Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Love Letter to No One in Particular

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.

What does this have to do with Valentine's Day, since that's kind of what's got me thinking about this? I agree in a sense that Valentine's Day has become a heavily commercialized "holiday" that many businesses exploit to make profits off of. The times I went on Facebook today, I always saw one or two of my friends' statuses which said something along the lines of, "Valentine's Day is the STUPIDEST holiday ever" or "Can it be February 15 already?" or "I just don't understand why people celebrate Valentine's Day."

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.

Is there such a religion as aestheticism? Because that's what I believe in. I believe in the power of love and beauty, of finding the little things in life that make your day, of doing small and effortless favors for utter strangers that benefit everyone immediately. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It's true. Love and beauty are the things that cannot be expressed in words, and they are the exact things that we should remember to enjoy and notice in our lives.

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. :)


  1. Borrow away!:) I want to know who your lit crushes are!

  2. Wow, that's a really touching and meaningful post. Yeah I agree with you, practically every blog posted about Mockingjay. =))

    Happy Valentine's Day to you Steph! Let's embrace being single ladies!

  3. Beautiful post Steph! Just plain beautiful :) There's a lot of great insights in there, and it got me thinking!

    Unconventional Valentine's blog posts are the best. And Happy Valentines Day and Chinese New Year <333

  4. This is the most special Valentine's post I've read this year! I wish I was as gifted with words as you are, Steph Su.

    In our house we don't celebrate Valentine's day, it's never been a Norwegian tradition. That being said it's starting to catch on here as well, but the day was introduced to us by the stores and commercials that want us to buy lot's of stuff. That's another good reason for me to boycott this day. I don't really feel like I need a special date to appreciate all the people around me(or people I don't know but meet through my job or just communicate with through the phone).

    I read the first Mockingjay post in my Google Reader but then I skipped the XXX rest of the posts that said almost the exact same thing. I did post about Mockingjay but that was on my Norwegian blog and as far as I knew none of the other Norwegian book bloggers had shared the news so I figured I'd post it their instead.

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  6. Seeing my name on your blog, in this post, brought tears to my eyes. I'm glad I've inspired you. Really, that is all I want to do.
    The things you write about on this blog, the honesty in your reviews...I admire you, I really do. So thank you, thank you for being you. :]

  7. I feel the love! Thanks for your heartfelt blog-it always makes me smile.

  8. It irritates me when people go on and on about hating Valentine's Day. I actually want a screen shot of some of my friends status's from the other day to show them when they are lovey dovey in a relationship. I have always loved Valentine's Day and loved dressing up in pink or red when I was younger and eating the chocolate my mom got me every year. I downplay it now because I have a husband who would find any reason NOT to spend money and have learned that I will never have one of 'those' romantic holidays. But I love that it's about love. Because I believe in love and no matter how bitter you can be, I know most everyone else does too. I don't understand the 'cool' factor of hating Valentine's Day. To me that is a giant sign of, I hate my life and wish it was different. Or no one loves me so I am going to whine. Completely ridiculous to me.

  9. What a gorgeous post. I hope you keep on smiling and bringing joy to people's lives. :-)

    I love Valentine's Day, even when I'm single. One of my favorite college memories was sending out those Valentines they sell at wal-mart for children to all of my school friends through the dorm-mail system, and getting Valentines in return from my friends. It's so stupid, but such a fun way to return to childhood and celebrate friends!

  10. You are SO AWESOME! Amazing post. <3

  11. Sorry to say, I just got to this post today, but I'm so glad I took the time to read it. Amazing and just right! Thank you for your wonderful words!


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