As the summer before my first semester of college approached its end, an unfortunate truth emerged like an awkward photo tag on Facebook. Soon I would have to move over 200 miles away from the young man I hoped to call my forever. With my only options being a heartbreaking farewell or a challenging long-distance relationship, I chose the latter with idealistic enthusiasm of Gatsby standards.
“Break it off before you leave,” friends and family pressed. “It won’t be as difficult that way.” But what did they know? The very thought seemed completely ludicrous to me. After all, we made so many plans for our future. Heck, a promise ring sat on my finger. The possibility of our relationship not remaining in perfect condition by the time I returned for winter break was as unlikely as Brad and Angelina breaking up. Still, everyone in my life seemed to be convinced that we were headed for breakup city because of our differing life goals and I’ll admit, they were pretty big ones. I wanted to see the world; he wanted to settle down and raise a family. And that’s it.
Driven to prove them all wrong, I pushed myself to become Super Girlfriend whose special powers included squeezing time in for nightly Skype calls and ditching Tally plans to visit the boyfriend regularly. Super Girlfriend took extreme measures to make sure her long-distance lover didn’t feel obsolete, and she was dead tired. After some time, I discovered that my extraneous efforts in meeting my ex’s needs were all in vain; I was only one dedicated to the cause. The Super Girlfriend I tried to become had no boyfriend to save.
Our relationship officially ended halfway through the first semester. The thought of facing so many renditions of “I told you so” from my friends and family felt as unbearable as admitting that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” was on my iPod’s most played list. On top of that, I felt guilty for my ex’s unhappiness. I feared that in the grand scheme of things, my actions somehow led to his disinterest, that there was some way to fix everything and I just missed it. Constantly speculating on this, I convinced myself that I, single-handedly, failed to save the relationship.
I carried the weight of the breakup on my shoulders for a long time. I tormented myself, constantly wondering what I could’ve done differently to avoid the split. Over time, the stress only intensified. I couldn’t shake off the burden and found myself drowning in guilt. I trudged through the rest of my first semester of college in a fog-like depression until a more fortunate truth began to emerge from the depths. As I strolled around campus having an average phone conversation with my mom, the realization of my freedom struck me. Here I was, miles away from home with so many opportunities at my feet. It was like the polar opposite of the dread a groomsman must feel on his wedding’s eve.
Because I wasted too much time beating myself up over the past, I completely overlooked the promise of future halcyon days of sunshine and puppies. Since my relationship was over, I discovered some newfound and much-needed freedom. I started staying out as late as I wanted with whomever I wanted without explaining myself to anyone. I stopped worrying about meeting a quota of time spent at home, which allowed me to enjoy reckless weekends on campus. Most importantly, I focused my energy on becoming the woman that I wanted to be, not the girlfriend my ex wanted me to be.
With this new outlook, I set forth on an adventure of self-discovery. I took part in some of the bolder clubs and events on campus (Rocky Horror Halloween Party, what’s up?). I met people from different walks of life, from writers, filmmakers and artists to gaming champions, math geniuses and more. I explored careers, courses and majors to discover who I was and what skills I had to offer the world. I explored my college town and became familiar with the city’s nightlife. I even dated a bit and acquainted myself with some pretty amazing guys.
As Lemony Snicket noted, “…What may seem like a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.” I no longer see the end of my relationship as an unfortunate failure; I look at it as another segment to add on to my biography on Wikipedia. Sure, I lost someone I loved, but I gained a new love for life and the tools to become the woman I want to be. I’m lucky that what I found was greater than what I lost, and as I enter my sophomore year of college, I realize that “something new” is me–a completely different woman than who I was a year ago. No matter what I lose or gain, I know that there will always be the chance to rebuild, rediscover and find myself again. No matter what college may send my way, I am not a failure.
Unless being able to get into Orange is the New Black is considered failing, in which case, I’m a goner.