Every August, thousands of high school sweethearts face the ultimate challenge: college. My story was no different; my boyfriend of nine months and I decided to try long distance when I moved to Syracuse University, five hours away from home.
We knew that spontaneous sushi dates would become overly-planned Facetime calls and seeing each other twice a week was out of the question, but we wanted to give it a chance. He helped move me into my new home for the next eight months and things didn’t seem so hard at first. We missed each other a lot, but I still made friends, went to parties and felt as excited for the rest of first semester as any other freshman.
About a month into the semester, a switch inside of him flipped.
We broke up. I felt like I lost a huge part of me and I got no closure whatsoever. For a week, I wanted to hop on a train to New Jersey and hug my mom.
Little did I know, this split ended up being the best thing for me. A long car ride away from anything familiar, I took time after my breakup to immerse myself into everything I could– meeting new people, joining clubs, schoolwork, working out and more. It felt like a huge weight lifted off of me.
I could focus on myself, start my new life at school and keep my mind in Syracuse instead of back home in Jersey.
Over and over again, I continued to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I went to interest meetings for any club that I even remotely thought I might like. I applied for leadership positions in a few student organizations, and I even got a job as a section editor for a student magazine. Socially, I made a point to talk to new people every single day and strived to be the best version of myself I could be. I felt more present on campus and even though it was scary to put myself in those situations as a timid freshman (that probably used Google Maps to get to all the club meetings), I knew that all of would pay off because I got my foot in the door early.
Getting involved on campus really helped with the transition to living at college because I found activities I enjoyed. No one forced me to sign up for things or join any particular organization, and I felt responsible and independent doing everything completely on my own.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it was initially so difficult to force myself out of bed when all I wanted to do was eat an obscene amount of chocolate and binge-watch cheesy rom-coms. I had to make a solid effort to put myself out there and hope that I found my place. And I did find a home in a few student organizations.
Academically, my classes were extremely demanding, making it hard at first to find the motivation to write 10-page papers when I wanted to dwell in my sadness. With all the schoolwork that my 17-credit load threw at me after my breakup, the new mindset I developed helped me to stay on top of all of it. I felt overwhelmed at times but I tried to stick to my academic goals and never lose sight of why I came to college in the first place—to earn a degree (or two). The adjustment from high school to college work already felt like a lot to adjust to, but I made it work through determination.
Getting over my breakup, I started to feel powerful, a word I never used before to describe myself. I’d experienced hardship before, but for the first time, I took matters into my own hands. The breakup put me in a better mindset to reflect on my relationship. Now, I could easily see the clear warning signs. I hadn’t stood up for myself as much as I should when things bothered me. Scared and afraid of disappointing my ex, I honestly would’ve rather been upset in silence than cause a big fight. Always a people pleaser, I didn’t stop until this breakup forced me to take a long, hard look at myself.
As a kid, my mom always told me that the hardest thing to do was to objectively look at yourself, find your faults and fix them. Now that the relationship ended, I saw how I should’ve communicated those things with him.
Talking it out is key in any type of relationship.
It’s always better to get into a bad fight and talk things out than keep them instead of exploding later down the line.
Now going into the rest of freshman year, I’m infinitely more confident in myself, my abilities and my voice. I will never let a person, either in a relationship or friendship, make me feel like less than I am. I can take care of and love myself just as much as any boy can.
Most importantly, my strength isn’t determined by whether I’m in a relationship or not. While this breakup ended up not being the worst thing in the world for me, it challenged me to better myself as a new student and person. Now I’m sure that no matter what life throws at me during the next four years, I’ll be ready to deal with it in a positive way.