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Isabel Chun / Staff Illustrator


Next to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is probably the most grossly commercialized holiday on the market. Alongside overstuffed teddy bears, artificially colored chocolates, and not-quite-wilted roses, any haphazardly placed heart can leave us dry heaving in the Lerner bathrooms, resolved never to put ourselves or our significant others through this capitalist misery.

To put it bluntly: Valentine’s Day can make love feel cheap and extra.

The problem with this conclusion is that we can, then, easily fall prey to treating love and sex with about as much gravity as a half-melted chocolate heart. Especially in college, hookups and breakups can logically seem inconsequential compared to jobs and internships, but our encounters with romance often tend to be much more formative than our grades. The way we interact with love and sex can shape our experiences with identity and solidarity, can help us heal from our past traumas and pave the way for new relationships, and can even provide a sense of unity in the face of change and heartbreak.

A year ago, at the launch of our series, we told you Love, Actualized was here to provide counternarratives to the classic Columbia romance. This year, on our one-year anniversary (and your dreaded Valentine’s Day date), I’m here to tell you that Love, Actualized has become more than that—it’s about the scope of Columbia romance. It’s about heartbreak; it’s about terrible sex; it’s about crushed fantasies; it’s about identity; it’s about optimism.

Love, Actualized is, in essence, about you.

So while a hookup may seem trivial when compared to Herodotus, love’s impact on our lives as young adults is anything but. This Valentine’s Day, rather than trying to avoid all things love, take some time to read about the scope of love at Columbia. I promise it’ll be worth it.


Hannah Barbosa Cesnik

Editorial Page Editor

Love, Actualized is a weekly series that runs every ThursdayTo respond to this letter, or to submit to Love, Actualized, contact

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