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A lover's lament: A personal essay

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OCTOBER 01, 2022

I cannot love as easily as I once did.

the longing that once coursed through my veins has fallen prey to the leeches of my sadness, and I have lost the way that I used to see the world.

the endless smiles that ripped at the corners of my mouth and warm embraces that felt like belonging are now meaningless and abundant, like sweets in a dental office candy jar.

I was only 15 once. 15 and clueless and head over heels with someone who only saw me in the center of their world. 15 when the universe fit in the palm of my hand and my stomach only knew how to kiss the floor beneath my being. 15 when I thought that all there was to life was memorizing their late night ice cream order and figuring out when I would see them next. an untainted and inexperienced version of love was all I knew, and perhaps when I’m 30 I will mourn the girl I was at 19, but for now I look down at my feet and see the shell of a child I unknowingly shed.

somehow in the midst of my losing battle with time, I traded my ability to feel for disappointing wisdom in a deal I never remember making. I turn around to face my younger self and although I recognize her face, we speak different languages. our frantic tongues cannot decipher the difference between us and I cannot explain the numbness that has set into my bones; my heart — how it yearns and aches and twists and turns. 

I am full of empty car drives and beach days alone and I make myself believe that I am content with it but all I do is swallow the lump in my throat when I see two lovers giggle in aisle 13 over the last box of gingersnaps and take a shaky breath after a whiff of the autumn air reminds me of the hopeless girl I once was. I am no longer the homeland I wished I would be.

I see a couple that spends every night naming a new star, and a pair of lovers underneath the sunset, in front of the waves. in a love spoken through alternating bites of a shared sandwich and a love that hangs in the silence between exchanged smiles and stolen glances, I see a life that I will never taste, and I believe I am cursed to live as Tantalus; as if my failed romantic ventures have been criminal enough to warrant a miserable destiny of amorous starvation. 

stuck between a lost version of myself and the life I chase, my futile efforts in either direction mean that one more step — one more attempt — toward love is two steps further away from the wide-eyed girl who once had her whole life ahead of her. in the game of love, I am always the player dealt the worst hand, the player who came late, the player just learning the rules; the sole loser. how am I to tell the little girl who tore her heart into shreds and wears the pieces on the tips of her fingers that I am her worst enemy, her biggest fear? 

I have somehow gained a reputation for my embarrassingly endless endearment — the word “unlovable” essentially stamped across my forehead — and one day when I stop running, that 15 year old will come face to face with the unanswered question of when her tenderness became an unforgivable weakness.

Contact Ashley Yoon at 


OCTOBER 01, 2022