Oh, the joys of being single in college. You get to swipe through Tinder, gaze at frat party hotties and flirt with that campus cutie who sits next to you in lecture. You might even go on a date or two, or maybe not—you get to decide. One day you feel like seeking a relationship and the next day, all you want to do is lounge in bed alone while watching New Girl and sipping wine from Trader Joe’s out of a coffee mug. Or is that just me?
I was getting out of a relationship right when quarantine began. While I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to concern myself with maintaining a socially-distanced relationship during a pandemic, I knew it would be lonely. I had plenty of prior experience with the single life, but being without a significant other during COVID was completely new territory.
All the freedom and spontaneity of singleness vanished with the rest of my regular life.
Before the pandemic, being single meant I could choose when I wanted to stay in and watch New Girl. I could also choose when I wanted to go out and flirt and feel “twirly,” as Jess Day would say. But thanks to COVID, the former was pretty much my only option.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely lucky that I got to live at home with my family during quarantine, but having a hint of romance in your life—or at least the potential for it—is an entirely separate matter. During the day, I distracted myself from feelings of isolation by filling up my time with writing, FaceTiming friends and completing random tasks around the house. But at night, I felt the loneliness—and I felt it hard.
Thanks to the constant disorientation and confusion lockdown caused me to feel, I foolishly believed only one person could help ease the loneliness: my ex.
In times of crisis, we feel these strange urges to reconnect with old flames.
For some people, they’re fleeting. In my case, they got stronger with each passing day.
I thought of my ex every night. I watched Nick and Jess couple up on New Girl and thought “If they can make it work, so can we!” Aside from that, I wrote long, pathetic messages to him, only to leave each draft sitting in the text box until I inevitably returned to revise it the next day. My thumb hovered over the “Follow” button on his Instagram.
I never contacted him, but I came dangerously close.
After a few weeks, the urges to send the dreaded “ex text” subsided. But instead of my obsession ending there, it just started to snowball. I began to think about not only one ex but all of them. Repeatedly, I went down my mental list of names, I relived my experiences with each ex and I asked myself what went wrong between us.
I didn’t go through this process intentionally. At first, I actually just wanted all the deep thoughts to go away. When it comes to getting over exes, the advice I received most of my life—from friends, family, the internet and my own brain—involved moving forward from heartbreak and never looking back. I’d gotten into a habit of trying to forget before I even got a chance to process what happened, but with so much time on my hands, I had no choice but to contemplate my history with relationships.
While unnatural and uncomfortable at first, I quickly realized that engaging in some much-needed reflection on my former relationships could help me learn more about myself.
I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty details of my romantic history, but I noticed that my past two (or maybe even three) relationships ended in the same way and that I was most likely the “toxic one” in all of them. I came to several conclusions: Maybe my relationships would meet more success in the future if rather than running away, I actually made an effort to communicate with my significant other. Maybe I wouldn’t have cried so much at New Girl during quarantine if I hadn’t tried so hard for years to distract myself from breakups rather than letting myself hurt.
Maybe emotions are meant to be felt and not ignored!
I’m not saying I feel fully equipped to build a flawless relationship once COVID ends, or that I’m ready to meet my future spouse, or that I even want to date anyone at all. I’m still in college, which means I’m still more than happy to spend most nights in bed watching my favorite sitcom. I want to savor my singleness before the pressure to always be dating really sets in. Even so, taking a step back and reflecting on my own actions gave me the chance to really consider how I can become a better significant other to someone when I do start another relationship, whenever that may be.