For too many, Valentine’s Day is a day to reflect on singlehood, unrequited feelings and lost lovers. It seems, according to my university’s (unaffiliated) Snapchat account and other various social media, the holiday has become a day of overconsumption for my generation. It’s become an equation of excess alcohol, chocolate and self-pity: one that yields for a dismal holiday if not a most regretful February 15th. In capitalizing on the negatives and the “have nots,” we have forgotten why Love Day is among the most beautiful days of the calendar.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Valentine’s Day. Think something like this. Maybe it’s the pollen or the extra dopamine, but with the flowers and heart-shaped chocolates comes an energy that is unique to this day alone. Beyond love, the air is teeming with excitement, hope, nerves and courage. It’s Valentine’s Day that we hear of budding fairy-tale romances, valiant confessions of adoration and the fervent praising of present sweethearts.
Perhaps the typical Millennial’s cynicism is due to such grand expectations of Valentine’s Day, and perhaps this is because mainstream media showcases nothing less than paramount chivalry.
Maintaining a love is a complex journey at any age, but especially so at a younger one. We are wide-eyed and confused, we’re still growing and exploring. We are cultivating our dreams, pursuing our passions and creating our own identities. We are undergoing crucial changes and testing different paths and searching for our purpose. Sometimes, we’re lucky enough to find something so beautiful so early in our lives. It’s the sweetest blessing of life, to love someone and be loved without restraint, fear or condition.
But for a mature, healthy, unconditional love to endure, both players need to love themselves maturely, healthily and unconditionally. At such a young age, we’re still learning these pivotal lessons. And yet, we are often the target for mainstream media’s cultural ideals and expectations of Valentine’s Day.
What mainstream media fails to convey is that romantic love is not the only kind of love. Love comes in many forms, to those who are willing enough to receive it and open enough to let it in. And love is humbling in all of its forms.
Perhaps most importantly, there is self-love. In the way that you cannot make another happy before you find contentment with yourself, you cannot love another truly until you possess self-love. As a dear friend of mine put simply, “know your magnificence.” You are a treasure: one-of-a-kind, unmatchable and perfectly imperfect. You are just as you should be; however you’d like.
Love also manifests itself in family and friends. In such a period of recklessness, personal growth and uncertainty that is life before entering the real world, friends become family. They delight in being by your side when you’re all lost as hell, and the great ones will be by your side when you find yourselves, too.
How many of us were lucky to receive a love note, homemade cookies, or merely a call from family or friends on Valentine’s Day? I don’t think we’re underrepresented. And of course, a special shout-out goes here to the mothers of this world, who exemplify unconditional love for us all each day of the year. (You rock, mom).
With open eyes, we see that love is not limited to a romantic partner, or even to people. Perhaps the most outstanding expression of existing love is in nature.
Nature guides with graceful, unspoken lessons: the self-love of a flower growing without competing to those next to it; the affection between unexpected pairs and creatures; the ability of a consistent, flowing river to smooth over even the roughest surfaces over time. There is no better teacher of unconditional, accepting and persistent love than nature, nor is there a better teacher of living open-heartedly.
I do believe that if you look, you’ll find that love is all-surrounding. Love manifests in ourselves, the people in our lives and the world that we live in.
I don’t love Valentine’s Day because of romantic love alone- but because for one day of the year, people are encouraged to live life with an open heart. If everyone were open to love and possessing such hope, optimism and kindness every day, the world would be a lot more good and a lot more grateful.
Allowing love to overcome means renouncing strength; it means feeling vulnerable, leaving the comfort zones and valuing something much greater than yourself. I believe there is nothing more rewarding in this life than to love and be loved. And to have a day meant solely for expressing it in various ways- how beautiful is that!?
Call me a romantic. Or maybe I’ve just been hit by Cupid every February 14th, and every day besides that. But if you can see it in your heart to find love everywhere you look, you will never feel lonely. Not on Valentine’s Day, and not on the other 364 days of the year.