Love was not always expressed physically in our home. When it was, it usually came in the form of stiff one-armed side hugs.

Doting eyes and warm smiles from my parents filled my heart. There was no room left for affectionate embraces.

As a result, when someone approached me with their arms wide open, I would freeze and awkwardly accept the hug, and wait out the uncomfortable lock I found myself in.

I didn’t loathe the idea of hugging. I just didn’t seem to understand it.

But as I grew older, the fear of being labelled as an oddball compelled me to try to fit in through pretence. Like an actor preparing for a role, I carefully observed the behavioural nuances of those I wanted to mimic. The elated eyes, the friendly forward lean, the placements of the hands, the tilt of the head, the length of the embrace and the strength of the squeeze!

Slowly, I attempted to recreate what I had observed. Every time I encountered an approaching hugger, I took a deep breath and handed out a hug that I had planned and rehearsed several times in my head.

Yet none of those socially obligated hugs taught me its relevance.

It took time and distance to teach me the lesson I was seeking.

It happened when days away from home and long-distance relations became a norm in my life. The loneliness and the transient joys of new cities turned me into a hopeless nostalgic yearning for familiarity.

When I finally reunited with people and places close to my heart, my hands started to intuitively reach out to hold on to them as long as I could. I initiated hearty hugs and packed my embraces with heartfelt joy.

I wasn’t alone in feeling that way. I observed that my previously hug-averse parents held on to me at the airport departure point a little longer on every visit, and enveloped me with more love than my heart could contain. Our hugs conveyed the same feeling: “I wish you could stay a little longer“.

Unknowingly, we eased into the art of hugging, and I grew to discover the depth of emotions embodied in a simple hug.

It kept me wanting for more.

We reluctantly departed from everything resembling normalcy in the last year. As distances grow longer and time cloudier, I can’t wait for the day when we can embrace again without anything holding us back.

I hope and wish that this new year reunites us with everyone and everything that makes us feel loved.

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