I got up fifteen minutes late, barely made it to my bus, spilled water down my pants at the tunnel entrance, and nearly took out Jasmine and Aladdin with my backpack on the stairwell. Just as I was about to have a melt down, I made it to the break room and looked at the schedule posted on the bulletin board: I still had an hour before I could clock-in for my shift. Now, I was just a stressed, slightly soggy, sleep-deprived skipper shivering like a chihuahua. The cherry on top of my awkward sundae? It was Valentine’s Day. And I am single. Again.
Why was I surprised to be single once again? I have been single for all twenty-one Valentine’s Days of my life. Actually, I feel blessed not to have a significant other because it means I don’t have to spend my hard-earned money on anyone else except me. I only learned to appreciate this fact recently after a pricey trip to UPS. (For your safety, don’t ask) However, I do recognize that in the past, I haven’t always been the most chipper leading lady on Valentine’s Day. When the clock struck 12, it appeared that I underwent a transformation from my usual, bubbly self, into a man-hating cynic who had a heart made of stone.
However, this year was different. I felt happy. I felt beautiful. I felt confident. I felt secure in myself. What made this Valentine’s Day different than all of the others before? The answer: I wasn’t spending my Valentine’s Day in Bend.
Like many people, I have a complex relationship with my hometown. I love my hometown, but I also would rather not go back. The best way to describe Bend is a small town going through its awkward adolescent stage of becoming a small city. Although there are over 80,000 people, you are likely to run into someone you know whenever you go to Costco— and there is a 99.99% chance you are without makeup, bra, and any level of self-appreciation at that point. Its basically a small town. And like small towns, everybody labels one another. The only problem with labeling others is that you never give yourself or others the opportunity to grow.
You can probably guess by my feelings toward Bend that I did not like my label. You’d be right with that assumption. You’d also be right in assuming that my distaste for Valentine’s Day is somehow related to my undesirable label.
Valentine’s Day acts as a day of confirmation. You confirm that you love your partner by getting dinner reservations at a spendy restaurant you clearly can’t afford. You confirm that you love your friends by exchanging valentines filled with inside jokes. You confirm that you do not like the florist after he sent the floral arrangement meant for your fiancee to your ex-girlfriend.
But the thing about confirming labels is that you never give the opportunity to let things change– so nothing ever does.
I think that’s why I was so happy this Valentine’s Day— my life is so vastly different now. I’m 3,000 miles from home living with five other girls from completely different parts of the country. Every day, I go to work at a place I love doing something that makes me smile just as much as it makes our Guests smile. I finally have the freedom to be the person I want to be without living under the same label I’ve had since I was ten.
I am free. And no matter how much my life plays out like a silly romantic comedy at times, I can be content that people see me for who I really am, and not how I am labelled.