In years past, I’ve spent Valentine’s Day in a variety of ways.
I’ve reclaimed it as “girls’ night out.” I’ve spent it openly angry and bitter about being alone and single. I’ve spent it with some man in my life, usually disappointed that it wasn’t all I had dreamed it would be. I’ve proclaimed that it’s just another day and ignored it.
It’s a holiday I’ve grown to, if not exactly hate, at least be ambivalent about. It has always seemed like a crock to me.
So here it is, once again, and yet I find myself rethinking my ambivalence to it. No, I’m not on a romantic adventure with some new guy who has ignited my passion, stolen my heart, and completed me. I’m single again—so what’s changed?
Me. And perhaps more importantly, my life.
I am no longer living a life trapped in a nine-to-five job, barely getting by—always awaiting my next vacation day that would likely be spent in my apartment, as I couldn’t afford to go anywhere.
Three years ago, I quit my job, and I slowly started taking my life back. Now, I own a company. I travel around the world. I homeschool my daughter. I write, and coach, and more than anything else, I live. And in that living, I’ve found a secret that changed my life: Truly fulfilling passion comes from living your dreams, not from finding your mate.
A couple of years ago, I came across this quote from Kevin Claiborne:
“Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. Never ignore what your heart pumps for. Mold your career around your lifestyle, not your lifestyle around your career.”
Yes—this is why I feel so alive these days! I am no longer slowly dying inside, killing myself while I attempt to mold my lifestyle around my career and push away what I truly want for a later time that might never happen.
This is what life is about, I thought, but then I reconsidered: No. This is what love and passion are all about.
I had always been a staunch adversary of the “you complete me” campaign—the idea of a Jerry Maguire style love that answers all the questions, fulfills all the needs, and suddenly leaves a person whole.
I insisted it was bullsh*t. If you’re not complete and whole before you enter into a relationship, you’re not complete and whole inside of one either. But knowing that did not mean I was immune to the desire and longing of wanting a quick fix answer that could erase that empty space inside of me that sometimes just felt like a small rut and other times felt like a vast canyon of need—for passion, for love, for a feeling of contentment when I analyzed the life I was living.
The idea that meeting the right guy might make that feeling go away is a lovely fairytale, one I’ve wanted to believe on many lonely nights, even if the logical side of me knew that that’s simply not how life works.
This is why I’ve always disliked Valentine’s Day. It pushes the “you complete me” agenda in a very public way, and makes most single people feel like they are missing some key component of their life.
And, of course, they are. But it’s not a romantic partnership that most people are missing.
Sitting there taking that Claiborne quote in, I recognized that the hole that is sometimes a rut and sometimes a canyon isn’t due to the lack of romantic love in my life. That hole came from not following my dreams, from not living up to my potential, from not pushing my boundaries and from not humming with the excitement at simply being alive. It came from doing what I thought I should do, instead of doing what I actually wanted to do. That hole was the symptom of a slow suicide.
I wish I had known sooner that the solution to the empty feeling that often arose, especially on holidays like Valentine’s Day, was never to desperately search for a romantic partner. I was right to call bullsh*t on the thought that I needed anyone to “complete” me.
All I needed, in the end, was to stop attempting to suppress my dreams in an attempt to fit the lifestyle I wanted around the career I thought I had to achieve—the conventional life that was slowing killing me.
All I needed was to believe that I could in fact live the life that I had always wanted, but had never believed was really possible. I could chase my dreams, and as unrealistic as it sounded, I could actually have a life filled with everything I wanted—travel and excitement and connection and joy—and could even enjoy success in a career along the way.
All I needed was to stop the act of a slow suicide on my soul.
For me, Valentine’s Day will forever be a day to celebrate love and passion—but now I choose to use this day to celebrate love and passion of life, not of an ideal of romantic love. It is a day to truly look at whether I’m succeeding at living a life filled with these two beautiful emotions, with or without a romantic partnership, or whether I need to re-evaluate things.
If there is ever again a time when this day fills me with a deep hole of yearning, sadness, or regret, I’ll know that I need to focus my attention on whether or not I’m on a path of living authentically true to myself—not on finding some guy who might fill that hole and “complete” me.
Author: Jennifer Underwood
Editor: Callie Rushton