Sunday, February 12, 2017

What Aquamarine Taught Me About Love

When my sister Katie and I were both still in elementary school, our favorite thing to do was visit our grandparents in Boca Raton, Florida. Their apartment was our own paradise away from home with a beautiful view of the Intracoastal Waterway and a glistening blue pool, and everything we did while we were there seemed to fill our lives with enchantment.

The one memory from our escapades as part-time Floridians (and full-time handfuls for our grandparents) that seems particularly relevant as Valentine's Day approaches, though, is not the time we spotted a rare, bright orange starfish in the Intracoastal or the perfect day when we made our own picture frames out of shells we collected from the beach. Nor is it the nights spent swimming in the pool after dark--this included exercising our rebellious side and sitting in the hot tubs next to the "18 and older" sign--or running on the sidewalk next to a manatee swimming in the water until our legs (and grandparents, probably) were screaming at us to stop. The experience that defined my days at the "castle" in Boca Raton consisted of the movie Aquamarine on repeat from morning to night.

Katie and I woke up on said morning and decided to watch Aquamarine, a movie about a mermaid who swims to shore in pursuit of love. When the ending credits rolled around, we called my grandmother to come over and re-set the movie. This ended up happening six more times--we watched Aquamarine eight times in one day with no breaks.

Without a doubt, my infatuation for the movie was fueled by the typical 10 year-old girl inside me who regularly pondered what color my tail would be when I became a mermaid and whether or not it would match my shell top. However, as a young adult who still would take a tail over legs, if my lucky stars aligned, but has (hopefully) developed a more analytical view of the world, the story of Aquamarine seems like a treasure chest filled with the most important lesson I could have learned as a child: one that safeguards and protects the sanctity of love rather than equating it with any old superficiality.

Love is universal; it is within all of us and it is all of us. It is the language that the deaf can hear, the mute can speak, and the blind can see. Despite never experiencing it for herself, Aquamarine felt confident in love's all-reaching power--so much so that she ran (or swam) away from her home in the sea to live on land and prove to her father that love really does exist. She explains that love is a myth under the sea, where her father is trying to arrange her to marry a "spoiled, rich squid." While Aqua seeks life on land as a refuge, the human experience is uniquely painted as the only experienced inherently rooted in love and characterized by its manifestation.

As the movie continues, Hailey and Claire, two (human) best friends living in Florida, commit to helping Aquamarine find love in the short timeframe of three days (is it just me or is impatience almost exclusively a dad trait?). While the threesome works to cultivate a connection between Aqua and Raymond, a lifeguard that looks incredibly lovely in slow motion, they spend almost every minute of every day together, learning about each other's way of life. Hailey and Claire take Aqua shopping, where she tries on clothes for the first time, and to the annual street fair, a staple of their summer by-the-beach lifestyle. On the other hand, Aqua offers Hailey and Claire a dolphin ride to the buoy where they can pick up mini starfish that Aqua uses as earrings.

After two days, the reality of the three day time frame starts to creep in and Aquamarine begins to lose hope. While Raymond is developing feelings for her, he has not yet told her he loves her (wow! A movie that realistically depicts the timeline of a relationship--say it isn't so!). She runs to the beach in tears, ready to swim back home and reluctantly accept the fact that love never, ever works, when Hailey vows not to let her diminish love's value so quickly. Hailey passionately explains to Aqua that this wasn't all for "nothing"--it was for love, and love is worth fighting for--because even though Hailey hasn't found it yet, she knows that it's "the closest thing we have to magic."

At this moment, human emotion, in all its forms, was glorified. The weight of the utter irony in Aqua's statement becomes almost literal--saying the pursuit of love is "for nothing" is an oxymoron, because love is everything. Love is the greatest thing one can pursue. And there's something so special in the concept that any word used to define or describe love seems unfitting or underwhelming, like magic--unexplainable yet somehow all-encompassing.

        Aqua finds renewed hope in love after speaking with Hailey, but after three days roll by without an "I love you" from Raymond, Aqua's father creates a harsh thunderstorm to pull her back to sea. Hailey and Claire, unwilling to let Aqua leave on such a horrible note, jump into the water after her and meet her at the buoy, where they beg Aqua to let them do something to help her stay. When Aqua asks why they would possibly go to such lengths for her, Hailey and Claire explain that it's what they would do for each other because they're best friends, and friends love each other. Suddenly the clouds part and the storm clears up. Aquamarine realizes that she has found love, and that love is friendship.

        Aquamarine's story highlights what love really is--love is friendship. Love is caring for another person and putting their needs before yours. Love is embracing differences in others and sharing in their way of life. Love is saying, "I'll help you." Love is a uniquely human trait designed to nourish the human race and bring our world to its greatest potential--to make our world mean something. Love is the starting point for everything--before we find the solution to a problem, we begin with love. Because of Aquamarine, I've grown up with a deep appreciation for the human ability to feel rich emotion, and the acknowledgement that this is our greatest gift, and therefore, our greatest power, has guided my decisions and thoughts.

        The human experience is love. You were made to love, from love, and for love. So, as Valentine's Day approaches, let's see this holiday as more than just a commercialized pity party for singles or an opportunity to buy flowers and chocolate for a significant other. Let's celebrate love and recognize how lucky we are to be given this powerful gift. Our unique ability to feel rich emotion is not an accident or a coincidence. As life goes on and the world continues to present itself as an inevitably chaotic place, we must remember that love, the tool to make a difference, is inside every one of us, and for this reason, holds more power than anything else. After all, it is the closest thing we have to magic.
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