bunt sign

February 14, 2000

I didn't buy any candy or flowers or jewelry today. That's the advantage of not having a Valentine. I didn't have to make dinner (or dinner reservations) or find the right card or write a poem. I didn't get my hair cut or polish my shoes or put on a tie. I didn't have to make anyone happy but myself. That's right, I'm my own Valentine.

"Be mine." Oh, yeah! I already am!

In so many ways I'm still the loser geek I was in high school. But guess what? In high school I wanted to be one of the cool kids but had no clue how to get started. Now, I have little desire to impress anyone other than myself. That's a liberating feeling, but it's taken me a long time to get here, and I've had to acknowledge some things about myself that I never would have expected when the journey started. Being my own Valentine is probably the biggest of these.

I've been alone a long time, and I'm beginning to accept it. I don't know whether that's the right attitude to take, but I'm past trying to arrange my life so that I fit anyone else's mold. I no longer mourn the things I lack, at least not actively or obsessively, as I did when I was younger. Whatever happens from here on out will be because I was living the way I pleased, and chance intervened, for good or ill. I'm reading the lines, but I'm no longer trying to write the script. And I never really wanted to direct.

It's been painful for me to admit this, because I was always a romantic and a dreamer. I had ideas of what course my life was going to take, and very little has turned out as I anticipated. I gave up on one career, then failed at my next choice. I haven't been able to maintain a successful relationship. I'm not the person I thought I would be, and the revisions keep coming.

But I'm not unhappy, or disappointed, not really. I am who I am, and that has dictated the form and shape and color of the world I inhabit. Anyone can look back and see how things might have been different, but I can't say that any choices I made seemed wrong at the time. In retrospect, and with what little wisdom I've gained in the intervening years, I might give my younger self some guidance that would have led him down a different path. But I can't say that I know he would have been better off than I am.

My greatest fear, and the biggest reason for my social awkwardness, is that I never wanted to be dismissed. There's a critical point where self-confidence fails, and you know that the chances of rejection are greater than any rewards you could gain by taking a risk. I was rejected just often enough in my childhood by those who were cooler, or stronger, or merely braver, that I took their lead and wrote myself off. I took the easier road. It might have been less exciting, but it was also less dangerous.

The point is not that I regret the choices I've made, but that I now can accept their consequences and move on from here. There have been times in my life when I haven't liked myself much, and I didn't believe anyone else could like me. Now I'm better able to see some good qualities in myself, and it gives me the confidence both to present myself to others as I am, and to look in the mirror without wishing I were someone else.

Maybe I'm wrong to be satisfied with my life, because that will make me less likely to make improvements. But whatever I do, I could still be my own Valentine again next year. This way, at least, I'll be able to look back on the days between with fewer regrets. I have many fond memories, and I've known countless good people. Those are the ones I choose to cherish.

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