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Madeline Wahl Headshot

This Is How You Recover From Valentine's Day

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Image Source via Getty Images
Image Source via Getty Images

It's been a few days since Valentine's Day. The beautiful red roses are now wilting in their flower vases, the empty heart-shaped boxes -- the skeletal remains of milk chocolate truffles and chocolate caramels and dark chocolates -- are either in the garbage or on sale at the local Walgreens. The reds and pinks of the "Hallmark Holiday" fade into the color palette of everyday life, next to the bright yellow of taxi cabs, the blues of the sky, the rich brown bark of stripped tree branches, the dark gray of melted snow-covered sidewalks.

Life has resumed back to normal. Sort of.

Everyone tells you what to do and how to prepare for Valentine's Day, but no one says what you should do immediately following that day. So, you just had a romantic day with your boyfriend, fiancé or husband. So, you were out with your girlfriends. So, you were with that guy you have a crush on with a group of friends and he doesn't know, or he does know and it's a bit complicated. So you said "F--- it all!" and watched the premiere of "House of Cards," or completely ignored the day altogether.

This year was different for me. I was single for the first time in years. Gone were the surprise cards, the rose petals on the floor, the flowers and chocolate and dinner reservations and other cute things my boyfriend-at-the-time would think up. Gone were the days of baking and decorating cupcakes and planning events and figuring out what to do and where to go. Being single on Valentine's Day is completely different than being in a relationship, but anyone could have told you that.

This year, instead of spending it only with a significant other, I spent it going to bars and hanging out with friends and coworkers. As we were all chatting, a tall, clean-shaven guy with a camel-colored wool coat came over to where we were standing and introduced himself and then struck up a conversation with us. We talked politely for a few moments, then he asked if he could give us some unsolicited advice about Valentine's Day. We said yes, why not? He said that we should be happy with who we are, and that's when we should find someone to be in a relationship with. Because if we're not truly happy with who we are, we're not going to be truly happy with who we're with.

He had to leave a few moments later with his friends, and after he left we continued our night celebrating with the reds and pinks and drinks and bouquets of flowers. But for the following few days, I kept thinking about what this random stranger had said, and why he had said it, and really, he had to say it on Valentine's Day? Only in New York.

It really stuck with me, the idea that we are the keys to our happiness. Not a boyfriend, not a crush, not a fiancé, not a husband. You. Me, myself and I. If you aren't happy, no one else can make you happy. Some other person isn't going to magically fix the heartaches and disappointments you've experienced. There have been so many times where I've been upset with life, frustrated with things I couldn't change, where I felt my muscles clench and I would bite my lower lip to refrain myself from saying something that I'd regret. There've been arguments with friends, grades that haven't been so perfect, passed deadlines and missed opportunities. And though a significant other had made me happy and had been there to listen and had supported anything and everything I did, there came a time where I needed the support of myself more than anyone else. Where I needed to come to terms with my life and what I'm like and what my interests are and who I choose to spend my time with.

So, in these few days during the Valentine's Day hangover, do what you want to do. Be selfish. Focus on yourself and the relationship you have with you. After all, that's the most important relationship you will have in your entire life. Sign up for that 5k. Dive into your friendships and the relationship you have with your family. Pick up a book or call an acquaintance you've been meaning to get to know. The person you're looking for romantically will find you, the complete you, and they will accept you. The "you" you've always been searching for but haven't quite found yet. Because when you come to terms with your life and accept what you've done (both good and bad), you will finally be able to move on and to let someone else truly into your life. You will know that feeling when it happens because you will feel as if the world is infinite, as if you can do anything, and you will feel your heart swell and cast out the negative thoughts and critical tendencies. Acceptance is a powerful thing.

And buy yourself a box of chocolate and don't even feel guilty about eating it. It's on sale, anyway.