I’m writing this sat on a train from London back to Leeds, nursing a red cup of Yorkshire tea to help soothe my hangover. My cheeks are pink from sprinting to the platform where the train I was meant to get was leaving from. I arrived with two minutes to spare, yet (along with others) was denied entry by a conductor with a vendetta. A Valentine’s scrooge. Leaning out the window with his pink lips in the shape of a smirk. Across the aisle from me on my adopted train sits a man in a high-vis jacket and red tracksuit bottoms happily filming the view on a camcorder. Around me are couples armed with romantic gifts.
Valentine’s Day. It’s a funny one. One look at my Facebook feed, and it’s filled with friends oversharing about their romantic relationships, brandishing their flowers as if to say “Look! Look at me! I am loved!”
I am very much single this Valentine’s Day. Although the cyberworld and the blue-skied, chilly February world tells me I should feel bad about it, I don’t. In fact, despite the stressful nature of my morning and that I’m seriously struggling to keep my eyes open (never again, cheap wine), I feel positively rosy with love. Cringe.
Hear me out.
Rosy with love for the ticket inspector who I thought was going to charge me for a whole new ticket, but instead departed with a cheery Northern “thank you!” Love for Tame Impala, who I saw on Friday night at Alexandra Palace and blew my mind with their psychedelic colourful lightshow. Love for the reunion in a pizza restaurant beforehand, with crumbs falling out of our expressive hands onto the suitcases by our feet. Love for spending hours wandering around the capital. Love for the love coursing through Brixton’s veins, its memorial to its eternal son David Bowie, electric and flower-filled. Love for not seeing friends for four months and it still being the same, although this time armed with kitchen utensils and singing karaoke in a Peckham kitchen. Love for my little brother who turns 18 this week (whut) who texted me excitedly last night about a gig he was at. Love for the fact for the first time in a long time, I love where I live – I’m not lying when I say I’m head over heels in LOVE with my new flat. Love for my number one galpal who doubles up as my flatmate. Love for all of my friendships and relationships past and present, forever and fleeting, which along with love have brought me joy, happiness, even pain. Which have all taught me something about myself.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the tiredness talking. Maybe it’s because I’ve been ruminating recently on how to retain happiness in the groggy fog of grey days. The conclusion I’ve reached is I think it’s so important – vital even – to decipher what it is that we love. Who and what and where makes us feel good. Also, importantly, who and what and where DOES NOT make us feel good.
It’s too easy I think to take the people who love us for granted. It’s too easy to consistently follow our heads and not our hearts. It’s too easy as a single person to feel cold and cynical towards the Instagram photos of elaborate Valentine’s dinners, when really these people are just people in #love who want to -- however obnoxiously -- simply spread their joy.
Whether we’re single or not, we can take this silly, corporate day to actually really think about these things we love. Because that’s what life really boils down to isn’t it? When we’re old and grey, it won’t be the hours on public transport that we’ll remember. It won’t be the boys or girls we’ve sort of fancied and endured awkward dates with. It won’t be the long days at the office. It won’t be the books that bored us. It won’t be the people who let us down, and the friendships that we weren’t that bothered about so let fizzle out. It won’t be anything we’ve felt meh about. It’ll be the things, the places and the faces that made us feel ROSY with love. The things that made us feel alive because of love. And that, I think, is what Valentine’s Day is really about. Finding different kinds of love in our everyday lives and making sure that those things know that they are loved, too.