On Valentine’s Day and the Feeling of Left Behind

All of us walk through life harboring different kinds of fears; that seems to be part of the contract of being alive. We fear others and at times ourselves. We fear our dreams and our inner wounds. We fear our capabilities and our vulnerabilities. We fear losing, and sometimes winning because it means we may never win again. We fear living and also dying. We fear we may never find love or lose the ones we already have — and it is this fear I fear the most.

Sitting on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I am already imagining and anticipating the joy and celebration, and the pain and sorrow this day is set to inflict upon others. I don’t even need to imagine, all I should do is hop on social media and see, just see the unfurling of the gift exchanges and the proposals, and the ‘who would I have been without you’ posts for millions to see. Why aren’t those messages exchanged privately as they were intended? I will never know. But I can take a guess. They are probably motivated partly by conformity: well, everyone seems to be doing it, partly to send a message to their exes or enemies or perceived enemies: look where I am now sucker, or simply to share their joy with others and I am trying to be generous here.

Regardless of one’s motives, I often marvel at our obliviousness to the disheartening and hurtful impact that our posts can have on others. In critiquing the overly and publicly celebrated Valentine’s Day, author and speaker Glennon Doyle gave an interesting analogy, “Imagine dedicating a day to celebrate a Financial Independent Day. And everyone who is financially independent gets to post their money on Instagram. Aren’t those people already celebrated in their everyday lives? Do we need a separate day for them to flaunt their wealth to the destitute and the struggling?” That seems to be the world we are living in. I will stop my rant here. But if you are among the joyous celebrators, my only advice to you is to reach out to those who are feeling lonely or uncelebrated and show them your love and make them feel appreciated. I understand by the time you are reading this blog, Valentine’s Day will already have passed, but it’s okay, there is no statute of limitation to showing our loves to those who are feeling abandoned or left behind.

I have a tender spot for people who feel behind whether romantically or in other aspects of life, because I have tasted that feeling myself. Further, life has also humbled me enough to recognize that “the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to people of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.” This quote is from the book of Ecclesiastes. Although I do not identify as a religious person, I often ponder these words. People often like to attribute their successes and accolades solely to their merits and hard works. Yes, I too admire people who work toward their goals, big and small, with tenacity and diligently, and I am always in awe of those who strive to live their lives with character and integrity. However, it would also be disingenuous to claim that we are solely the masters of our destinies, and the gateway to success is hard work alone. While this view has a magnetic side to it — because who wouldn’t want to believe that they have full control over their lives and their futures — it tends to foster a victim blaming and shaming attitude in society.

Returning to my initial thoughts of Valentine’s Day, if there is one group of people over which society likes to inflict its merciless and unrelenting judgments, it’s the single unmarried women, particularly those past a certain age. The assaults come in various forms, ranging from unsolicited and superficial advice such as “time doesn’t wait for anyone” (Oh really? I actually didn’t know that) to setting you up with someone without even receiving your consent to asking inconsiderate questions. Other times, you get that pitying looks from your mother’s friend and hear comments like, “but you look good for your age.” Never mind your contributions to society or the different ways in which you mentor and mother those under your wings, either professionally or personally. It feels that if you are a woman, your worth is exclusively determined by your relationship status. At times, you get the message from others that they would rather see you in unhealthy and life degrading relationships than seeing you unattached. Even worse, it’s deemed your fault. It’s because you haven’t prayed enough or searched enough or compromised enough or send the right energy enough. Most people tend to believe that if something works for them or if that something has brought some good fortune for a group of people, the assumption is that it is supposed to work for every human on earth. Never mind that there could be millions of people who have actually tried that thing, perhaps more times than they could count but didn’t achieve the desired results. Why? I don’t know. What I know is that there is no fail-proof formula for finding love or health or success that works universally for everyone. If there were, life would have been much easier and much, much less interesting. I am all for the mystery.

Feven Seifu is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. If you have any writing ideas or topics you would like her to address, please feel free to contact her at fseifu@umn.edu

For more blogs: Feven Seifu

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1 thought on “On Valentine’s Day and the Feeling of Left Behind”

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