(Photo credit: Hannah Caterino)

I encourage everyone to identify at least one romantic haunt in their lives. What I mean is this:

Recognize a physical space you inhabit on a regular basis, at least weekly, that surrounds you with positive emotion. Whether the emotions are safety, comfort, excitement, love for beauty–  anything strongly positive.

I currently work on a college campus, and I have a 25-year relationship with the building I now inhabit daily. Because I attended college here as a graduate student, twice, I have pockets of memories in different hallways and corners from different decades of my life.

This is the building where, on cold winter mornings, I would bring my stack of books and hole up at one of the three tables in the hallway with a purchased cup of airpot coffee. It’s where I first clicked on the strange blue “e” that led me to screens and links, codes, chat rooms that I didn’t understand. (My first time using Internet Explorer and going online.)

This is the building where I signed Federal loan agreements (on paper- remember paper?) to borrow thousands of dollars for college.  Where I took interactive education classes, on my way to becoming a teacher. (The fifth floor classrooms are charmingly and slightly creepily preserved in a Victorian style..)

..Where I read Moby Dick. Where I have attended trainings on race and thoughtful activism.  An administration building that, to me, was always the first step to the rest of the world and new beginnings.

Now I get to smell and feel new beginnings every day.  (And by the way, those three tables in the hallway and the airpot of coffee sold by the cup at a mobile cart, evolved into a full-fledged Café and kitchen, with seating for at least 30 people.)

On a daily basis, even if I’m physically tired or stressed by workload, I am literally happy to travel to work, because the building I love is at the other end of my trip.  When I need a “reset” at work, when I need a quick escape or sense of rejuvenation, I literally only have to go into the hallways and breathe deeply.

The old-school radiators erupting with steam heat…  the cool and dark of hallways during summer’s humid, bright peaks..

When describing my love for this building to a friend, she gasped: “Oh that’s so romantic!”

Emotion, memory, and smell are all connected in the brain.  I feel lucky that I can achieve some emotional aromatherapy as needed while on the job.

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, romance gets emphasized. I encourage you to identify and cherish the places you live your life that you ­love: whether it’s a local coffee shop, a library, a theater, a patch of woods…  Love the smells, vibrations, sounds… Fall (more) in love with it. 

It will love you back, every time you visit.