She was one of my teen students last year and wanted to interview me now for her school project about the political conflicts in Ireland. But most of the time, while we walked to the coffee shop in wind and dust, and while we sat inside, over my hot chocolate and her (healthier) fresh orange juice, we talked about everything outside of Ireland. The stuff that girls talk about when they’re relaxed and happy: life and love and dreams.
“I’m scared of my future. I don’t want to grow up and make big decisions.”
You don’t have to make those decisions now, I said. Enjoy today. And you can always be a little girl inside. You know how old I am, and you know what? I still feel like a little girl even though I’ve done some adult-sized things.
“I know, that’s why I feel you can understand me, and really, you’re cute!”
Never mind that her command of English didn’t let her know how to use ‘cute’. Hearing it from her was priceless.
“Do you believe in true love? Like Romeo and Juliet?” Smarting after a break up that was friendship but not love. “I think we’re too young for love now, but do you believe in true love?”
Yes, I do! I don’t know know if Romeo and Juliet had real love, but I believe in true love and that it is commitment. Do you know this word?
“No.” It’s a long word for a language student.
Maybe love can be like Romeo and Juliet. I don’t know, because I’m still waiting for true love. But I think true love is commitment. That means he loves what’s inside you, your heart, not only your hair or your face or body. And it means even when you are disappointed, or angry or impatient, you will love him, and he will love you. That’s real love.
“Yes, because when I’m old, I won’t be beautiful. True love, commitment, that’s what I want.”
I finished my luscious chocolate and we walked back to her street in gusts of wind, and I was happy beyond words that being an English teacher gave me the chance to have this conversation with this beautiful, thoughtful young lady. I was glad that even if I didn’t have a colorful, amazing story to prove something, I could tell her with confidence that true love does exist. If I couldn’t give her anything else, I could give her hope.
Sometimes this is the most one person can give another.