Celebrate your capacity to love

liedtke, bryceIn a romantic utopia, I imagine dating as holding an uncanny likeness to an 80’s flick. Perhaps a stereo held over my head, blaring a desperately sentimental tune like a trench coat-clad John Cusack, courting my own Diane Court via tape deck, cut to; happily ever after.

Many don’t share my idealist sentiment, but most possess the same carnal yearning of another — the need for tangible and intangible affection alike. For someone else’s days to become vitally entangled with our own.

Never is this desire highlighted more explicitly than on February 14.

With Valentine’s day almost here, the population is split into two, singles and couples — the ultimate in a struggle of “haves” and “have-nots.”

College is a conundrum to romantic endeavors on all fronts. Whether you’re happily involved with someone or you’re a lone wolf, trials and tribulations await this Thursday.

Fear not, however; they are lined with practical wisdom.

You have undoubtedly heard single friends venting shamelessly about their solitude prior to this holiday while couples fume over its price tag (coming in at a hefty $126 average).

When single students bemoan Valentine’s Day I find it curious. They seem to make assumptions about this chocolate — and rose-filled sap-fest — first and foremost being that it is celebrated to the exclusion of those lacking a special someone.

In grade school we all remember February 14 being a day candy was universally distributed into our decorated shoe boxes. Most of us anticipated the sugar overload far more than the affectionate cards attached. Implicit in the festivities was that everyone got involved.

For obvious reasons, those Valentine’s Days were devoid of any real romance, the only kisses were wrapped in foil, but why and at what age did we cut out the collective element? For me, the holiday of love has become muddled with illusions.

Being a student in your early 20s means certain things. For one, if you believe that who you are — your interests, beliefs or tastes in partners — will remain static, you have yet to become acquainted with life’s only constant: change.

The reality is if you are in a serious relationship and plan to take the big plunge anytime before 26, you have a 60 percent likelihood of ending up a divorcee — a foreboding statistic for the young and in love. But this might also be part of the magic.

Statistics, at the end of the day, are just numbers and no one should be discouraged from a relationship because the odds are unfavorable. Even though we frequently measure the success of friendships and lovers in units of time, this currency is irrelevant.

Perhaps what we should celebrate on Valentine’s Day is not whom we are with, but the fleeting nature of affection, both platonic and romantic. Despite the often-tumultuous outcome of relationships we hold early in life, the torrid intimacy in which we share the depths of our character is made infinitely more precious by the fact it could be gone in the morning.

In 1960 the median age of marriage was about 21. Over the years that age has crept up to 28. Why, you ask? Is it because we live longer and can wait? Maybe. Are we less mature at our age than previous generations? Probably. Or are we just conscious that settling down requires a degree of self-identity unattainable until slightly later in life? I hope so.

College is the definitive period of internal exploration that society allots us. It is where we find aspirations, hopes and dreams, all of which are arguably best mined out of solitude.

Maybe you have someone, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ll stay together, maybe you won’t. What is truly spectacular and the reason for dedicating a holiday is the incredible capacity our species holds for love. The devastation we feel in its absence and euphoria in its presence are inseparable counterparts, both of which we must experience; for without the bitter, the sweet isn’t so sweet.

The collegiate years and love are a tumultuous combination. It is where uncertainty, mistakes, passion, folly and maturity collide to give us an education as encompassing as the degrees we’ll walk away with.

If nothing else this Valentine’s Day, take pleasure in knowing you hold a profound and truly exquisite facility for affection, that in the fog lies a serendipitous encounter that will make you feel like you’re six years old is ripe for the picking. And for that, we toast.