“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. ” -Pat Solitano (aka Bradley Cooper), Silver Linings Playbook
The Sochi 2014 Winter O’s are finally underway. I think the Olympics are beautiful: I love seeing athletes come together to march with their nations, each so proud to represent what, to him, is “home.” I also love the Olympics because of the raw emotion we get to see on these athletes’ faces; for just a moment, a fleeting moment, we are privy to someone else’s feelings (although, in this day and age, the “fleeting moment” really turns into an “never-ending meme”).
In some cases, the emotion we get to see is elation. Joy, pride, tears of excitement – we see champions, we see heroes; we see people who have worked so hard to achieve their goals during one glorious moment. But in others, we see heartbreak: years of training ending in an injury. A mistake, a fall, a slip here or there – these too are the raw emotions on display. These are the tears of disappointment, of frustration, of heartbreak.
Getting your heart broken sucks. It sucks to go through it; it sucks to fight through it; it sucks to feel that physical ache in your heart. And it’s scary how fragile the human heart really is, how the world can just get to you and break your heart “ten ways to Sunday.”
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard news of tragedy from my alma mater more times than I – or anyone, for that matter – would ever want to hear. A college sophomore’s death last week marked the second suicide at Penn in just a short three weeks, and the fourth death at the school since December. Even being a year and a half out of college hasn’t made me feel far enough removed from this: my heart broke when I learned the news. It broke for the lives that are lost; it broke for the loved ones who are left to cope, to fight through their worst nightmares. If a stranger like me can feel heartbroken about those who have perished, how infinitely much more must those family and friends ache? I remember how it felt to lose someone that I loved; I remember all too well how much it hurt and how much I cried; I remember how much my heart broke for a life lost too soon, potential “could-be’s” that became “never-would-be’s.”
But I also remember how beautiful that time was. There was beauty in the heartbreak because there was beauty in the memory, but there’s more. I truly believe that, as heartbreak brings out the worst possible feeling within yourself, it brings out the most beautiful feeling from the world around you. It brings out community, it brings out support; it brings out what we call love, and that’s the beauty in heartbreak. In my immediate grief, I probably would’ve hated anyone that tried to tell me that, but it’s true. I see how the Penn community has come together; I see the words of love, of encouragement, of support that are exchanged between complete strangers in the wake of tragedy. Heartbreak comes in all sorts forms: a broken relationship reluctantly ending; a farewell to someone you don’t know when you’ll see again; a destructive disease that seems unstoppable; the list goes on and on. But through the pain of heartbreak rises a love whose strength we may never have realized. And it’s beautiful.
The winners in the Olympics get to stand on a podium in their glory: Gold, Silver, Bronze, plus a bouquet of flowers. They stand there beaming, and the whole stadium around them cheers on. Somewhere in the crowd – or maybe the locker room, or somewhere else – there are those who didn’t make it up to the podium. But I like to imagine that in the midst of the dashed Olympic dream, in the midst of the heartbreak, there is something beautiful: a cheering community, a support system, and arms of encouraging love.
Here’s how that quote from the beginning of this blog post ends:
“But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again. I think of what everyone did for me, and I feel like a very lucky guy.”