The Wellness Department’s thoughts on Valentine’s Day


Thea Dai

Director of Counseling Kate McCracken poses inside her office.

Valentine’s Day: the celebration of love and romance. Each year, 38 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold, 58 million pounds of candy are sold (, and 145 million cards are exchanged (New York Post). But do these statistics really represent the February 14th experience? Maybe for some, but definitely not for everyone.

In reality, most teens end up celebrating by binge-watching rom-coms and scrolling through cute couples’ videos on TikTok. With so much Valentine’s-Day-themed media at our fingertips, in the weeks leading up to the holiday, it’s easy to get lost in the world of “How come I’ve never had a meet-cute moment?” and “Where is my valentine?” In search of a solution to the yearly pink, red and white induced blues, I sat down with various members of the Wellness and Counseling Department to see what their advice would be on how to “celebrate” Valentine’s Day.

Growing up, Kate McCracken, Director of Counseling at Castilleja, saw Valentine’s Day as a “made-up holiday” that put pressure on her to “be more grown up” and “have somebody special.” Reflecting back on her experiences, Ms. McCracken’s advice for teens who relate to these feelings is to celebrate the holiday in whatever way makes you feel the best, like telling people in your life that they’re meaningful.

“There’s movies, TV shows, everything that kind of feeds into that very, like, it’s a boy and a girl, and they are dating, or they’re in love. And it looks like this. And this is a day that we get to kind of celebrate that,” expressed McCracken. These narratives can be difficult for us as teens to separate ourselves from, and the messages we receive from them are often internalized. Her advice was to look for positive messages in romantic media, such as being able to fully be ourselves around others.

Lea Pence, Wellness Teacher and Interim Freshman Dean, agrees on this topic. “People love to go [watch] movies and other sorts of media to consume because they want to daydream, and they want something that promotes a sense of hope. They want to see a possibility… I think it’s incredibly difficult [to separate oneself from that]. The only reason I can say what I just said is because I’m 50 years old.”

Similar to McCracken, Pence suggests that we view the holiday as an “opt-in” experience. That way, people who enjoy celebrating can do it their way, and people disinterested in the holiday can do it theirs—which is to say, by not celebrating at all!

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holiday, Ms. MacKenzie, Counselor at Castilleja, cautions against passing judgment onto others based on how they celebrate. “It’s so easy to be like ‘Oh my God,’ you know. ‘Is she really doing that all again?’… really try to withhold judgment,” MacKenzie stated, explaining that judging others can actually make us feel worse about ourselves.

Whether you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day by buying chocolates for a significant other, writing cards of gratitude for friends and family, or with a good book in your room, the only criteria that matters to the Wellness and Counseling Departments is if you are enjoying yourself!