Ramblings of sentimentality are brought to you by my distress over Valentine’s Day. On one hand, I hate Valentine’s Day – because I feel that it’s important to remember love every single day. On the other hand, a special day for hugs, kisses, and chocolate feels like an important holiday. I miss middle school, where I’d make up bags of individually wrapped candy and assemble Valentine’s cards for each one of my classmates. These days, Valentine’s Day is packaged as a holiday for couples, and I feel silly celebrating the platonic love in my life. There is no day dedicated to the celebration of friendship; and sometimes my self restraint is stronger than my desire for constant silliness. At the same time, greeting cards always make me feel vulnerable and exposed, and I have yet to find ways of showing affection without baring it all. So, I want to write cards, but I won’t.
I’ve always been great at filling up greeting cards. My gift for seeing the best in people (especially those I love) combines with my ability to put words on paper and makes me fantastic at writing cards for every event of the season. A birthday card from me is equivalent to a mug of homemade hot chocolate: warm and genuine. I often see birthdays and other holidays as a great occasion for sentimentality. I don’t vocally express love on a daily basis. Alex gets to hear that I love him every day; but my friends assume that they’re loved until a birthday card comes along and reaffirms their assumption. “I love you” is a very intimate phrase, and I’ve only spoken it to two people outside my family. This isn’t because I don’t love my friends. (I’ve just managed to convince my friends to give regular hugs; I’m not going to push my limits by trying to vocalize my love for them) Greeting cards give me a chance to get creative and expressive. I bask in the opportunity to do so.
Once upon a time, a close friend told me that my cards were tedious and annoying to get through. She said that no one reads my sentimental ramblings, she told me that I shouldn’t waste my time on something that’s going to get thrown out anyway; and I stopped writing love letters to my friends. This past year, I have started to write birthday cards again, only to see them thrown out and get left behind. It’s disappointing to see my heartfelt words get tossed aside, dismissed so easily. I wrote a card for all my friends this past Christmas season, and I only got one card in return. Sentimentality and handwritten notes just aren’t in fashion anymore. So it goes.
There are three lessons to be learned from this story. The first one is that I have never written these cards for my friends, I write them for me. The hugs that I share with my friends aren’t for them, they’re for me. I need to express my love in this way, and there’s no shame in spilling out my words on the back page of a greeting card. There’s beauty in it for me, and I don’t need validation from other people to be able to see and feel that beauty. The second lesson is one that I’ve been learning over and over again. Everyone says and hears “I love you” in a different way. To be a good friend, it’s important that I learn to listen closely. My friends show me love every single day, each in their own way – I just need to pay attention . My final lesson is about vulnerability. In the past year, I’ve opened up in a variety of ways to many different people. In this time, I’ve never regretted being vulnerable. There’s no reason to allow that fear to creep in now.