By Silvana Hill–

I’ve been on this planet for 22 years. In that time, I’ve spent Feb. 14 in a manner of ways.

As a child, Valentine’s Day meant candy, store-bought cards collected in a personalized envelope and maybe the occasional tray of pink-frosted cupcakes at a classroom Valentine’s party. It was fun, but it didn’t mean too much, like most things at that age.

In later years, there was a line drawn between those who were coupled and those who were alone, a line that darkened as V-Day approached.

During my first Valentine’s Day in a relationship, I found myself taking particular care not to mention my plans to anyone who might take offense to them. They probably wouldn’t have cared, but I did.

See, Valentine’s Day is supposed to really, really suck for a single person. Even if you’re completely and utterly fine with spending Feb. 14 on your own, I’d argue that there’s just as much societal pressure to bemoan the day if you don’t have a significant other as there is to spend it as lavishly as possible if you’re coupled up.

It’s easy to see why so many people look at the holiday as a corporate ploy to sell low-quality candy and seats in restaurants.  There’s a lot of money to be made off of this stuff.

But there are a lot of perks to this time of year that don’t require being in a relationship – think discounted candy or tiny teddy bears holding plushy hearts for sale or the innate pleasure in seeing happiness on the faces of people you love. That’s a gift in itself. That can bring you happiness.

Even if you aren’t swimming in a sea of romance, I think Valentine’s Day can actually matter. It’s about love – not necessarily romantic love.

You can love a whole range of people in a whole range of ways, and it was exemplified in those generic cupcake-fueled classroom parties so many of us attended in childhood. We were hardly looking for our eternal soulmates as we stuffed identical cardstock valentines in each envelope lining the classroom wall. It was all about togetherness, appreciation and friendship.

I don’t think Valentine’s Day needs to be any different as an adult.

I can’t help but think of my dad who, on Valentine’s Day, while my siblings and I were children, would make a point to bring us each tiny boxes of chocolates and stuffed animals when he got home from work. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to see Valentine’s Day as a celebration of love in general – it’s always felt that way to me.

On the day this year, I’ll make a special effort to let the many beloved people in my life know how deeply I love and appreciate them. My best friends, my parents and siblings, my grandmother, my cat – they’ll all be getting a valentine from me, and not necessarily in paper form. It’ll be a reminder that they matter to me and to the world and that I don’t know where I would be without them.

I firmly believe the old saying, “Love can’t be divided, only multiplied.” Valentine’s Day is only as important as we choose to make it. Celebrate love, start with loving yourself and grab a bag of 50 percent off mini Reese’s Cups on your way out.