A group of women sitting at a table

I am chronically single. While in my adult life, I’ve come to see it as a gift. As a teenager, of course, it burdened me as a deep tragedy.

A club in my high school would set up booths in the cafeteria during the week of Valentine’s Day to sell roses and carnations. I watched pretty girls with name-brand clothes and smooth, flowing hair float through the hallways with flowers draped on top of their books, holding their boyfriend’s hand. The week would come and go, and despite my day-dreamy adolescent hopes, I was never a recipient. It embittered me to the holiday and my own romantic heart. I boldly “hated” Valentine’s Day.

Of course, I didn’t actually hate Valentine’s Day. In all my teenage angst, what I did hate was a reminder of my loneliness. Perhaps February 14 serves as a needless reminder to highlight our lack or disappointment. It wasn’t until years later when my friends exchanged cards and little gifts in celebration that my heart softened to the holiday again. Rather than an exclusive or painful day, I recognized Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to leverage bold and intentional acts of love to those around me—significant other or not.

I recognized Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to leverage bold and intentional acts of love to those around me.

Romance, as I’ve come to embrace it, is centered much more on delight than on a specific person we are committed to. I am wooed by freshly fallen snow. I treasure thoughtful notes from friends. I swoon over the flowers I happily buy myself. Though this may take on new depth in a relational context, the delight and romance we may crave can be found in sweet glimpses in our everyday lives. Valentine’s Day is a golden opportunity to extend love to our lovers, families and friends alike.

Just as Leslie Knope from Parks and Rec pioneered “Galentine’s Day” for the masses, broadening our perspective on what this day means gives an opportunity to love intentionally and celebrate friends boldly. Regardless of our own relationship status, creating space for our friends on such a day often carries more meaning and significance than we would expect.

Broadening our perspective on what this day means gives an opportunity to love intentionally and celebrate friends boldly.

In contrast to whatever lack we may have felt in past Valentine’s Days, we can boldly speak in actions or words, “You belong, and you are worthy of celebrating.” These are words no one can hear enough. A day that can be a painful reminder for so many can instead be an invitation.

My most recent Valentine’s was my favorite to date. Sweet friends in loving relationships went out of their way to gift me with flowers, notes or ice cream. I felt overwhelmingly loved and remembered. Though I currently remain single, I cherish a season of life deeply invested in feminine community.

I love Valentine’s Day even more for it, which has become a brilliant excuse to gather friends, give gifts, encourage and celebrate my people in all their beauty. What used to bear so much shame has become an outlet of hope and delight.

What used to bear so much shame has become an outlet of hope and delight.

I mentor high school girls, and they roll their eyes (just as I would have) when I insist on celebrating Valentine’s Day with friends. I make them write encouraging notes to each other, and after years of leading them in the exercise, I have seen their attitudes toward it change. In the same way, my high school self became defined by her loneliness, we can also redefine a day that once carried disappointment and feelings of being left out with a pursuit of encouragement and celebration for ourselves and all the people we love.

Share the love this Valentine’s Day with the Darling Conversation Cards. Every card has question prompts for you and your loved ones to enrich your relationships with deeper dialogue. 

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day in an unconventional way? Who in your life can you celebrate?

Image via Emily Blake, Darling Issue No. 7

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