When I was a kid, I would follow my mom everywhere. My dad was always at work — surgeons don’t get much time off. And my sister was too young to go places for many years. So it was just me and my mom. We’d do groceries, go out to eat, drive places — the usual errands. And we spent a lot of time in the car. I was always in the back seat, because you’re not supposed to be in front if you’re below the age of 12. Something about the seatbelt being in the wrong spot on your neck, I think.
So one day, I was in the back, leaning forward in my seat to feel the air conditioning. It was a sweltering day in Malaysia. I needed all the air I could get. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. “Do you love me, mama?” I asked. The question caught my mom off guard, naturally.
“Of course I do,” she said.
“But how do you know, mama?”
Almost 20 years have passed since then. Our family has been torn apart. Four people live in three different places. It’ll never be the same again. And all those years later, I was still searching for the answer to that question. How do you know when you love someone? How do you know when you love anything? It’s a very important question for me, because I love easily. And I probably shouldn’t.
On the outside, I look like a convict. Blank expression. Wide shoulders. Heavy demeanor. And a mohawk to top it all off. I don’t look like the soft, mushy kind of guy. Then, you peel back the layers. And suddenly, it’s a whole different story. You soon discover that the cornerstone of my life is supporting a young artist in Siberia who wants to make movies. You learn that I spend most of my time thinking about how to help others with my strength. And you also learn that I’m constantly craving love. Not receiving it, giving it. Not such a hard guy, after all.
But loving easily means I have to be careful. I need to know if I really care about something before committing. Because otherwise, it doesn’t end well. But how? How do I know when I love something or someone? That’s important because I will always stand for what I love. And if it’s just ephemeral, it’ll just end up being a costly mistake. So it’s a good thing I recently discovered the answer. I now know how to know if I truly feel love: By watching what I’m willing to sacrifice for it.
Let’s go back to that artist from Siberia. That’s a perfect example. Ever since I’ve committed to supporting her, I’ve woken up every morning feeling a profound sense of relief. Just pure relief. Like I just narrowly escaped something tragic. Couldn’t explain what it was at first. But eventually, I realized I was just happy in my bones every morning that I still had that purpose in my life. That my dear Siberian artist didn’t get eaten by a bear. That I still had the chance to make a difference.
I realized that I could lose everything else, and as long as I still had that, I’d be content. So I mobilized. I reshuffled my life very quickly to adjust to the new normal. And I found myself giving things up. Things I thought I’d have forever. Things I thought I could never stand to lose. Funnily enough, I could lose them. And I even did so willingly. All because of love. That’s how you know if it’s real. Just watch how far you’re willing to go. If you’re surprised at yourself, you might just be onto something.