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It is that time of year again. February rolls around every year. And if you are single, you dread this time. You might mock all the corny valentines and the dumb romance movies. You might dread seeing all the social media posts about someone’s fantastic significant other especially when their status changes to “it’s complicated” every other week. And if you are in a relationship you can spend your nights worried about what to get your significant other. You can build up your hopes that they telepathically would know exactly what you want in return. And we do this. We do all of this. We throw money at this problematic tradition because we are told to. It is a cheap trick. And it puts unnecessary stress on all of us. That is not what a holiday celebrating love should focus on.

I am young. I have not experienced most of life, but most of my life I have loved. And it was not stuffed animals or heart shaped chocolates or red and pink balloons. It was time shared. It was late nights and screaming matches. It was eating a dry casserole and acting like you liked it. And sometimes it was a choice to love someone despite themselves. Sometimes it was one sided. And there were rainbows and smiles and the kind of days that make all the days to come less scary. But love is not always easy or simple. Love is real. It is real and tough. And love will knock you back on your heels. But even through all of that, it is still so beautiful and precious that I will go on loving. Even in pain and sorrow, even in loneliness, please go on loving.

I do not want to lie to you. Even the greatest love will drag you over the rocks like a ceaseless ocean during a storm. Love will let you down. Love hurts. But it is still worth it. Even when you are at your breaking point. Even when you second guess yourself. Even when you are just trying to love yourself. It is so very worth it. That is the kind of love worth celebrating. Not this hallmark façade. All of that is fake. If you want realness, be honest with your valentine. “Dear Valentine, you are stubborn and frustrating, and I love you anyways.” That is real. That is love. Celebrate real love. Happy Valentine’s Day.

– Bailey Pace, HashtagWV #86. February 2017.

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HashtagWV Art & Entertainment is a high-quality print and digital multimedia platform for all things West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The editorial focus is local music, unique shopping, the arts, events, theatre, and food and drinks.