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A spirit that is not afraid

COLUMN | The true meaning of Valentine's Day

<p>This Valentine's Day, professors are sharing their advice on relationships.</p>

This Valentine's Day, professors are sharing their advice on relationships.

As someone who has been single for about two decades of Valentine’s Days, the holiday can feel extremely performative and humdrum. 

Perhaps our culture has turned it into a lustful day to boost the flower and giant-teddy-bear industry; but if Valentine’s Day has continued this long, it must have something to offer us. 

It’s a holiday about love, but more specifically it is a holiday celebrating the presence of true love. 

And true love is a rarity in our culture. It isn’t something to be won or earned. It’s not about checking boxes. It is more than attraction. Even when it lasts a lifetime, it doesn’t last forever. 

So when you find it, you should celebrate it — or at least take one day out of your year to reflect on it. 

Our culture has given us a picture of love: perfect romance at first sight. 

Platonic love is subtlety too difficult to package into a 90-minute romantic comedy. Intricacies of self-love are too difficult to articulate without being cheesy. As a result, the definition of love is simple, exclusive and transient. 

Love is more than romance, though. It is possible to give someone attention without loving them, and it is possible to be in a romantic relationship where you don’t truly love your partner. 

Yes, it can take the form of a romantic relationship with a partner, but love is deeper still. 

In order to experience real, true love, you have to be willing to see someone at their worst and selflessly care for them when it is inconvenient for you. 

Just because you are intimate does not mean you are in love. Love is not about what you can get out of a relationship. That mindset is inherently selfish; it is devoid of true care for the other person because you are using them to satisfy your desires. 

There are moments in our lives when we simply cannot exist without something outside of ourselves. Focusing on someone besides yourself is love — because it is unnecessary, gracious, compassionate and authentic. 

Love is an enduring bond that costs something. You must be vulnerable enough to let somebody love you because it penetrates all façades. In turn, you must be willing to care about someone to the very core of who they are. 

It is impossible for love to be short-lived because it takes time — to initiate, develop and exist. Friendships that reach this level are the most rewarding. Nothing is perfect, but that’s the point: you endure the rawest parts of life — together.

Please bear with me, but life is impossible without love. Finding the strength to get up in the morning is an act of love towards yourself. Thinking kind thoughts, seeking success, taking purpose in your existence — these are all forms of true self-love. 

Sometimes we love things that aren’t alive. Material objects, memories, lost ones. This is not a bad thing because it signifies something else: the ability to care about something besides yourself. 

Finding pleasure in these things can be good because you’re exercising care, making yourself smile and you are able to connect to other people through those things. It’s only shallow when you don’t acknowledge the meaning behind those actions (hint: the meaning is love).

Even heartbreak has its place in love. It is proof that love is possible, or it indicates that you removed yourself — by choice or not — from a situation where you were not truly loving or receiving love. 

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Yes, it hurts and rattles us, but we must forgive, learn and heal. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is move on. 

Even though it is scary, insurmountable and difficult to define, love is good for our existence.

Any form of kindness, any form of service, any recognition of beauty, any moment of happiness are proof that love is in our lives. So no matter what type of love you find yourself involved in on this Valentine’s Day, recognize and celebrate it because that’s what the holiday is truly about. 

Sami Grace Donnelly | Columnist

Sami Grace Donnelly, sophomore in journalism, is a columnist at The Auburn Plainsman.


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