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Love Needs to be Refined

What I Learned from a Boy’s Secret Admiration

By Stella Yan PhDPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
Love Needs to be Refined
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

I forgot what year it was, what month, or what day. I only remember it was around 7th or 8th grade when I received that card out of utter surprise.

“Who would have sent me a card?”, I felt so puzzled as I opened it. And there it was, his name.

He was the boy who used to sit next to me during my elementary school years. To me, he was always cold, mean, and rude. He picked on me a lot, like a bully. I thought he looked down on me and so I was constantly afraid of him.

He confessed his love to me in the card, which had a romantic poem printed on it, and his own words telling me he thought of me a lot. We were in different schools then, and once or twice a month, we would encounter each other on our way to school, and he purposely ignored me because, as he confessed, he still secretly loved me.

“How ridiculous!”, I thought.

That was the first time in my life I had experienced a male’s romantic feelings toward me. Unfortunately, it didn’t boost my self-esteem but did the opposite, tearing my inner security to pieces. I thought to myself, “This world is so crazy that even when a boy loves me, he would do it in such a damaging way!”

Love, if expressed properly, draws people closer to each other, tearing down walls and clearing up blockages for much deeper mutual understanding and admiration. Love has the power to ignite and strengthen relationships, mend hidden wounds, and heal emotional scars. Yet, like dynamite, love can be hard to rein in; even crossing the line by an inch may lead to uncontrollable damage that takes years to recover from. Perhaps this is why some people find the emotions of love too overwhelming, even drowning in them.

I spent years studying and doing research in the male-dominated field of physics, and I am well aware that even the brightest minds may find love daunting. Love cannot be studied or experimented with like a scientific subject. It cannot be accessed or acquired solely through intellectual processes. In my observation, men with high self-esteem, such as physicists, often struggle more to navigate the realm of love.

The boy I mentioned above may have purposefully ignored me to extinguish the overwhelming emotions hidden over the years, only to realize nothing can undo love. His failed attempt to rein emotions under his control left behind hurtful wounds on me, and maybe on him too.

What have I learned from this boy’s secret love for me? Even if at the moment we find our love for a person, a hobby, or even an object may lead to no future, we still should not attempt to extinguish it today.

Love stems from our deepest thoughts and core values; it is a mirror reflecting our needs and wants. Love should be nurtured and safeguarded with tender care until, one day, as you meet new people and circumstances go your way, it can blossom and be fully expressed. Any attempt to strangle love would only result in strangling oneself and lead to nothing but pain.

I have written a story about my passion for writing before. For decades, I have been setting aside my love for writing, and during that time, there have been moments when I felt like this passion would die if I didn’t take any action. To keep it alive, I would draft a novel in my head, write one or two short chapters, and leave them at the bottom of my drawer.

Don’t pity yourself because your love doesn't lead to anything at the moment. In my forties, one thing I've come to understand about love is that it needs to be refined to be well under your control. All the time and patience we pour into nurturing it should be seen as a refinement process to extract its purest essence, and we must believe that this effort will not be in vain.

It is only when we are fully confident in the nature and quality of our love that we can feel safe enough to bring it in front of the person we admire or disclose it to the world. We should feel proud that we dare to love and have found our love. We love because it has become part of our core, our nature, not because we expect anything in return.

Let us refine our love until we are not afraid of disappointment.


I don’t think the boy who wrote me the card will ever read this but still, I would grasp this chance and say, I regard it a blessing to have been the one he secretly admired, I have drawn valuable lessons from it, and I wish he has now a deeper understanding on what he loves, whom he loves, and last but not least, why he loves. I wish he no longer has to hide his feelings, but has found someone whom he finds safe enough to open up his heart.


About the Creator

Stella Yan PhD

PhD in Physics. Residing in the US. Deeply engaged in the exploration of math, science, and personal introspection; truly amazed by the mysteries of the universe and the complexities of the human mind.

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