What IKEA taught me about love


Kara Barragan

It’s okay to be selfish; self love is beautiful. You should never find shame in this form of love, because only you know how to purely love yourself.

Walking up a set of stairs, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious with two dudes walking behind me. I was constantly readjusting my yellow shirt and fixing my coiled curls. God, this shirt makes me look so big, I thought while trying to not embarrass myself by tripping in my steps. Each step I made was calculated: Ok, keep standing up straight… don’t show that hunchback of yours! Geez. Don’t let your glasses deceive you, that step is not above the other that high. You’re almost there…and done. Now give a glance to the dudes…oh wait, oh. They left.


Once my mom, little brother and I got to the top floor, we turned the corner into every person’s paradise which paints a perfect life at home, IKEA. Families and couples walked among us, looking at the fine yet simplistic pieces of furniture embedded in separate themed display rooms. 

Our mission was to look for some furniture for my older sister’s new room. I, however, had a minor mission in mind: finding that special someone in a random department store similar to the movies. My eyes skimmed over the various couches to a guy with curly hair and chestnut eyes. He seemed all by himself walking around the store. My mom caught my attention when she asked what I thought of one of the display rooms, making my eyes drift away from this random dude. My mom and I talked about the dressers in the display room, and I couldn’t help but turn back to the dude behind the couches.

With my luck, a girl ran over and held his hand giddily.


I turned back to my mom, and we continued walking through the store. 

With my luck, once again it seemed that everyone in the store was holding hands. My mom was already content with her twenty-year marriage and family. Even my little brother could care less about a one week middle school relationship when all he worries about is his Chess.com bullet rating. I was just selfishly dissatisfied with my life because all I desired was to fill this void in my life, when really I had bigger responsibilities to take care of.

But my desire for love made me blind.

After a long trip with several turns left and right, we made our way outside of IKEA. I felt sort of empty getting inside the car. Will this dream of mine ever come true? I know for sure my dream home I pictured in that IKEA would become more desolate than ever. Well, I’d of course have my pets, but it won’t be the same without a partner. 

Will I be alone forever?

This moment of questioning myself made me a bit agitated. I decided to silence the world with some of my favorite tracks by the Cardigans. I shuffled a playlist and landed upon a track I hadn’t heard before, “Heartbreaker.”

The instrumentals made me feel like I was falling deeper into a downward spiral. As we left the department store, the freeway was illuminated by soft orange lights emitting from the cars ahead of us, and the sky was pitch black, making me fall into a slump and roll down the window. I closed my downcast eyes and let the wind blow to dry my dampened cheeks, attempting to make me feel a bit more free from the hole I was digging for myself. Tears continued to trickle down my cheeks. 

I felt immensely helpless with this loneliness I was feeling. 

The ride home on that freeway felt like forever. This time I couldn’t get myself to stop crying: I wondered, if no one wants me, why am I here? This did not help my situation at all. 

Time soon passed, and I ventured to my den, closing my door and preparing for a storm to ensue. I sat down at my desk facing my small mirror, looking at how unworthy I was in finding my future love in that IKEA. 

Here we go…

About 10 minutes after my gut-wrenching sobs, I impulsively texted my older cousin, Annalisa:

“I want to die.”

She quickly texted back, ensuring I wouldn’t harm myself in any way, which wasn’t my intention. I just wished for miracles that were out of my reach and felt that life was no longer meaningful alone. I explained the IKEA trip to her, and she reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. 

“Have you seen the film ‘500 Days of Summer’?”

“Nope,” I replied. 

“Watch it. You’ll feel so much better, trust me. It ruined IKEA for me though lol.”

Love is most known with another individual to be so temporary. But love is what fuels our everyday lives, and I can’t deprive myself of it.”

— Kara Barragan

To my surprise, that 1 hour and 35 minute film completely changed my headspace surrounding my dilemma. And I found that IKEA was only a part of the dilemma…

I need to love myself before I love others. 

I was being selfish in a bad sense. I romanticized such a once-in-a-million instance in meeting “the one” in a random IKEA, as if all that would make my life more meaningful, when really I had the wrong idea of what love truly means. 

Loving another comes with a large amount of commitment to being that person’s “only one.” My freedom disappears from there on, and a Sagittarius like myself can’t live without it. If I become so attached to an individual, if life then continues and we part ways, I can’t feel like I’ll die without them because I’ll feel I have no one. But I’m missing what I actually have, what I looked at in the mirror as I cried.

I have me

Why was I not treating myself with this love I trusted another individual to give me? Why did I think that curly haired dude in that IKEA was the answer to my problems? I believed all of this because I truly did not love myself. 

Kara has had no meaning to me for so long. I need to show Kara the love she deserves, just like every human on this earth does for themselves. 

Love is most known with another individual to be so temporary. But love is what fuels our everyday lives, and I can’t deprive myself of it. And truly, I’m the only one that knows what I desire to feel purely loved and cared for. 

My selfish instincts from a fragment of time in my sophomore year came back to me. I found that with practicing self love, I became my own best friend and could rely on myself to get through the troubles life paves for us all. 

Taking care of every inch of my body and mind made such a difference in my journey. Going on relaxing walks every day and taking in the sun on my renewing skin, embracing my erratic curls and putting on fancy hair clips, finding my small pockets of peace throughout each day and practicing gratitudethis all ensured my self-improvement in beginning to love myself again. 

There’s no longer pressure for me to find one, because I already have one: me.

And as self-absorbed as it seems, I have absolutely no shame in saying that.

Love comes in all ways, but loving myself has given me the most peace and happiness. Life is meaningful in that I know I’m no longer alone. I can picture my future life in that IKEA without a hand to hold, I just need me (and a basket). There should be no shame in this form of love because, frankly, it’s the most trustworthy and loving of them all.