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The other day it occurred to me that the last time I had a valentine was in the third grade. I know, I know. How cute, right? No. Nine-year-old Andi was not happy. That year, a boy in my class who had a crush on me gave me a heart-shaped tin full of Hershey kisses and a stuffed, singing dog, which went off in the middle of class that day. I remember being absolutely mortified. Mostly because the thought of boys when I was that age absolutely terrified me, but also because it felt like public humiliation.

Now looking back on that moment, I find myself smiling at the naiveness of third-grade Andi, who had no idea that receiving a Valentine’s Day present from someone is something to be happy and grateful for, not embarrassed. And if I am being honest, I ate every single one of those chocolates and kept that annoying, singing dog for a long time.

I think I always had that view of Valentine’s Day though. I found it to be an arbitrary holiday that didn’t have a lot of meaning. Sure, I always loved the holiday when I was younger in school. Decorating my valentine box to collect all the cards my classmates gave me was one of favorite things to do. However, I always found my younger self grossed out by all the lovey-dovey nonsense that occurred every year. I never really understood the importance of this one random day in February.

It wasn’t until my mom married my stepdad, not long after that day in third grade, that I finally could see why Valentine’s Day meant so much. Before they met, I didn’t really have a couple in my life that I could watch and hope that I had something similar one day. There wasn’t that example of a healthy, loving couple in my life. However, once he came into our life that all changed. Their relationship showed me that love should be celebrated every day of the year, including February 14th. They were a beautiful example of pure love that was celebrated at all moments.

I was lucky to grow up with the most selfless mother, who always made sure her kids received a token of her love on Valentine’s Day, and a stepdad who would always say, “every girl should know what it feels like to receive a bouquet of flowers.” I can’t remember a Valentine’s Day that I didn’t have a delivery from a florist, even when I moved seven hours away for college.  

Through their love and attention, my view of Valentine’s Day shifted from a day of resentment and loneliness to a day of celebration of love of all kinds and in all forms. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for those in perfect couples. I have always been taught that Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate the love of friends and family too, which I think is a beautiful sentiment.

So, if this February 14th you find yourself scrolling through Instagram wishing you had a significant other to post, remember to take time to celebrate all of those you love, because they are just as important.

Andi Baker is a Campus Correspondent and Senior at Purdue University, majoring in Actuarial Science and Applied Statistics with minors in Management and Art and Studio Design. Originally from Manila, Arkansas, Andi loves to drink sweet tea, read, and make art. You can follow her on Instagram @andibaker
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