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It was my final year in high school, and due to the erratic schedule of the new program the school was trying out, five major subjects had been issued a mere month and a half before graduation, leaving me several weeks to finish an entire school year’s worth of work. I was overwhelmed, to say the very least.
I absentmindedly watched the sun rise from the corner of my eye, and proceeded with finishing one of the many papers I had been working on all night. One by one my family members descended the staircase, each one bustling about with an odd air of enthusiasm. An extremely loud paper bag, complete with handmade trimmings and an envelope plastered to its side, was excitedly placed in front of me. Feverishly exchanged whispers and murmurs seemingly carrying some sort of greeting filled the air. Finally, I was roused from my somnolence. Is there something I'm missing? I picked up the card laid in front of me, breaking out of the position I had been frozen in, hoping the heavy piece of paper would shed some light.
“I love you, my Valentine! Through everything. Love, Mom.”
At that moment, every last remnant of my drowsiness vanished. I glanced at my calendar; it was the fourteenth of February. Of course! Valentine’s Day. How could I have overlooked the swarms of saccharine posts circulating the internet, mushy songs ubiquitous in commercial establishments, and countless glaring preparations being made all around? How could such a celebration have been disregarded by one who was once so consumed by it? I slumped in my seat, half beating myself up for my ignorance, half wondering how I could have possibly been so oblivious. But then my peripheral vision brought back into focus the half-blank Word document that faced me, and I put my emotions—whatever they may have been—aside, suppressing them for my own wellbeing, even if only for the meantime.
At that, I realized exactly what I was doing, and had been doing for so long: how when I was hurt, or would rather not be bothered by particular emotions, I would set them aside. And that’s why I was unaware of—or aware of, but insensitive to—Valentine’s Day: I unwittingly chose to be. I unintentionally intentionally ignored it. It had become second nature for me to conceal myself from things that hurt, to the point where I did so without my own knowledge.
With a sigh, I recalled previous Valentine’s days—flowers, chocolate, candlelit dinners, handwritten love letters, stressing over presents, tiptoeing around making surprise arrangements, significant others and I outdoing one another—until I was interrupted by the feeling I had so long buried in the dust: my pain. I was hurt because that year, there was nobody wooing me; because I didn’t have a “Valentine.” My lack of suitors had left me feeling incomplete, as I believed I needed somebody else to make me whole.
Little did I know I was already made complete when I became worth dying for. I was created with deep longings that only my Maker's intense, unconditional love could satisfy. When I finally came to realize this, the need to search for love elsewhere immediately dissipated. My entire perspective was altered: the way I viewed life, myself—everything. I had learned that my refusal to acknowledge the predicament I was in was the very predicament itself, and I could shove legitimate, significant feelings away no more. Searching for temporary love to fill a heart that was made to be empty until filled by its foremost Lover, its Savior, proved to be a vain undertaking.
I allowed the heaviness of exhaustion to weigh my eyelids down, greeted my mother a happy Valentine’s Day, walked over to my room, and shut the door. In the silence, I could only conjure a proper response to the love that had first been given me; I let an I love You drift softly out from under my breath. And for the very first time in my life, with all sincerity, I meant it. Although certain facts are more difficult to come to terms with than others, when you muster up the courage to do so, you'll find you acquire an ounce of strength you didn't initially have. And for that I was grateful. Because of what I had discovered, I was satisfied. Because I was loved perfectly, I was complete.
Maybe I had phrased it wrong... Head tilted back, eyes shut, heart swelling, I whispered, "I love You, too."