I know--or at least the numbers show--that quite a number of people read my blog. I also know that I'm not the type of person who participates in "en masse" events, such as wishing people Merry Christmas, or Happy New Year, or Chinese New Year (was that today? yesterday? oh crap I'm so bad..), or, oh hey, look, Valentine's Day. I saw the way the people whose blogs I subscribe to wished all of their readers Merry Christmas/Hannukkah back in December. And on a similar note, I noted the way everyone posted about Mockingjay when its cover and title were released earlier this week. Every other blog post that showed up in my reader was about that.
I'm ABSOLUTELY not saying that that is a bad thing to do! I understand the general excitement and good cheer of those events as well. I am simply saying that that is not the way I choose to express my passion and sincerity. Not that any way is better than the other. I just wanted to write about why I feel this way.
For me, communication is an extremely personal, intimate, and, therefore, difficult process. I believe that the truest emotion and thought cannot be expressed in language, and that the very act of attempting to convey your thoughts to another party means that some of your original intent is lost in the process. It's a dilemma that all writers--but really, anyone who is literate and/or communicative--face. If you think about it, it's actually funny that I should love to read and write so much, so aware I am of the limitations of language.
There's a common saying that human beings are social creatures, and while I agree (even an uberintrovert such as me enjoys good company), I also find it rather paradoxical that we must employ language in order to facilitate our social-ness. In that sense, all beings with a conscious, with a soul, are, deep down, individuals. You can never really understand another person as well as yourself (and if you disagree with me on this, as 40% of my brain is doing right now, note that I'm not saying that you'll be able to express yourself completely, even to yourself. Many things are simply outside the realm of possibility and comprehension allowed by language).
Believing this, I try to break down the inevitable communication barriers between me and others as much as I can. I do this by being sincere, genuine, and honest to myself. When I smile at a stranger I pass on the street or the lady who hands me my food at the ordering counter, it's a smile that comes from way inside me, a smile that uses the eyes and the soul as well as the mouth. When I talk to customer services on the phone, I try to be as courteous and accommodating as possible, recognizing that these are actual people behind the bodiless voices in my ear.
I've befriended those bodiless voices as I've attempted to solve package delivery or Internet issues. I've had strangers stop me with a hand on my arm on the subway and tell me that I have an amazing smile. These are incidents that I cherish, even as I take them with a blush or an embarrassed grin. Because in a world where people can so easily hide behind impersonableness, textureless words on a smooth screen, the disembodiment of the cell phone, and a tall counter or glass window, such basic forms of communication are, unfortunately, all too rare and thus considered amazing feats, when they should really be so commonplace that people should expect genuine smiles or thanks as their dues for simply existing.
Whether or not I've been on the receiving end of valentines, I've never been bitter about this holiday. When my high school sold carnations for Valentine's Day and classmates all around me received flowers but I didn't, I wasn't bitter. Of the twenty or so Valentine's Days I've lived through, three of them were shared with two other people.
This Valentine's Day, I'm single for the first time in two Valentine's Days. And I became even more aware of what this holiday was about, why we celebrate it, and why we--and I above so many others--get so mushy and romantic on this day:
It's a celebration of love.
I agree that love shouldn't be confined to just one day out of the whole year. That love is encompassed in tangible objects such as flowers or chocolates or expensive gifts. Genuine love--in all forms, not just romantic--should exist and be celebrated in all forms, every day. So many of us believe that the only kind of love that counts on Valentine's Day is the romantic kind, but that's far from the case. Today, I thought about all the friends I have; the family I care about, even though I might not get along with them all the time; the books, each a special present of its own, lining my bookshelves; beautiful music; the view on my walk up to campus; and the strangers I've come in contact with and received genuine smiles from, the kind that crinkle the eyes and leave you floating for the rest of the day.
There is love in all of that.
Today, I watched as people holding flowers greeted their lovers as they met them coming off the SEPTA train on my campus, and I smiled. I saw a harried young man, bundled up against the cold, penguin-walking up our slippery walk, a single flower clutched in his hand, and I smiled. I listened to the male a cappella group at my school serenade people in the library this afternoon. I read people's blog posts, both Valentine's and non-Valentine's Day related.
And I smiled.
It's not such a bad thing to have Valentine's Day. We all need a reminder to celebrate and appreciate love every once in a while. Why else do you think romance is so beloved in the books we read and enjoy? Even those of us without romantic loves in our lives like knowing that it exists. Valentine's Day gives me a chance to remember all of the people I've loved having in my life, the privileges I've been given, the opportunities I've been fortunate enough to have to do the things I love.
I don't do mass emails, mass texts, or blog posts wishing everyone a happy whatever-holiday-it-is because that's not the way I express my love. Instead, I write long, rambling posts like this one and cast them out into the world with the hopes that someone will get something out of it. These "love letters" that I write--here, in my journal, in letters to other people--feel to me more genuine than any cheerful mass-communicated phrase with an exclamation point attached to the end. That's how I express myself, and that's what it means for me to show my happiness and love.
Here are some people's blog posts to get you inspired to celebrate life, love, and genuineness: teen blogger Robby's heartwrenching post today inspired me to write this love letter to no one in particular. Steph Bowe has amassed a post full of beautiful love-related pictures that I'd love to see blown up and placed in the best art gallery in the whole world. Author Beth Kephart always has simple, sweet, and beautiful blog posts and pictures on her blog that are worth taking 5 minutes out of your life to savor.
This unconventional Valentine's Day post ends here. I hope everybody had a great weekend, wherever you were and whatever you did. Now excuse me, I'm going to go continue spreading the love. :)