When I was 15, I was scouted by a modeling agency. Not for my beauty, but instead because I looked young for my age and was more mature than the 12–year–olds I’d be competing against for space in Gap Kids ads. Until my dad shook some sense into me, I was ready to give up six hours every weekend to attend casting calls just so I could be on a Lands’ End billboard. 

Why? Because I wanted to be famous. I still do. 

This desire is most common among 10–12 year olds. You set your sights on becoming a pop star, have a few mediocre middle school chorus concerts, and get over it. I, too, was planning on auditioning for American Idol. But when that didn’t pan out, my quest for fame was far from over.  

In high school, I started a blog called Little Big Mouth, which I was convinced would instantly go viral and the Today Show would advertise me: tune in for a sit down with Matt Lauer (Ed. note: good thing you didn’t) and teenage blogger–prodigy Isabella Simonetti. Long story short, studying for the ACT proved more important, I stopped paying the monthly TypePad fee, and someone else nabbed the URL

I’d like to say that it’s gotten better in college, but being a small fish in a big pond of fellow egomaniacs has not settled my hunger. I came to Penn and this glorified culture of “SABSing” and being “sceney” was wildly popular. Other people want those things for social capital; I thought of them as stops on the way to fame. 

Recently, I’ve been trying to pick apart this craving, one that I know is probably insatiable. As a self–proclaimed introvert, attention tends to make me uncomfortable. So why do I care so much about this? 

For me, there’s something about fame, this warm thrill that I feel when I come close to it. Like when one of my articles does well on analytics or someone recognizes me at a party for something I’ve written. 

As Valentine’s Day has rolled around, no matter how much I curse the holiday for commoditizing love, I think about being alone. Sure, I dated a little in high school, but I’ve never had a more serious relationship than mine with fame.   

None of us want to get hurt. Our generation likes to use hookup culture as a defense mechanism and means to avoid commitment. I’ve substituted fame for a significant other. 

I know it sounds silly, but completely devoting myself to one goal has provided me comfort in lieu of romantic fulfillment. Who needs validation from one person when you can have it from thousands?  

But the lows are far more extreme than the highs. When I’m unsuccessful: if I don’t land a coveted internship, my article bombs, or a professor tells me my essay is subpar, I am broken. These seemingly small missteps make me feel worthless. What’s more, my biggest fear above all is mediocrity. I treasure attention, even if it hurts my mental health. When I get nasty comments or messages in my inbox attacking my character about pieces I’ve written I think: hey, at least this is getting me more clicks. 

In college, I’ve had a lot of crushes whom I’ve never quite had the courage to ask out. I’ve had classes with them, participated in various social media stalking sessions, made Pinterest boards filled with ideas for romantic European vacations, and tested the sound of switching my last name with theirs. Although these people will probably hate me even more after reading this, if in between poring over their Instagram accounts and trying to write the next great American novel I’d stopped to think for a second, telling them how I feel would’ve been far easier than trying to get famous.

Getting over a crush is tough. I’ve built up these intense relationships with people who struggle to remember what year I am and where I’m from. But maybe I’d have had a shot if I’d just let myself be vulnerable instead of seeking attention from the masses. So, this Valentine’s Day, to honor my true desires instead of masking them with blind ambition, I’m breaking up with my ultimate unrequited love: fame.