I haven't had a Valentine's date since I was 16 + this is how I feel about it.

I haven't had a Valentine's date since I was 16 + this is how I feel about it.

Honestly, I don’t know how I feel right now. I turned 23 recently, and I am blessed by the most incredible friends and family that you could dream of. My mom, brother, and sister-in-love (no typo) surprised me in Chicago for a weekend spent doing my favorite things. My roommate joyously celebrated me and graciously rolled with all of the punches, and my friends took me out to party and live it up in the city two weekends in a row! Not to mention all of the love I received from near and far, from what seemed like pretty much every person I know. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to wish me a happy birthday and send personal notes.

But I wanna talk about what I am feeling right now – Valentine’s Day, 2018. It’s so weird, and maybe you can relate to it, but I felt so… mixed. Words are hard, and sometimes they don’t really get to the heart of what we actually feel, so bear with me as I break it down.

I FEEL HAPPY. I’m young, I live in an incredible city, I have amazing friends – new and old – who check in on me, show me a good time, and pull me away from books/my couch when I need it most.

I FEEL SAD. I live so far away from so many people that I love, and I miss a lot of exciting things that I should be there for.

I FEEL GUILTY. I feel like I should be home for my family + friends when they need me, both for those exciting things mentioned above, but for the hard times, too. I’ve always been the strong one, the stable one, and I feel a sort of responsibility and selfishness for leaving the people I care about on their own. (How egotistical is it that I actually feel like they need me and that I am some kind of saving grace for them? – I’m not, but you know what I mean.)

I FEEL EXCITED. I’m 23! Life is fresh. I go on dates. I eat cookies any time I want to and I have spontaneous dance parties alone in my 800 square-foot apartment. I read things I like. I talk to strangers. My life could go anywhere and I could be anything. It is so thrilling!

I FEEL STUCK. My job (I teach middle school English) is hard. It’s taxing and kids can be harsh. They are honest and unfiltered and sometimes going to work sucks and waking up early every day sucks and driving in traffic sucks. But I’m doing it anyway.

Finally, I FEEL FREE. This Valentine’s Day I did exactly what I wanted to do. Because I could. And you can, too. And you should! It’s OK that we feel this mix of emotions. Who actually has it figured out at 23? Or 30? Or 50? I think in some way, we all feel this, no matter how old we are. There will always be things in our lives that make us happy, and things that will make us sad, guilty, or excited. I am realizing that this is LIFE. It’s the good AND the bad that allows us to live. It’s what makes us FEEL. Imagine how anticlimactic the good would be if you never felt the bad.

So instead of being down because you didn’t have a date, or because your man didn’t buy you flowers for the 3rd year in a row, reflect on the BAD, and how it makes the GOOD so sweet. Life is fun, and life is full. Aren’t we so lucky that we get to live it every day?

Liz is a recent graduate trying to navigate the ups and downs of post-grad life. A version of this post previously appeared on Liz's blog, hadleyliz.