It’s not Wednesday Blog Day, but I’ve been bouncing around these words for a couple of days so let me get my thoughts out and call it Bonus Blog Day and then we can all go back to our evenings.
For years, I’ve avoided conflict. I have made a special point to keep The Smile Project unbiased and accessible to everyone regardless of their own personal beliefs. I stray from the controversial because I want to hold onto the sanctity and relatable of the Happiness I try to encourage.
That’s why I’ve always fallen silent on divisive issues. Part of that is an anti-confrontational personality quirk but I don’t see the need in having extremes on either end. I prefer to look at both sides of the puzzle piece.
Because of all this, I’ve never wholeheartedly bought in, nor bitterly rejected, Valentine’s Day. This year, however, I am giving it my complete and strong endorsement.
Each year around February 14th, I see my friends divided into two categories. The first, celebrating Valentine’s Day with romantic dinners, boxes of chocolates, flowers, and a significant other. The second, proclaiming their sarcastic love of Singles Awareness Day by watching movies with their friends or refusing to log onto social media because they hate seeing love. Yes, we all have friends who fall way past extreme on both these sides.
And the extremes are what make us afraid to even support one side of the holiday. But let me tell you how I spent my weekend and why I suddenly realized Valentine’s Day is about more than one person.
On Friday, February 12th, I boarded an overnight Megabus from New York City to my hometown of Pittsburgh. My mom was waiting at the station and we headed to Eat N Park (a Pittsburgh tradition). I ate way too many muffins (a Liz getting the brunch buffet tradition). After breakfast, I surprised my grandparents who still thought I was states away in my city apartment.
“Come in and sit down. You don’t have to leave, the bed’s already made up,” my grandmother exclaimed. We visited for a few hours and I felt my heart swelling with love.
The next stop was home. My dog leaped through the air and ran in circles and greeted me with his favorite teddy bear. My dad was happy too, but he didn’t bring me any ratty stuffed animal toys. It was a lovely night.
The following morning was Valentine’s Day. Unbeknownst to my boyfriend who attends college an hour away from my house, I was on my way. As I drove the country backroads on a trip I’ve made a thousand times, I found that the radio station was cluttered with love songs and stories. And it was awesome.
Then I thought about something else…I thought about how people will complain that this is just a stupid holiday made up by retailers to get us to spend money to show someone we love them. Well sure, if that’s what you make it, then yeah, it could be that. The day could be about something as stereotypical as a bouquet of flowers and candy if that’s all you want it to be. But it could also be about simply being together.
I pulled into the driveway of his fraternity house around 9.30 in the morning and before I knew it I was being spun around in the greatest hug ever, smiling and laughing like I had just pulled off the greatest prank (surprise) ever. (I had).
Sure, it was Valentine’s Day and yes, I had come to surprise my boyfriend. But it wasn’t just about that. I got to see all of our friends. I got to surprise everyone. I got to eat lunch with a pack of guys that had my back through my entire college career. I got to see my roommates and look at the new apartment they’re living in. I got to do something as silly as go grocery shopping with my best friends and drool over the non-New York City prices. I got to feel love.
I left the next morning and on my 8+ hour bus ride home had plenty of time to replay the amazing events of the weekend in my mind. And somewhere between Pittsburgh and Manhattan, I had my big realization:
Valentine’s Day isn’t about couples. It isn’t about candy hearts or red roses or candlelit dinners.
Valentine’s Day is about love. It’s about hugs that linger and dancing to those songs that are just really catchy and that pain in your stomach from laughing too hard.
Like everything in life, February 14th is what you make it. Valentine’s Day isn’t out to get anyone or draw attention to the fact that you’re single. You don’t need a girlfriend to love this holiday. You just need a heart for understanding and eyes that can see what is right in front of you.
I was on the Subway last week when I saw a mother and her young son. The boy was working on reading a book and becoming frustrated with the mixed up letters on the page. I watched as she patiently explained to him what was confusing again and again and encouraged him when he did well. That is love.
I cried when I left this weekend because sometimes saying goodbye to people who mean a lot to you is hard. I smiled too, though because it’s a beautiful thing to have people in your life who make you feel so deeply. That is love.
I walked into my apartment yesterday and had two very happy cats greet me with choruses of meows. I patted both their heads and they followed me into my room, as if to welcome me home. That is love.
You see, love comes in so many forms and to blindly write off a holiday because you don’t like one person’s definition of the emotion that perhaps makes us the most human is ludicrous.
I said that this post is for those who believe in love. Maybe right now you’re having trouble believing in it. But I promise you see it around you every single day. And I promise, if you look, you’ll begin to experience it in every moment.
Love is more than what a greeting card company will tell you it is. Love is an active verb and that means it can be whatever you make it. Make it grand. Make it silly. Make it fun. Make it comfort. But most of all, make it count. Say I love you too much and never underestimate the power of a hug.
This post is for everyone whose lives have been bettered by love. So this post is for everyone.