My first year in high school, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with these little things called candy-grams. Candy-grams consisted of a cutesy message of seldom-requited adoration and came complete with a red, heart-shaped lollipop to show how much the sender cared. For about a dollar, anyone could send a candy-gram, though it should be noted that firing off one of these love missiles was on par with asking someone out on a date. Candy-grams were not to be taken lightly, and were as bold a declaration of one’s intentions as a kiss on the lips.
Every period, it seemed, more of these candy-grams would be dropped off on the desks of their intended targets, a sure sign of which kids were putting out and which kids were not (I say this only half-jokingly). As a chubby, fifteen-year-old freshman, I did not receive any of these candy-grams. Not that I particularly cared. I mean, yes, I definitely would have killed that lollipop. But what was I supposed to do with a love note at fifteen? After all, I had no money, two hands, and a computer with dial-up internet. My need for a girlfriend was very, very low back then.
Eleven years later, candy-grams still serve as one of my first impressions of the grown-up side of Valentine’s Day. A day that, as a kid, is all fun and games, but as we grow older becomes something more serious, something more foreboding.
Whether you’re in a relationship or not, you can’t escape Valentine’s Day. I could have written about anything today. I chose to write about love. Because you either want to embrace it or kill it on this date each year. Might as well acknowledge that it exists.
Here’s the thing. For most of the past decade, I’ve been in committed relationships on Valentine’s Day. As a result, I’ve seen Valentine’s Day as this holy grail of a holiday that more or less becomes the ultimate microcosm of a romantic union. Fail Valentine’s Day and you’re destined for Splitsville. Nail it and you’re gonna get nailed. Valentine’s Day may as well be the end-all.
That said, this marks the first Valentine’s Day that I’ve been “single” in nearly ten years. And I gotta tell you, it feels phenomenal (Peter LaFleur, Dodgeball). Not having to do sh*t on this day is like being handed a Get Out Of Jail Free card and a suitcase full of money, while simultaneously being told to go have a good time. You know how easy that is? Like sticking Antonio Cromartie in a room with an ovulating female and telling him to make a baby.
To be clear, however, I don’t despise Valentine’s Day like some of you out there. The idea of love compels me. I just think as a society we have a warped perspective on love because of Hallmark and Hollywood. To them, love means having a companion that you can share the bills with, share a bed with, and screw every once in a while. And while that vision of love is something that far too many people buy into, I urge you to shift your beliefs.
In the past few days, I started thinking about love because, frankly, it’s been thrust in my face no matter where I go. Valentine’s Day is advertised everywhere. Short of moving to the jungles of Africa, you can’t elude it. And so if you’re like me, you start to dwell on what this whole love B.S. really amounts to.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, while love can and should be about other people (as love is often made out to be, on this day), it’s also quite a bit more than that.
For instance, I love to write. There’s something about writing that makes my life better. The way it feels to put my thoughts into print, the challenge of crafting the perfect sentence, the knowledge that someone — anyone — may find some value in the words. If I wasn’t allowed to write, my life would suck. Therefore, it’s evident to me that what I feel for writing is, in fact, love.
I also love to play basketball. It doesn’t have to be a game. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Some of my favorite moments involve shooting around in empty gyms, pretending the NBA Finals are on the line while I launch a buzzer-beating three-pointer. I’m 26 years old and this still makes me happy. Just like with writing, I can sum up my life without basketball as sucky. So I must love basketball, too.
The point is, love can be represented in a number of ways. We tend to associate Valentine’s Day with one kind of love and we shouldn’t. Love doesn’t have to be relegated to one other person. Love is everywhere. It can be found in anything.
Love is getting tackled by your dog when you walk in the door.
Love is the feeling you get when you put on your most comfortable t-shirt.
Love is your favorite song, your favorite food, that thing you can’t live without.
Love is effort, love is determination, love is twenty minutes when five would do.
Love is rejection and redemption, pain and jubilation, smiles and tears, heartache and elation.
Love is the people we care about, our friends, our family members, everyone who looks out for our individual well-being.
Love inspires us, frustrates us, moves us, hurts us, motivates us, gets us to do stupidly stupid things.
Think about it. There are things in this world that you love that you never even realized you love. There are things you love that you don’t do enough of or spend enough time with. And you should. Because you love those things. Those things make your life better, make you a better person. We get consumed by the everyday and forget about those things.
Love is dumb. Love is blind. Love is just a feeling. Love doesn’t matter.
But it does matter. And you know that. A life without love is hardly worth living.
So on this day of red roses and dark chocolates, I encourage you to find love. It sounds goofy and I just lost a few ounces of manhood (heh, get it…okay, gross) in writing that, but find love. Whether it’s filling out an Excel spreadsheet like my good friend, Dave; putting a puzzle together like each of my grandmothers; chomping on a stuffed animal like my dog, Dug; or hugging the person you care about and telling them how much they mean to you, there is something in this world that you love that needs your attention today.
The importance of love. It’s more than a candy-gram.