Redefining Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, I am not as fortunate as I was last year because I have zero dates, instead of four.

I want to revisit last year’s post, which apparently was very popular among those who read it. I consider myself really lucky thus far, because either I’ve been in blissful ignorance, or in a relationship, or with friends on February 14th.

This year I am not as lucky. I no longer have close friends outside of my apartment; I have people whom I “touch base with” occasionally. I can’t maintain a conversation any more, because my brain has never been wired that way, I have lost my confidence, and I no longer have interesting aspects in my life to talk about. I no longer have the intellectual stimulation that school provided. And I’ve nearly lost my hobbies — my math and my weather — due to a peculiar symptom of lifelessness that borders on depression. (But, is thankfully not — and I’ll elaborate more on that later.)

So as you can see, I went from having four dates to zero in one year, and now I actually feel lonely on Valentine’s Day.  Oh em gee double–u tee eff. No really, what?!

Now as I mentioned before, the idea of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic passion is silly. Single people are just as single as ever and couples shouldn’t need a holiday to spend special time together.

But let me tell you that I’ve learned a lot this past year so I feel compelled to elaborate on my point from last year, which was more or less this: Valentine’s Day is about love in general.

A few weeks ago I watched this wonderful TED talk about a guy who went into deep depression and came out of it inspired to devote his life to studying it. His name is Andrew Soloman and you should watch the TED talk here.  Anyway, his talk completely change my viewpoint on what depression is, and this one particular line stuck with me:

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.”

It struck me because of what I’ve been feeling the last couple of months: that is, I want to go to bed forever almost every minute I am awake.  This wasn’t a sleepy kind of tired. This was a more debilitating, life-energy-sucking kind of tired, one where you simply lose the want to keep doing great things in life. Or to keep doing the things you used to love.

Before anyone says I am indeed in depression, I would disagree, as I don’t want to die (there’s a reason why I said “sleep forever” instead of “die” in my above paragraph), and I can still get myself out of bed. I still talk to people. Aside from the degradation of my hobbies and the want to have more meaningful experiences, it’s not interfering with my life. I still hold positive and negative emotions. I still express positive and negative emotions. I can still help myself.

However, I know I am dangling pretty close to the abyss, so I make sure to get more sleep and to keep myself healthy for now. But the arrival of Valentine’s Day has made me  think: what if I was actually depressed? Forget about the stereotypical lonely person… what does a truly depressed person go through on Valentine’s Day? Depression encapsulates the polar opposite to anything that Valentine’s Day epitomizes.

My flirting with depression, so to speak, has made me realize that there is an intricate connection between love and vitality.  You can’t have vitality without love, and you can’t have love without vitality. You have to live — you have to live vitally — to love. Likewise, you have to love to live. So, if my last year’s post is to be correct — if Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love in general, the most vital of all human emotions — it has to be a celebration of vitality as well. As with almost everything, I took whatever vitality I had, whatever “dates” I had… for granted.

Should that be then what we single people pause to appreciate on this day of love? That food may be more than food, that it may be food with salt and pepper… that life may be more than life, and that it may be vital as well. And as we do, maybe we can do better by sharing this vitality with others, not necessarily a significant other. Maybe we can do better by picking those up who cannot pick themselves up, by understanding what is depression, this lack of vitality, instead of stigmatizing it. Would that be a more meaningful Valentine’s Day indeed.

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