From a very early age, I never quite knew how to feel about Valentine’s Day. The premise of the holiday is alluring: love, chocolate, gifts. However, over the years as each Valentine’s Day unfolded, the reality never quite meshed with the day I had hoped to experience. The cheerful heart decorations masked the sadness and wistfulness of a girl silently waiting to feel special.
For so many years, I thought of Valentine’s Day as a day devoted to public display of prestige and belonging. It began in elementary school where popularity was measured by the thickness of the stack of Valentine’s Day cards received. In high school, single roses taped to the outside of locker doors marked those students who mattered to someone else. The public nature of the holiday continued in college where I felt the pressure to do something to celebrate, the whole time keenly aware that I was making plans for myself on a day that celebrates relationships. Social media only adds fuel to the fire these days – anyone feeling disappointed can just start scrolling if they’re looking for a way to feel worse.
If asked, I always said that I didn’t care that much about Valentine’s Day. It was the easiest way to deflect someone from feeling sorry for me, or even worse, from me feeling sorry for myself. In all honesty, however, I did care. I wanted to participate and experience the joy of the day. Little did I know at the time that I was the only person who was in my way.
Things shifted when I had children. The focus of the holiday was no longer me, and I was able to fill that insecure space in my heart with purpose. My goal was to make the day festive for my children. I felt released from the pressure of the holiday, and was finally able to experience the joy of creating a memorable day for them. This rippled over into my job, where making linzer hearts and decorated cookies gave me the opportunity to celebrate from the safety of my warm kitchen. Through my children and work, I eventually realized that I was waiting for someone to make me feel special, when all along that was part of the work that I had to do for myself.
My children are older now, as am I, and I am blessed to have perspective. What I wish more than anything is that I could somehow go back in time, kneel next to that little girl in elementary school and whisper in her ear. I would tell her not to worry. That it’s not about the size of the bouquet or the number of chocolates that makes Valentine’s Day, or any day for that matter, worthwhile. What matters more than anything is how much she loves herself. Once she is able to do that, the world that unfolds around her will be overflowing with all of the abundance, love and connection she could ever imagine.