Now I know what love is.

When I was in the third grade, I had a crush on a boy named Michael. He had a crush on me, too, and proved it by giving me a handmade Valentine's Day card in class on day. Not wanting to make a scene, I quickly slipped it into my desk, my insides fluttering at the thought of a boy liking me. But by lunchtime that day, the word was out and it had spread down the benches of my classroom's cafeteria table. Every eight-year-old within hearing distance knew Michael had given me a red construction paper heart with the "L" word on it. By the time the bell rang to line up for the buses at the end of the day, they were all convinced we were going to get married. "Do you know if you get married your name will be Michael Jordan?" Michael and I didn't make it much past the bus ride home.

If I've learned anything over the last three years (and since third grade, at that), it's that this idea of loving another person fervently, fully, and forever is so much more involved than a wrinkled, handwritten heart and a name change. I've spent Valentine's Days alone. I've spent them with girlfriends at a bar. I've spent them with people that I thought really cared about me, only to find out they really didn't. But the last three (and I'm prematurely including this one) have been spent with someone who has taught me a lot about love.

I used to think that love was driving across the country to see someone who said they really cared about me. But when that person wanted nothing to do with me even after I had just spent twenty-four hours after anxiously trucking down the highway and sleeping in a hotel parking lot because there were no more rooms left, I realized that maybe it wasn't love after all.

I used to think that love was dropping whatever I was doing to meet up with someone because he really wanted to see me. But when that person texted other girls the entire time I was sitting on the opposite chair and ignored every word I said only to fall asleep on the couch, I realized that maybe it wasn't love after all.

I used to think that love was kissing every guy who gave me the time of day (or minute) because then maybe that would seal the deal with a phone call the next day which would turn into a date which would turn into a fanatical love story. But when my phone didn't ring and my text messages didn't ding and I never heard from them again, I realized that maybe it wasn't love after all.

But that was then, and this is now.

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