The thing about having been working on The Smile Project for over eight years is that this year will be my ninth Valentine’s Day for “Happiness is.” I began regularly writing for the blog in 2014, meaning there’s that many years for more long-form posts about love as well.
In 2014, I shared an article I had originally written for my college’s newspaper. In Here’s to the Good Kind of Love, I write, “Love was all the little things that I had seemed to have forgotten. Love is brushing the hair back out of your partner’s face. Love is making your significant other breakfast in bed while they’re still asleep. Love is dancing around to your favorite song and not getting judged when you look like a complete fool. Love is a caring, nurturing, healthy relationship with the people around you.”
In 2015, I wrote about Love through an Interpersonal Lens, saying, “Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Allow yourself to be real. Allow yourself to be raw. But most importantly…Allow someone in.”
In 2016, I really got into the spirit, writing a blog called This is a Post for Those who Believe in Love. So This is a Post for Everyone. I took a stand on Valentine’s Day being, at its core, a sweet holiday, saying, “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.”
It wasn’t until 2018, though, that I really figured it out: In Look Like Love, I write, “At the end of the day, I’m not as concerned with which adventure comes next or which idea comes to fruition. At the end of the day, I just want to look like love.”
This year, I wanted to hear from you, which is why the next two passages you will read are from two beautiful and daring members of The Smile Project family who live and love out loud. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Eve and Juan Antonio.
Eve Kammerdiener wrote me, “Love is a type of warmth you can’t get anywhere else.” This is Eve’s story:
Storge: the type of love that is born from fondness and familiarity.
Growing up as an only child who never lived close to kids my own age, I developed a strong sense of self. This has allowed me to be a good judge of character, and slightly picky when it comes to friendship. However once I become friends with someone, they sometimes become close enough that I see them as siblings I wasn't born with. They are my confidants, my mentors, my role models. They become the people who I can call in the middle of the night if I can't sleep, and the people that have seen me ugly cry in the oddest situations. I have friends, but I also have siblings. Siblings that I got to choose, that I have formed bonds with that will never perish.
Juan Antonio Nelson says that love is for everyone. Here are his reflections.
Love is a principle. It’s like the ocean. It’s constant and lasts an eternity. It calms when one is anxious, it guides when one is lost. It stands the test of time. It is not transactional.
It goes beyond the frivolity of romance although it can be nourished with good romance.
It connects us at the core and is not dependent on the current state or circumstance.
Love can blind someone but it can also open someone’s eyes. It can heal those who are broken and show them a new life. Love is for everyone. It’s that relentless support and care despite the odds. It’s also very pure. Like an innocent child loving a pet pig. Or having a best friend who is from a different part of the world. Or having pity for an insect that died. Or missing their parents when they are away. Love is big. Love is beautiful.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to stories about love in all its forms over these past few weeks. Sara Jo wrote me on Instagram, “Love is walking with your children through nature freshly covered in snow as the sun is setting.”
Another anonymous friend told me that “Love is doing something like grocery shopping with my husband. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s really fun to do simple things together. I guess that’s the point. They make everything fun.”
No matter where you are in life, I hope you have someone that makes everything fun. I hope you are surrounded by people who build you up and make you strong. I hope you laugh until you cry and sing until your voice gives out. I hope you recognize love in all its forms. And I hope when you do, you are brave enough to lean into it and say thank you.
Love always (always, always),