The process of transitioning from high school to college is undoubtedly one of the most pivotal parts of a young adult’s life. Leaving the relationships you formed during your high school years feels heartbreaking for some, but liberating for others. If you start off this new chapter in your life while in a committed relationship with your high school significant other, it makes this transition much more difficult.
I am no stranger to this scenario. In fact, the second I got my acceptance letter to Penn State, my high school boyfriend of four years and I began the conversation about our plans for the long haul.
He attended Navy bootcamp, and I headed to Penn State University, so we began doing very different things at very different places. We came to an agreement to keep each other updated on everything going on in our lives and to Facetime every night while apart. This seemed like an easy act for a power couple like us. Despite this big curveball in both of our lives, we made sure that no matter where we ended up, it would work out. At 17, I thought I knew what love looked and felt like, but in reality, I didn’t. I also went to a Catholic school of 800 students, so we remained in our own little bubble. I thought saw it all, but I only witnessed the interactions, drama and banter of a very small community of people.
Leading up to the first day of class, I said all my farewells to family, friends and of course my boyfriend. The goodbye was emotional as we hugged one last time before he went off to bootcamp. We needed to communicate through letters for two months, which I was dreading. I had hope though and felt ready to take on the next steps in life and love.
My first day on campus finally arrived and… Penn State’s campus overwhelmed me straight away.
The second I got there; I got a wakeup call: This was going to be nothing like Holy Trinity Diocesan High School. The large population of 40,000 students at Penn State felt overwhelming and not knowing every person you walk past in the halls was something I haven’t been used to. I learned to love it right away though.
Independence came as another foreign concept to me that I instantly fell in love with. In my relationship, we had to always be in constant communication, but not having this at the beginning of college was refreshing? Initially, I felt guilty for feeling this way and I beat myself up over it. Enjoying independence made me feel like a bad girlfriend at first because I wasn’t craving his attention. Eventually, I brushed the feeling off.
After months of barely any communication, he was back. When we reunited for the first time, I could tell that he changed but so did I. Even though he got back from camp, he remained stationed in South Carolina. A whopping 11 hours away meaning long distance.
Long distance can work in any relationship, though it presents a challenge no matter what. This was not our case. We knew different definitions of communication. His idea of communication contained constant phone calls and words of affirmation. My idea of communication contained just updating each other on the interesting parts of our day and the occasional good morning or goodnight call.
The bottom line: we wanted very different things. Not only in our relationship, but also in most aspects of our lives. Obviously there remains a lot more to this, but four years of complications equals a lot to unpack. The shift in our lives became apparent and this caused a lot of miscommunication and fights. The relationship was no longer viable. By spring semester, we broke it off.
At first, it felt hard to let go of all the good times we had, but eventually, it felt right.
College changes you and sometimes, it also changes your relationships. College helps you grow and mature, and weak relationships usually slip through the cracks during this period. You also become a different person when you reach your young adult years. I can confidently say that I am a very different person than when I first started college. You might not realize this now and you might be that 17-year-old girl going through what I went through. Despite what happens, find your independence and don’t lose sight of that for anybody.