Friday, February 15, 2013

Being alone on Valentine's Day

I know, I know. I said I wasn't going to rant about the insane stupidness of Valentine's Day this year. But there are a few things that really bother me, and those annoyances are just simmering inside me, setting my blood a'boiling, and pretty soon steam is going to start coming out of my ears. So, I think you'll agree with me when I say that spouting out my thoughts on my blog is a much less messy way to cleanse my system.

Understandably, the topic of choice at work yesterday was what everyone's plans were for Valentine's Day. Most of the guys were totally on top of things and had plans for flowers and romantic dinners. A few of the girls agreed to buy chocolates for each other because they had no one to buy chocolates for them. When people asked me what my plans were, I would just shrug and say, "Homework, probably." About halfway through the day, though, I got tired of the pitying and/or understanding looks people gave me, so I started telling them I would order pizza, too (which I did), in an attempt to convince people that my homework excuse wasn't just cover-up for "I'm going to go home and mope." For some reason, it worked.

Later that night I went to institute. We were operating on Mormon Standard Time, so it started almost 15 minutes late. As is one of my favorite hobbies, I sat there and listened to the conversations going on around me. One guy told his friends in an ashamed voice, "I only came today so I wouldn't have to be alone on Valentine's Day for the third year in a row." A girl later sat by me and said, in a false cheery voice, "So, how was your Valentine's Day?" the tones of bitterness literally oozing from her fake smile. I figured it wouldn't be nice to say "Who cares if you're single on Valentine's Day?" so I lied and pretended to commiserate with her instead.

I guess I should consider myself lucky, because I've never really been bothered by the fact that I've been single all 25 Valentine's Days of my life. When I reached dating age, I was determined to prove to the world that I didn't need a boy, so my lack of boyfriend on Valentine's Day was a triumph in my eyes. In college, my view was much the same, though as I slowly warmed up to the idea that boyfriends aren't all pariahs, I contented myself with thinking that next year I might have a pretty cool guy and made some pretty great memories with my roommates and sisters in the mean time. Even after spending the last two Valentine's Day without either a boy of my own or lots of spontaneous girl support, the tears, hurt, and bitterness never came, at least not on a day when America is particularly obsessed with relationship statuses.

I think most of the depression of this day stems from the fact that no one likes to be reminded that they're alone. It's perfectly normal to not want to be alone--even those of us who need copious amounts of alone time are still biologically engineered to crave human companionship at times.

But the thing is, being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. The night before I moved into my own apartment, I celebrated my new independence (and my last day of having cable) by watching One Day, a movie I thought would be a sweet love story but ended up being really depressing. However, there is one line that Anne Hathaway says that really struck me: "I'm alone, but I'm not lonely." It reassured me that I would be okay living alone, and over time it became one of my mini life mottos.

Most people never learn the difference between "alone" and "lonely." Even Merriam-Webster's Dictionary has a hard time distinguishing between the two: one means "separated from others" while the other means "cut off from others." In fact, I only learned the difference because I spent a lot of my life dealing with one or the other.

Once I figured out that it's loneliness I want to avoid, not aloneness, I began to see real power in being alone. And I'm not just talking about having sole power over the remote, noise level, temperature, and how much milk is in the fridge at my apartment, as nice as that is. No, I'm talking about the power that comes from discovering who you are, the clarity that comes when you take some time for yourself to stop and think. It is not appropriate for every aspect of life to be a group activity. Even if you love being around people, alone time is crucial to a healthy and well balanced life.

I wish more people knew this. I think Valentine's Day would be a much nicer holiday if they did.


  1. :) I really love this - it's really true too. I admire how good you are at knowing how to spend time with and legitimately enjoy your own company.

    Actually, I think the past couple years I was kind of grouchy on V-day, but this year, I had the best day ever. I thought about you said in the tent on Saturday, and realized it was kind of fun just having a good time being me.

    Love ya - thanks for posting this. It makes so much sense.

  2. Talking for 4 hours in a homemade fort did me a lot of good, too. There are a lot of things you said that really stuck with me and kind of changed my perspective on things. Maybe that's why I had an unusually good week . . .