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In Which I am My Own Valentine

For the third year in a row now, I am counting down the days to Valentine's Day with nobody to count them with.
And I don't mean that I've had relationships over the years that have simply not coincided with February 14th.  I don't mean I've dated on the weekends, or that I've danced with boys at parties.  I haven't compiled a list of cheesy pickup lines that men have used in classes, at bars, while grocery shopping...  Because there have been so few.
I haven't had relationships.  The dates have been few and far between.  Surrounded by friends on New Year's Eve, all pieces of individual couples, I watched from the sidelines as everyone else embraced the person they loved.

And for a while, I've struggled with that.  
21, a junior in college, surrounded by relationships forming, lasting, breaking, holding, building, loving, and everything that surrounds that, is not a good time to be seemingly perpetually alone.
And that is how I saw it: alone.  
It's a scary word, but it's how our culture views it, portrays it, and by extension, expects you to see it.  I was taught, through movies, books, articles, and people around me that to be single is to be somehow lacking in a shared human experience.

Or at least, at a certain point that is what it became.
As though there is a middle ground - Taylor Swift, who is almost always a part of a we, and always with a different he, is not single enough.  I, on the other hand, am entirely too single, and have therefore been graced with the word nobody wants to find their name connected with.


And so I asked myself: what am I doing wrong - am I making myself single?
It wasn't a question I asked lightly - I tiptoed around it for months, pretending I didn't see it standing there dressed in the brightest colors it could find, shining its spotlight on me.  
When I finally did take the question to heart, I asked it quietly.  At night, with the lights out and only my thoughts to answer.
I asked it with help from a friend, one who suggested I be less picky.  Less neurotic.  Less scared.
More open to trying something new, with someone new.

(I should add, she felt she was being helpful.  She didn't ask the question in a cruel or manipulative way.  She had no endgame.  She saw me unhappy, and tried to help.  And for months after I finally acknowledged the question in the back of my mind, I pretended she had never asked; instead, posing the question to people I knew would agree that she was wrong.  That there was nothing wrong with me.  I found very few of those people, because three years seems like 20.)

And slowly, the question seeped into my subconscious.  
It popped up when I wasn't expecting it.  When I was playing third wheel to friends I'd known for years, when I was watching a particularly sweet rom-com, when I saw friends' relationships come and go, when I watched an elderly couple hold hands in the grocery store, and a young couple embrace for the first time.  
It came up everywhere, and I wondered if maybe I was meant to be alone.  
I joked about it, worried about it, tried to do something about it by trying to find interest in men I knew I didn't want to be with.  I struggled with it, trying to find the middle-ground between my mind that was telling me desperation is disgusting, and my heart that was telling me there must be something wrong with me.

And as 2013 rolled around and I watched another February draw closer, I reviewed all the failed attempts at relationships I've put myself through since the beginning of the decade.  The relationships I never tried because I just couldn't see it working.  The ones I tried too hard for, only to find I never should have wasted so much of my time.  The ones in between and the ones that never happened.
I went over and over in my head the reasoning behind those failed attempts, and came out finding myself lacking in something, although I couldn't put my finger on exactly what that something was.
I prepared for another year with no chocolate covered hearts.

I washed myself in the sadness that comes with being single on a holiday made to celebrate relationships, and condemn those who are not a part of one.  I tried to navigate my way through it, taking the trusted path I'd found over the years.  

But the thing is, that's ridiculous.

There is no reason for my being single - I just am.
And that's fine.  Just like being brunette or funny or introverted or any number of other things is fine.
And I only realized that because of a post I ran across on Thought Catalog; and because of the 20 or so articles I found on Google after reading that post.  

I'm not crazy, damaged, messed up, or too picky.
And I'm certainly not alone.
I'm surrounded by friends, by family, by a world full of people who are single.

And there is nothing wrong with not being a part of a relationship - it's not as though it defines who I am, even if movies would have me believe that it does.  I didn't do something specific that makes me somehow deserving of being "alone".  It is nowhere near as bad as the media makes it seem.  Being in a relationship does not fix everything - as great as it may be, it invites its own problems; it lets them sleep on the couch for a while, crowding up your living room until you deal with them.  Single doesn't bring the uninvited house guest.

The post I read said some things that really rang true to me - things that I know I have thought about.  Have considered as being the culprit behind my stunning lack of a relationship.
It said some things that everyone says: stop looking, and it will find you.  Be you.  Enjoy being single.
But it addressed the other things everyone says - the things they said more loudly, and to just the right people.

It said something that I've struggled to believe, because it's the one thing nobody says:
You're alone, because you should be.  Not because you're too picky, or you ignored that really great guy, or because Karma's a bitch.  
You're single because that guy or girl for you is still out there, also single.  Also waiting.
So stop waiting, and forget about it.

Single isn't inherently bad.  It is not really, in any way at all, even slightly bad, regardless of how you choose to experience it.  

So this holiday, I am going to be my own Valentine.  And not grudgingly, not because nobody else is willing.
I am going to buy myself a box of chocolates, or that pretty necklace I've been wanting.  And you should, too.  Take yourself out to dinner and a movie, buy a pretty new dress and go out on the town.
You are single, and that is fine.  There is no rhyme or reason, nothing you've done wrong

So stop worrying.
Be your own Valentine.