Sammy Westfall

It seems like everyone around me is in love with someone they haven’t told, or never will tell. Maybe it isn’t love but feels like it could be. Maybe. Or there is someone who is counting the minutes until they can safely reply to a message, or say that they don’t have the time or just try to avoid the whole thing altogether.

When we’re younger, we let love consume us — pouring over the books and spending hours listening to songs about things we kid ourselves into thinking we understand. But as we grow older, love loses some of its magic, and we turn it into a game that consists of more of what we think we should be doing rather than what we want to be doing.

We spend our days and lives at Yale doing amazing things with remarkable people, and yet we count the minutes between texts, turning love into something manufactured. We forgo feelings for efficiency, refusing to put ourselves in a place where we could really get hurt because it doesn’t bring us any closer to our goals. But love is one of the most beautiful and complicated and terrible parts of our lives, and when we minimize it in the way Yale students so often do, we deprive ourselves of something crucial to the human experience.

How often do we allow ourselves to just feel and act and hurt ourselves and try again? How often do we stop thinking, rationalizing, coordinating and just be? Who holds us back more than our own selves?

I can’t help but think of what Brian Doyle wrote in “Joyas Voladoras” when he professed, “So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment.” We, as humans, hold more in our heart in a day than we say in a lifetime. We feel and we ache, and yet we consistently minimize these very things. We water ourselves down until there is little left — and for what? To go on and celebrate a meaningless holiday and pretend like we would ever allow ourselves to truly feel what Saint Valentine is so acclaimed for?

Do we not find it exhausting to be passive when we are so active in every other aspect of our lives? We just let things happen, living our lives as outsiders looking in when we claim to want much more than that. We say we want love, something profound, and yet we would never actually allow ourselves to get anywhere close to something as painful and confusing as that.

Loving someone, really loving someone and letting yourself truly feel it, is not for the fainthearted. I do not just mean this romantically — when we give that much of ourselves to anyone or anything, in any way, we are committing an act of great courage. This bravery is something that I feel we too often shy away from, and yet we have a whole world around us that is eagerly waiting to be loved at every corner. There are always children laughing, flowers growing to face the sun, your mother tucking your hair behind your ear, a new person waiting to fall in love with.

There is so much to hold in our hearts, and so much to say about it. Keep your heart open, leave no love unprofessed, and when you feel something overcome you, you should lean into it rather than build a barrier.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I hope you will consider how much you have allowed yourself to love this week, this month, this year. Rather than just celebrating an arbitrary day intended for false gratification and capitalistic gain, I hope you will truly contemplate love, with a capital L, rather than just have a person to spend the day with.

I urge you to keep your heart open, gracefully accept whatever finds its way in and give yourself permission to feel everything that this world has to give you. It is a gift to be able to love and to let it consume you, and I firmly believe that the inconvenience of it all, or the fear of not receiving the result you want in the end, is not enough cause to avoid it.

DEREEN SHIRNEKHI is a first year in Davenport College. Her columns run on alternate Thursdays. Contact her at dereen.shirnekhi@yale.edu .