It started four years ago on a hot, muggy Florida morning. I didn’t know it at the time, but the words he said would shape me throughout my entire college experience:
The charming tour guide stopped our group of eager eighteen year olds outside of Knowles Chapel to say a phrase I am sure is programmed into the script, “Alumni are able to marry in this gorgeous chapel. The trick is to put your name on the waitlist as a freshman and hope you meet the one in the next four years.”
That was it. I was hooked from the get-go. And while it might not have been the only reason I came to Rollins, it certainly is the only thing I remember from Accepted Students Day 2011. Sure, gay marriage wasn’t even legal then, but that clichéd line clutched my attention from the start.
As I began my college career, the search for love was always demanding of my time and energy. No, it wasn’t my academic studies that pulled the majority of my attention, but rather the quest for the perfect partner to spend the rest of my life with. I came in as a freshman, having recently experienced my first heartbreak—the clichéd high school sweetheart idea had failed me—and now I thought I was ready for the real thing.
As a Ward resident, I played the hookup game that has become the stereotypical marker of our generation’s mishandling of intimacy. But after a few careless rides on the one-night stand merry-go-round, I knew that this laissez-faire approach to dating was not for me. I met an incredible man early in my freshman year, and for the next two years we fought to keep our relationship alive.
But then, following my sophomore year, I met him: the man who I would leave my underclassman boyfriend for and who would shape the remainder of my college love story. He took my breath away, and it was the closest I have ever come to love at first sight.
But summer love is not eternal; though we tried to preserve the passion we felt in the beginning, it eventually turned sour in my senior year.
This story might not have a traditionally happy ending, and I’m sorry for that—trust me, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. But since this is my final column, after four years of chronicling my search for love, I feel it necessary to offer a few last thoughts:
Honesty is the best policy: While I am a firm believer in honest communication between partners, I’ve found that the people we are the most dishonest with are ourselves. We deceive ourselves on a daily basis—especially, when it comes to romantic entanglements. I have frequently told myself that the misbehavior of my lover is acceptable to me—definitely a lie. Or, even worse, I have convinced myself prematurely that I am emotionally ready to enter a new relationship.
It’s important that we have honest relationships with both our partner and ourselves. Only when we are able to effectively communicate our amorous hopes and desires are we able to successfully hold on to love. Self-awareness is a gift that comes with growing up, so just keep listening to that little voice in your head.
Hookup culture is a choice, and it may cost you: It was the sort of night that echoed the poor decisions of my underclassman past. Drinks at Prato followed by locking lips in his Mercedes, and you can guess where things ended up. In the moment, everything seemed fabulous, but as I began to surface from this one-night stand, I felt a familiar feeling—despair.
Three months later, as I sit here and consider this last hookup in retrospect, I recognize that my motivations were never pure. I was trying to stifle the pain I felt as the result of a breakup, but hooking up is not a replacement for true intimacy.
For those of you who are able to have sex without any form of emotional engagement, I applaud you. It’s the moment that we begin to set expectations upon the person we are hooking up with that things go terribly wrong.
Several of my friends often share that they feel trapped in the endless cycle of pleasure and despair that accompanies hookup culture. It’s important to relinquish these feelings of powerlessness in order to stay true to who we are. For me, hooking up is settling in defeat—something that I am no longer okay with.
Love isn’t everything (but actually it is): The search for love has often left me paralyzed in anxiety. “Will he call? Does he like me? Will we get married? How do I maintain the perfect couple?” These questions I have anxiously tried to answer leave me in no position to give or receive love; rather, I am stuck in a constant worry about the state of my relationship.
This model of romance is simply unfulfilling. Rather than filling our days with concern over our participation in a romantic relationship, it is much more satisfying and healthy to seek connections with others who love us unconditionally. Love in the form of friendship offers us strength against the culturally constructed fascination with coupledom. Following my breakup in December, I was arrested with overwhelming loneliness. And while this period was painful, it helped me discover that the only love I truly need comes from my beautiful and caring friends. Never again will I allow a partner to control my happiness—it has to come from confidence in myself.
The End: There are some endings that come naturally. My undergraduate career, for example, has come to a peaceful close after four incredible years. There are other endings that are necessary. Breaking up, for example, is the termination of an affair on the basis of pursuing individual happiness.
When things come to a close, we often reflect on what we have learned by going through that process. Each of my relationships have taught me so much about connection and the endurance of love. Each breakup has brought me one step closer to figuring out who I am—growth as an individual is certainly necessary before commencing a new romantic affair.
But, overall, my majors in Studio Art and English have left me with the greatest lesson of all: the ability to communicate and express love. While I’m not planning on marrying in Knowles Chapel anytime soon, I’ve learned to define fulfillment through the connections I’ve made here at Rollins. I guess you could say that you, my beloved reader, will always be “the one.”