Fast forward several years. I'm married, with two children. On Valentine's Day, my children will probably give me handmade cards. My husband isn't a romantic, but he will probably buy me flowers and we will go out for the evening. The anxiety surrounding Valentine's Day is gone, replaced with the unforced rhythm of love and marriage that we have known for 11 years.
But I still remember what it felt like to be 12 years old, sitting in math class, hoping for a bag of candy that I didn't even like. We all know this holiday is made up and cheesy and commercial, but it can still bring sorrow. We all want to be loved. So, if you are planning to avoid all forms of social media on February 14, this is for you.
To the single person: I don't assume everyone who is single wants to be part of a set, but for those of you who are lonely, I want you to know that I see you. You are amazing. You are independent in ways that I have never been. I have never lived on my own, mowed a lawn, learned how to turn on the barbecue or hung a picture. I give you a valentine for being resourceful and full of courage.
To all the single parents: It may seem like you are too busy packing lunches and cleaning bathrooms to think about romance. I see you and the incredible work you do every day. When my husband goes away for the weekend, I don't shower the entire time, because there's always a child calling for me. But there you are, showing up to raise your kids. I give you a valentine for being brave and faithful to your family. I applaud you. Scratch that, I am giving you a standing ovation.
To those who lost their love: This used to be a happy day for you, but now it's a reminder of what you've lost. Everyone else's happiness is a knife that rips through your already broken heart. I see you, friend with the tear-streaked cheeks.
For those of you who lost a valentine because your relationship ended, I am so sorry. Love is hard and confusing and exhausting. You have full permission to feel however you want on this junky holiday. And if the church hurt you when you parted ways, again I am so sorry. I give you a valentine. Not that it will heal your broken heart, but just to remind you that you are going to make it.
For those of you who lost your love to death, I celebrate your life of love. I will hug my husband a second longer today as I remember that life is short. I know this scheduled day of love might be hard for you. But how I wish to hear your story, to learn how you showed each other love—on Valentine's Day or any other day. I give you a valentine, to go with the many you saved from the one who loved you so well.
To those struggling with their partner: You're fighting for your marriage and along comes this cursed day with its artificial affection, and all you want to do is take that scented candle and burn love to the ground. This day of mushy cards, flowers and heartshaped boxes might make you think you are all alone in your pain.
I've been married for 11 years, and I know—marriage is hard. So if you are fighting with your valentine this holiday, remember that Facebook and Instagram just show our best selves. My husband is the king of selfies, but he doesn't take too many pictures when we're exhausted, when our three-year-old has just thrown her supper at us and we're arguing about whose turn it is to deal with it. You are not alone. I give you a valentine for working hard and I join you in prayer. Please reach out to someone. And may you find someone reaching back to you.
To all of those who feel somehow “less than,” know this—no cheap greeting card is going to validate your worth. You are already worthy and deeply loved.
Lieutenant Kristen Jackson-Dockeray is the divisional youth secretary in the British Columbia Division.