A hand-drawn image of a rose tea bag with a heart-shaped cutout in the centre.

“What is Love?” by Hannah Tran

Hannah is a fourth-year student in the Honours psychology program with a minor in English. They are also the non-fiction editor for in medias res. Combining Hannah’s love for psychology and language, “What is Love?” seeks to inform the reader of diverse perceptions on the human universal of love. The results of this informal research project reveal that there is no one answer to the piece’s title question. Rather, the piece questions conceptions of love and confronts the reader with the challenge of defining an indefinable concept.

What is Love?

What’s left to say about the most popular theme in the world? As it turns out — a whole lot. As one USask student suggests, love is “different for everyone.” Distributing a survey to students across campus, I sought to understand just how many different perceptions of love exist at our university. With that in mind, I encourage you to try answering  these questions too — how do your perceptions differ? In what ways are they the same? The following fill-in-the-blanks show not only how differently love can be experienced, but also its ubiquity. As described by our university community, love is simultaneously “nothing” and “everything.” As I hope to convey here, it is also everything in between. 

I show love by making time for my loved ones.

                         being earnest.

                         making an effort.


                         giving kisses.

                         giving food.

                         giving gifts.

                         doing things for and spending time with those I love.

                         using my words, spoken or written.

                         telling people how much they mean to me.

                         saying I love you.

I feel most loved when I am accepted as I am.

                                       someone sees me for who I am and likes me because of it.

                                       someone tells me they love me.

                                       people remind me that they are thinking of me.

                                       I am good to myself.

                                       I am held.

                                       I am listened to. 

I used to think that love was about the body.

                                                always saying yes.


                                                something that tied you down.

                                                a burden on me.

                                                a burden on the people I loved.

                                                something I could never feel.


                                                not real.

                                                something that you fall into with no control.

                                                grandiose, like the love you can only find in books.

                                                something that had to fit a singular description.

I have learned that love is about feeling worthy.

                                           about the mind, no matter my state. 

                                            whatever you want it to be. 

                                            about choosing your own path.

                                            about changing with someone.

                                            so much more.

                                            about being able to ask for more.


                                            real and everywhere. 

                                            in the little things people do for each other. 

                                            something shared, that everyone experiences differently.

I am in love with the fortunate life I am blessed with. 

                          the experience of life. 

                             the universe herself. 

                             pushing myself and others beyond what we can be and know. 


                             accepting myself. 

                             the memory of her.

                             the future.


                             my partner.

                             my friends.

                             my family. 

                             this world. 

What I love about myself is my eyes.

                                              my kind heart. 

                                              my ability to do all the things I strive for.

                                              that I want good for myself. 

                                              my braveness. 

                                              my determination, even when I am terrified. 

                                              my adaptability. 

                                              my knowledge. 

Love smells like incense, lavender and sandalwood.

                        the prairies on a warm, sunny morning. 

                           the day after it’s rained. 

                           the apple-peel tea filling my kitchen with sweetness, so many years ago. 


                           grass and glitter adhesive. 

                           cherry blossoms. 

Love tastes soft, like a marshmallow. 

                    like cheap wine at one in the morning, somewhere far away.

                    like pink and orange sherbet ice cream.

                    like sweet coffee on a rainy morning.

Love looks like a smile.

                         that twinkle in the eye.

                        a soft, appreciative gaze.

                        blue opal jewellery.

                        my hometown at twilight, deep light blue everywhere around you. 

                        golden hour.

                        when the sun starts going down and bathes everything in orange-tangerine light. 

                        laughing at yourself.

                        tasks that sometimes go overlooked. 

                        doing things with no personal benefit to improve someone’s day.

                        what you want it to look like. 

                        a hug.

Love sounds like all my favourite songs. 

                           the excited proclamation of letting everyone know your dress has pockets. 

                           jokes that don’t quite make sense to anyone else. 

                           old jazz music. 

                           Christmas movies. 

                          rain on the street, shimmering under the nighttime streetlights. 

                           a bubbling creek. 


                           the forests when no one else is around.


Love feels like the sun warming my bones. 

                       ordering food at a restaurant in a foreign country. 

                       a rush. 



                       swallowing your pride. 

                       being seen for the first time. 

                       a comfort.

                       a tight chest.

                       a big hug.

                       a blanket. 

Love makes you kind. 



                           more empathetic. 


                           completely different, for better or worse. 

                           the best version of yourself.

                           able to think about others outside of yourself.

                           ready to go to incredible lengths to protect and care for those you love.

                           believe in yourself. 

Love is necessary.


            a choice at the beginning of every day.

            the best thing that humans can experience.

            all around you if you’re looking in the right places.

            a wish for a future.


            waking up next to someone over and over again. 


This piece is part of the in medias res March 2021 “Love” Issue. You can read the full issue under the tag “March 2021.”

Image by Akshara Dash