I’m in the business of love. But even though it’s my profession, it also becomes personal. My emotions get tangled in the cords that are my clients’ heartstrings. As an advisor along their heart’s journey, I feel along with them: When they’re in love, I radiate; when their hearts break, mine chips.
I remember the moment Joe* called to share the news of his engagement as vividly as if it were a movie that I’ve watched a million times. I paced wildly around my teeny New York City apartment, squealing with joy, asking him question after question about his OkCupid bride-to-be, how he proposed and the details of the upcoming wedding. We were giddy, laughing together — a shared moment of bliss. My student was about to graduate from the school of online dating with a PhD in matrimony. I literally jumped up and down as I told him how ecstatic I was for this major milestone in his life, something he’d never forget. And I’d never forget either — Joe’s engagement and wedding was the first of my professional career.
Yes, I’m in the business of love, but with that comes loss. I have to be honest and say that when I created a profession that would sync heartbeats I — perhaps naively — never considered the other extreme that the people whose lives’ I touch might face. When I first heard that Joe’s wife passed away suddenly in her sleep at the age of 32 after only one year of marriage I couldn’t do anything except sit speechless. My mind whirred, trying to think of what I could have done to protect their union, but there were no answers. I attempted to write Joe with my condolences, but for possibly the first time in my entire life I found myself at a loss for words. I knew exactly what to say to my first engaged client, but had no idea how to comfort the first widow of my work. And as Joe feels grief beyond the imaginable, all I could do was cry and mourn the loss of his soul mate.
It’s rare that I question my decision to make love my life’s work. But suddenly, my profession, which usually exists to me only in Technicolor glory, is pixilated. Does being a catalyst for love outweigh the loss that people stand to feel? I contemplate this as I prepare for my own nuptials next summer and try to imagine a world without my fiancé, who I met on Twitter. After all, life without our first tweets to each other would be similar to Joe’s life without the profile I wrote for him, the one that attracted his late wife.
While I wouldn’t necessarily know what I was missing had me and my fiancé’s cyber-paths not crossed, I wouldn’t be complete. Part of that is of course because there wouldn’t be an “us,” but there also wouldn’t be a “me.” I’d still exist, but I wouldn’t be this me that I am today, at this very moment — the person who has grown alongside the love of her life. Through emotions, experiences, decisions, sacrifices, life, love and death, we’ve both become an enhanced version of ourselves … together.
I can’t pretend to know what losing a life companion feels like, particularly losing one suddenly and so soon into a union. But I do know that Joe’s wife will never truly leave him, not simply due to memories, but because he’s changed as they’ve shifted in their lives as a couple. And even though he has lost what he expected to be his lifelong partner, the love inside of him will always exist.
As I ended my thoughts, Joe’s Facebook status updates on my computer screen. It says he has learned that love lives on beyond the body and concludes as mobile, tagged updates do on Facebook: “with JoAnn White*.”
*This is a true story, but names have been changed.