As a child frequently in trouble, I spent a lot of time wondering if there was something so essentially broken about me that I was just unlovable. What was important to me was often not important to others. Satisfying my curiosity almost always took priority over rules to keep me safe. And I just could not accept unsupported edicts. I had to learn for myself that fire would burn, knives could slice through fingers and bare electric wires could shock. But I also learned that clay does indeed harden and change in a brick kiln, how a record player worked, and how long it took to bicycle from Dhaula Kuan to India Gate. And I thought it was worth the punishments to get answers for the questions I had (and I had a lot of questions that somehow no one else seemed to have and to which most adults didn’t have answers).
I didn’t mind the yellings or even the beatings. I could totally understand why my parents were upset with me, I had taken chances with my safety. The part I would get hurt by is the fact that they didn’t seem to appreciate that my actions were never prompted by rebellion or mischief or ill will. I never set out to hurt anyone or gossip or even judge anyone. I didn’t play those typical girl cliques games, best friends one day and taunted rejects the next. I never felt the need to make myself seem superior by belittling others, indeed others rarely entered into my thoughts, happy as I was with my books and explorations, I was never motivated by the need to be liked or fear of being disliked.
I thought I was unlovable, the kind of child who caused her parents so much trouble that they were justified in their feelings. And so I learned to love myself. I would hold myself in the quiet of the night, and repeat like a mantra that no matter what I did, no matter how egregious my mistake, as long as I knew I had good intentions, that I had not set out to hurt anyone else, or deliberately cause harm, I would stand by myself. I held myself to an internal standard, and that has held true for me all these years. And while I frequently still find myself at odds with the way society expects us to function, it is rarely because I set out to hurt someone, or envied them, or gossiped about them. As before, I am happy to celebrate their successes and commiserate in sorrows, but by and large, I am content to continue to explore my interests, and hold myself to my own standards. And yes, I will often stand alone if I need to, steadfast to my principles, be defiant to how others see me and then comfort myself as I may need.
And so, on this Valentine’s Day, I will be my own valentine. And reaffirm to myself what I believe. No matter what might have happened, no matter how angry the world may be with me, no matter that I may not conform to what is expected of me, I will always be there for myself, will love myself. And since I am strong and true, it will always be enough.
Feb 14, 2016

I am my own valentine
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