Given my previous columns for The Daily Tar Heel, it is most likely unsurprising to profess the following: Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday.
I’ve written about having a crush so consuming it’s infuriating, broken phones symbolizing broken hearts, cleaning efforts exposing lingering heartache and the peculiar combination of Freud and first dates arousing internal guilt. Perhaps my Shakespeare professor said it best when they proclaimed to the class: “Kent is such a romantic.”
I am. The entire reason I’m an English major is because of a sophomore-year romantic poetry course. I became enamored with the verses of Keats, Byron and Wordsworth, resonating deeply with the profound melancholy of loves recklessly won and inevitably lost.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more understood than I did in that classroom, learning the bittersweet calculus of the heart. It was comforting to discover I was not alone. To realize that these intense, seemingly world-ending feelings were not unique to me. They were, and are, something we all share, representative of a universal truth. That love, in its many forms, is what unites us. Love makes us human.
Valentine’s Day celebrates this humanity. Love is connection. It is the desire to know and be known. Love is not exclusively romantic or sexual. I will confess I’ve been single every Valentine’s Day of my life. But that doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget throwing a Valentine’s Day party junior year and inviting my friend Annie. It was a cold, blustery February night in the middle of a hectic school week, and Annie had already made dinner plans with her long-term boyfriend. But Annie showed up.
The simple act of her being there — it’s probably one of the most loving things anyone’s ever done for me.
This year I encourage you to rewrite the script. Let’s define love as this universal yearning for connection. Let’s celebrate the love in our lives too often overshadowed. Let’s appreciate our blessings and be mindful of those who are less fortunate. Let’s be like Annie.
Following this advice is easier said than done. There are still moments when “Galway Girl” will play on shuffle or Milton will come up in a lecture and I’ll be reminded of past relationships and flings. In those moments, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed with pain and sorrow for what was and was lost or what never had the chance to be. It’s hard not to feel isolated and unloved.
But it is in these moments we need Valentine’s Day most. Valentine’s Day encourages us to embrace the imperfections of our hearts and the contradictions of our feelings. Valentine’s Day reminds us that love is all around, connecting us and proving no one is ever truly alone.
There is a song by The Mowgli’s called “San Francisco.” It begins: “I’ve been in love with love and the idea of something, binding us together. You know that love is strong enough.”
Happy Valentine’s Day.
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