Juandering Out Loud: Valentine’s Day From the Romantically Challenged Perspective

A figure with a heart for a head attempts to navigate a turbulent ocean in a sailboat as a storm is ongoing. The heart endures many treacherous challenges as it attempts to navigate life (Photo Illustration by Bonnie Lord).

Valentine’s Day is a weird day of the year for me. For the handful of hours I’m out in the world, I find myself surrounded by people being openly affectionate with their partners. I begin to feel a flutter of emotion accompany me as I go about the day. Seeing people openly happy and celebratory of their partners puts me in a good mood. 

I try to make the most of that emotion’s company for a moment. It stays by my side as I let myself drift off into my imagination. Turbulent waters they are; anxiety looms on the horizon — the usual sort of violent storm I’ve come to expect. It threatens to tear from me this brief instance of emotion. All the while, I try to remind myself that I am capable of loving a person, no matter how loudly the storm roars otherwise.

I’ve always had difficulties forming general relationships. I’m used to keeping to myself; I haven’t had much practice to the contrary. I’ve always had a hard time feeling welcomed in places. I’m happy to say though that I have found friends who are just as eccentric as me, if not more. I feel at ease around them.

My anxiety doesn’t say much about my friends – it’s like the wind hitting stone at this point – it leaves me unfazed. The problems begin when my anxiety goes after the vulnerable bits, the parts of me that I failed to mount defenses to. 

I am reminded of childhood crushes and just how badly I’ve blundered every attempt at fostering a romantic connection. My anxiety reminds me that I’m not good enough, that maybe if I was “like everyone else,” I’d have an easier go of things. 

It whispers into my ear: “Come on, do your little monkey dance, seeing how you wanna go and make a fool of yourself.”

Time after time, I ran. Is it a surprise that running was all little six-year-old me knew to do when I revealed my inexperience? I needed distance to keep reminders of how badly I’d messed up out of sight. No one else had my back in those days; I wasn’t going to allow myself to be vulnerable around another after that whole ordeal, so I would manage those failures on my own.

I eventually wandered so far that I’d forgotten why I even ventured out in the first place. I was 14. It had been years since I even tried talking to anyone with romantic affection in mind. 

That wouldn’t last long. Surprisingly, things went differently this time. I was in for an unmatched experience that lasted the next few years. It was exhilarating, don’t think otherwise. It was the most prolonged instance of romantic affection I’ve ever known. 

Things change though. The emotions might have been there, but circumstances complicated matters. 

Still, for one brief period, I had finally grasped the notion that I was capable of loving someone else. When I chose to move on, I held onto that truth and hid it away somewhere discrete and with enough sunlight to stay warm. Whenever I felt the need for a gentle reminder, I ran for it. My nerves steadied themselves every time I held that revelation. I worshipped it in private. I assumed that I would be able to keep it safe if I kept it hidden from view.

The problem with anxiety though? It knows every little hiding spot I’ve had a hand in building.

The storm proves to be too much for the figure to handle, eventually being tossed overboard and left to drift in the open ocean. Things don’t go according to plan sometimes, and so all one can do is endure, however that may be (Photo illustration by Bonnie Lord).

Where could I hide then? Where could I seek comfort? What hope would I have of withstanding the storm if my house would always flood?

So I ran once again. 

Where to? Any other time and place, so long as it wasn’t then and there. 

This has been my life, coming and going like a sailor. I’ve run, convinced that there were things in this life I wasn’t meant to know intimately. When all I knew was that I didn’t belong, I did my best to flee from the choir that insisted that there was no home for me in Eros’s hall.

It took me some time, but I realized that simply existing didn’t make me undeserving of love. I’m a tad eccentric, a pinch eclectic and just a dash reticent. That won’t ever change. I’ve gotten good at blending in, at hiding most of who I am though. If one was to get to know me, they would need some time to get used to all of me. 

For so long, I didn’t even entertain giving people the chance to become familiar with me, particularly in a romantic sense. I immediately assumed that there was no way someone could love anything besides the act I put on for the audience. 

I have been my own worst enemy. There are days when I’ve worried that I’ll forever be sentenced to an endless drift, condemned to live out my days without something that I want to be intimately familiar with. 

Knowing what I know now, I refuse to let myself slip back into my old habits. I await the day when someone makes it apparent to me that they wish to get to know me intimately. I do so with open arms. 

I’m tired of coming and going, of never having a permanent place to call home, of not being a stable presence. For the patient soul that chooses to spend their days with me, I hope to do right by them. I intend to be present, to make sure that they are comfortable and safe. I want to make sure that there’s something waiting for us, once the workday is done

May that home of ours bring us comfort as we weather the storms at our doorsteps. May we be able to gaze on at the coming dawn as the storm clouds break away. May that home and our love withstand the passage of time.

The figure comes to and gazes at the sunrise after washing up on shore. No storm lasts forever, and eventually, the heart finds a place where it can rest easy (Photo illustration by Bonnie Lord).


About Juan G. Rodriguez 43 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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