Love is many things, and my opinions on love and Valentine’s Day have evolved over the years. What started with dropping store-bought cards into classmates’ homemade mailboxes transitioned into sending carnations and candy grams to middle school crushes. Physical manifestations of “love” further developed into enduring expectations of roses and restaurant reservations. As problematic as Valentine’s Day can be with its capitalistic pressures, I’ll admit that I love it. Mainly, I’m fond of the ideas and concepts that the holiday represents. I love this little thing that we call “love.” 

Love is many things. In high school, love is my grandmother’s smile when I sing onstage. It’s going to clean the snow off my car only to discover that my father already has. It’s text messages from friends who were “just thinking of me.” It’s words of gratitude shared with cast and crew on opening night. It’s pats on the back from teammates, win or lose. It’s my mother’s willingness to provide feedback on college admission essays, a favor that follows thousands before it.

In college, love is tearing up when my parents hug me goodbye. It’s laughing with new friends in an East Quad lounge until 5:00 in the morning because the conversation has somehow turned from statistics to K-pop. It’s splitting a milkshake with the first person I mumble “I love you” to in a romantic way. It’s staying by a friend’s side when they’ve drank too much. It’s them repaying the favor when I end up in the ER a few months later. It’s calling up friends from high school, most of whom will fade away, to talk about things old and new. It’s also calling family members, because they want to know what’s up, too.

In a pandemic, love is light in the dark. It’s group Zoom calls and endless iterations of “stay safe.” It’s my best friend buying me a pizza when I’ve heard bad news and lost my appetite. It’s calls from my sister, who reaches out to see how I’m handling everything. It’s my boyfriend holding me for hours, days, weeks when the updates from my parents back home manage to get worse. A thrown phone, used tissues and a loved one lost to COVID-19 culminates into animalistic sobs and tight hugs. Three months later, the tears haven’t stopped, but neither has he.

Love is bigger than any of us, but it’s found in the small things. It’s in smiles and laughter, hugs and condolences. It permeates the good times and makes the bad times more manageable. My idea of love has changed since passing out valentines in elementary school, but I’ll still give handmade cards to my housemates and mail them elsewhere, just as I do every year. Origami hearts and crudely cut construction paper may not be the best representations of my love, but they’re a start. And we all need a little more love in our lives.

 

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