I’m not known as someone who tries — and let alone succeeds — to be mysterious or nonchalant. I think that if I tried to “play it cool,” my friends would think I had recently suffered some serious trauma. 

There is nothing secretive about me. I share with reckless abandon. The password to my phone is practically public knowledge — it’s 0000 — and I have never delayed a response to someone’s text in order to give the appearance of not caring. Sometimes I really don’t care, but I wouldn’t want to forget about the text.

I show love in many ways, often all at once or in a janky tandem. I tell my friends I love them before I hang up the phone, and I throw compliments with poor aim in just about every direction. I compliment strangers at inopportune moments, like while jaywalking in opposite directions, and ask nothing in response, only that we don’t get hit by a car

It took me a while to realize that I wanted to be someone who loves and likes as freely as I do now. In my first relationship, I told my boyfriend I would only say “I love you” when I felt it so strongly, I had no choice but to say it. I worried that saying it too much would cause the phrase to lose its significance. 

When I was younger, I didn’t tell my friends that I loved them because I worried they might take it the wrong way, or they might not reciprocate the expression. Somewhere between ages 12 and 14, “I love you” became a taboo: a phrase too charged with emotion to use with just anyone.

During junior year, I retired from shame. The pandemic kept me away from my friends, making me realize the importance of expressing love when I could. I didn’t know when the next pandemic might take me away from them again. Now I hardly even feel embarrassed, save when I sneeze in the music library.

The choice to announce my feelings was practically an overnight switch. I wanted to start saying what I meant, so I did. I started with my friends, introducing small gestures and phrases to let them know I appreciate them. Now I say I love everything, including “Succession,” which I’ve never seen.

This philosophy of caring generously all the time has been fun. I love so many movies, dishes and people, that just about everywhere I turn, there’s something that brings me joy. 

The only downside is that I have absolutely no game. I’ve become a bit too direct for flirting. I just jump straight to loving someone, which hasn’t gone over hugely well at Sig Chi or Zeta.

The ways that I show love are pretty widespread. It’s not just a matter of saying it all the time. My love for the people and things around me manifests in many ways. I have learned from many years of youngest-sibling-service that one of the quietest but most direct ways to show love is through small favors. I grab an extra snack for a friend when I can, and I am always happy to accompany someone on an errand or lend a hand when it’s needed.

I am a firm believer in the power of a handwritten card. I send letters to family members all the time and never let a birthday pass without a handmade card inscribed with well wishes.  

I try to set aside at least an hour for meals with the people that I love, making space for conversation and quality time with each other. I listen closely, and I make mental — sometimes literal — notes of important details I learn about people.

I am not strategic or sly by any means, but I don’t want to be. This year for Valentine’s Day, you can catch me giving chocolates and notes to all my friends, and probably some strangers, too. As long as we’re both jaywalking.