I really love, love. This could explain why I haven’t really been single since I was 15. I can’t watch romance movies because I get too convinced that it’s healthy to be that devoted to another person. I’ll start holding men to the standard of Noah from The Notebook (minus the whole angry alcoholic thing). I should explain—love is a beautiful thing, but it is most definitely NOT an Edward and Bella kind of deal. Real relationships take a lot of self-work and patience.
In order for two people to work together, they have to be okay alone. I wish I knew these things before coming to college.
“I don’t care what they say- I can make a relationship work in college.” Ah young Stephanie, a well-intentioned 18-year-old girl who was about to enter the supposed best four years of her life had no idea what she was in for. I was convinced that I was already with the love of my life and that college would be even better with him. But of course, relationships require both people to make it work.
I never wanted to do a long distance relationship, so when my boyfriend at the time, let’s call him Joe, and I both received our acceptance to the University of Florida things looked good. We would make friends together, explore our new city and be each other’s home away from home.
When August came around my mom and I hauled all of my belongings up four flights of stairs in the Florida summer heat. I made some friends here and there, but the adjustment was a lot harder than I imagined. I didn’t know who I was, so how was I supposed to know who I wanted to be around or what I wanted to do? Social anxiety I had never felt before really set in.
September came and went, and so did Joe.
At the time it was because we wanted to experience college alone. Unfortunately college can already feel alone at first, so Joe and I decided to give it another shot. Lesson number one—discomfort is good. We learn and grow from this. Sometimes I wish freshman Stephanie looked for comfort on the inside instead of someone else to fix her problems.
Throughout my freshman year I struggled with not finding my people. I rushed because I thought I should, and that wasn’t for me. Joe made some friends here and there, but it was mostly just Joe and I against the world. I poured most of my time into hanging out with him instead of getting involved in other things. When opportunities didn’t go well or girls were mean, I didn’t mind because I knew Joe was there. He was a great friend.
My second September came and Joe decided that we just viewed relationships differently.
We had been fighting and we needed to be okay alone. Lesson number two: it’s easy for us to ignore our problems if no one points them out. We have the power to make ourselves happy and we decide what makes us unhappy.
This is around the time I started meditation, wrote more and decided I didn’t want to put my happiness on anyone but myself. I let go of my problems in the past and embraced my reality. I made new friends and Joe was still my best friend. I didn’t feel attached to him because I was using this time as an opportunity to grow. I was trying new things.
It is hard to fall out of love when you are fully engulfed in it, so we fell back into the relationship. I assumed this was it; we finally have become our own people and can now share this happiness instead of demanding it. By my third September I was reminded that even in the best of relationships, some people are at different points of their lives. Joe and I were finding it hard to give each other the space we needed. Lesson number three: you must love everyone unconditionally, because you cannot control anyone but yourself. Sometimes we just need to be on our own and that is okay.
Lesson number four: always be okay with yourself fully before getting into a relationship and always make your inner state a priority. College can be the best four years if you let it be, but only you have the power to do that.