I have a confession. I rob hearts.

Last summer, I was idling through Pére Lechaise on one of those murky overcast Parisian afternoons that eventually opens up into this incredible sun-drenched gradient as it sets into evening. And as I rounded a corner, I saw something that caught my eye. A tribute to the victims of a major airline crash between France and Brazil (Air France Flight 447). A lot of memorabilia had collected in the 3 years since the accident, standard fare flowers, notes, stuffed animals. But amongst the mix, I saw a palm-sized gray stone rudimentarily carved into the shape of a heart. Etched into the heart were the words “Ich vermisse Dich,” which means “I miss you.”

I took the stone and put it in my pocket and walked away. I can’t really explain why. At the time, my heart felt like a stone itself for a number of reasons, and simply, it longed to feel missed itself. I yearned to feel, in a place where I knew no one and barely spoke the language on a conversational level, that somewhere I was missed and wanted and that the world was a little bit different without me there.

But at the same time, I was overlooking the fact that I had a great opportunity to expand my impact and reach on the world and that every moment I felt sorrow was a moment squandered where I wasn’t graffito-tagging the world with shades of “Aimee.” It was only when I got to Paris did I really learn the meaning of the word “survivalist.”

I wish I could say I immediately noticed this and that this was the feel-good story of the year, but honestly, I didn’t. It took time. I’m not even sure I really noticed this until long after I left. It was a retrospective lesson of sorts. And although at some point I may have tried to invalidate these feelings and project myself as some sort of hardcore badass, there was nothing wrong with the way I felt. It’s tinges of humanity and mostly ambition that drives us to want to make ripples across ponds, seas, and oceans.

Although the stone followed me back overseas, my story with it was short-lived. I’m ascetic by nature–I rarely hold on to things. I left the stone sitting in a bus seat under the pretense that it would continue its path and become a part of someone else’s story, having already worked its magic on me.

Months later, my heart, once again, feels like stone. It holds a weight to it that no amount of muscle surrounding it could lift. It feels smooth and cool in my chest cavity, reshaping itself from all previous days where it was hot and pounding with blood with furious obsidian passion. The difference between those weeks in Paris and today are separated by the buoyancy of that stone.

My heart today is stone because I am growing. Because it loves. Because it has fingerprints on it of others. It has grown stronger with vulnerability. And with acceptance of love, vulnerability, and the inherent desire for adventure I already have deep within… comes wisdom and with the wisdom of age comes the insurmountable and inexorable feeling of compassion, empathy, and overall… selflessness.

My heart is stone because it has rippled and made an impact on the world. Because it is strong. And mostly, because it has learned to love itself just as it would love another.

But on its own, without being touched, it would only be dull and lifeless. Only when touched does a heart come to life. And only once you skip it across a body of water, do you start to see ripples and waves. Otherwise, it is just a victim of Medusa’s gaze, just a calcified mineral piece blocking love within. A stone in motion has power and energy and in some ways, life.

Only when your heart comes to life can it ever truly understand and believe all the logic in your brain. And only then can you stop fearing the unknown and finally start to live, breathe, and feel hope… hope for everything, but mostly hope for yourself–hope that you will continue to refine, to grow, to shape, to blossom.

“Hope does not consist of the expectation that things will come out exactly right, but the expectation that they will make sense regardless of how they come out.”

Give your heart. Steal hearts. Make it an adventure. Grow. Run the fucking hell towards the unknown, only knowing that the stone cave you’re running through is made of the same stuff that made your heart strong as a motherfucker.