I love Valentines Day. For me, Valentines Day—and in our lovely city of Peterbourgh, Self Love Week—stands as a reminder of exactly how much better things can get.

In high school, I was the kid who ate her lunch in the bathroom stall. When I got home from school, I talked a mile-a-minute to my family because I hadn’t opened my mouth once for the 8 hours I had spent at school that day. I didn’t have many friends, and certainly none of them were at school with me.

It was 2011 or thereabouts, and I had kids steal my glasses and run away like it was a 1980s high school comedy. I can tell you, I didn’t laugh though. I didn’t have the confidence to laugh at myself. It’s hard to love yourself and have confidence when you find yourself floundering amongst your peers day after day for a couple years.

In my first year at Trent, I would watch the anime entitled WataMote, or No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys Fault I’m Not Popular!, and I would laugh and laugh because of how accurately the main character Tomoko represented me in high school. I don’t watch much anime, but I have a poster of Tomoko on my bedroom wall still.

watamote-tomoko

When I came to university in Peterborough, I really came into myself. It was a fresh start—I was sick of having no friends, no one to talk to, so I decided to do what I had never done before—I talked to people.

I approached people. I participated in ISW events. I made plans. I went out on the weekends. And guess what? In doing so, I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

In letting myself just be me, I came to feel a sense of internal peace I had never experienced before.

Here in Peterborough, I’ve made such loving and considerate friends. I have friends who really care, who stick with me through the good and the bad, who listen to me when I’m down and who celebrate with me when I’m up. My thankfulness for their caring is beyond what I could put into words.

One of the things I am most grateful to them for though is the opportunities they gave me to love myself.

That is precisely why I am so excited that we have an entire designated day—a week even!— in the calendar year where I can go all out to make sure my friends feel the love they have given me radiated back at them.

Valentines Day and Self Love Week are all the positive experiences I’ve now had condensed into one fantastic burst, and it makes me want to spread the love and let people know things will be okay. It might seem utterly impossible that you will ever get where you wish you were.

But I, Hayley Marie, promise that if you can find it in yourself to just be you, to let people in and tell them who you are, good things will follow. Take it from the high school loner—I never thought I would say it then, but nowadays… I get by with a little help from my friends.