By Mia Brounstein
It’s February at last— the month of romance. Around this time last year, I was introduced to the social media phenomenon of romanticizing your life.
For those who are unfamiliar, this trend encourages individuals to find or add joy and beauty to the little parts of their days. For example, a study session can be romanticized by making a cup of tea or lighting a candle (unless — heaven forbid — you live in a dorm). Working out can be romanticized by wearing matching athleticwear or eating a healthy, homemade meal afterward.
I fell for this trend harder than I fell for Pub breakfast freshman year. The best part was that it seemed to be working at first.
Studying really did get easier when I had a hot cup of chai at my elbow and Chopin playing in my earbuds. Getting up early in the morning suddenly became a charming, slow routine when I used a favorite perfume and opened my curtains to the morning sun.
My Instagram feed became flooded with more and more romanticize-your-life videos, and soon a feeling of discontent began to itch at the back of my brain. I was suddenly aware that I didn’t have the color-coordinated outfits, aesthetic room décor or expensive smoothie bowls that I was seeing daily on my feed.
As usual, my human inclination to greed paired up with American commercialism and I wound up feeling unhappy. I just couldn’t remain content with what simple things I had.
This really bothered me at first. Not only was I mired in jealousy over the lifestyles I was seeing, but a seemingly beautiful and valuable trend had been ruined for me. What went wrong? Could I ever get back the beauty of romanticizing life?
Early in February, Catholic speaker and podcaster Heather Khym hosted a talk for women here on campus entitled “Why Not Become Totally Fire?” Her talk highlighted a simple but easily forgotten message: Jesus is madly in love with each human heart and desires to burn away the lesser loves which the individual settles for.
Truly understanding this reality means seeing the world in an entirely new way. From this viewpoint, everything in life is a gift given from a great lover seeking to woo his beloved.
Afternoon skies, time spent with friends, delicious meals, productive study time and good workout sessions don’t need to be romanticized because they themselves are the romance.
While studying abroad in Austria last semester, I had the opportunity to participate in a pilgrimage to Poland. When we visited the Divine Mercy Sanctuary outside of Krakow, a beautiful religious sister from St. Faustina’s order gave a presentation to the Franciscan student group.
She smiled sweetly while speaking of finding her vocation, saying that no bouquet of flowers from a boy could tempt her once she knew that Jesus was offering her every garden in the world.
The difference between the mindset of being romanced and that of romanticizing life is that the word “romanticizing” implies taking something unromantic and spinning it in a romantic way. There’s something almost false and superficial about it, as if the illusion might fall apart at any moment.
Focusing on the romance also eliminates the greed and envy produced by the trend of romanticization. When one truly recognizes and appreciates God’s gifts, it is impossible to envy the blessings given to others. Similarly, understanding the reality of this great romance allows the individual to see the abundance of beauty already present in their life where the trend of romanticization pressures the viewer into ever-increasing consumerism.
In the end, the reality of the romance is that every breath is a gift of love; every minute detail of life is a part of Jesus’s effort to romance the soul. It simply becomes a matter of accepting the gift rather than trying to produce it oneself. Is there any valentine that could beat life itself?