my head around is this: knowing what I know now, I would do it all over again. Because that “young” love was so worth it. I grew into a version of myself I loved when I was with Jake. I learned what I want, need, and deserve in relationships from Jake. Despite the most incomprehensible pain, the love was so worth the loss. And sometimes, when we’re in love, we show it by hanging silly Etsy signs in our homes. Maybe it’s the 6th love language.
Young love is our last text exchange. Me, thanking Jake for staying up late to “always kiss me goodnight” after I finished studying for a bio exam on a cold, November, South Bend night. Jake, replying with a promise to see me in the morning, and a reminder that he loves me most.
And, it’d be incongruent for me to not disclose that I have one hokey sign in my home:
Caroline (she/her) identifies herself as a professional ice cream eater, but since that doesn’t pay the bills, she also is a PhD student in counselor education and a mental health and addictions counselor...which also doesn’t pay the bills. When she isn’t distracting herself by looking at every Notre Dame football stat or grieving the inevitable late season heartbreak, she enjoys reading books, eating treats, and watching SVU. Caroline also likes to run long distances in exchange for a free banana and a great Instagram opportunity. Caroline loves to cry and REALLY loves the phenomenal sleep she gets following a good cry sesh.