People tend to think just because you make it through the toughest, most exciting, most venturesome years of your life, you’re supposed to come out on the other side with a ring on your finger.
It’s as if falling in love in college, and/or come out with wedding plans validated the whole experience. As if having found someone whose weirdness is equally as weird as yours means you left with one more medal of honor on graduation day.
I just want to tell you how shortsighted you are. And that you will find those people, they might just not be the love of your life.
A little while ago, I had a conversation with a friend that went something like this: “Is there anything you regret about college, or wish you’d done differently?” She said, “I don’t know, maybe that I’d found someone special, that I’d dated more, etc.”
It makes me sad that’s on the list of “regrets,” as if there was anything to regret about being alone — not lonely — but alone. Alone with a sea of opportunity before you, with so many chances at knowing yourself much better, with the time to become better for when that special person does make an appearance in your life.
I didn’t fall in love in college, but I had so much fun. I danced my ass off. I joined every nameless club you can think of. I look back at the best four years of my life, and I’m just happy my memory isn’t tainted by heartache, unrequited love, the excuse of bad timing or making do with fewer experiences on behalf of chasing after someone.
You might argue that’s selfish — even I argue with myself when it comes to that. But I’ll tell you what: Either you will fall in love, or you won’t, and either path will forever change your life for the better.
I don’t want to discredit the experience for those people who came to college and left with a ring on their fingers. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side. I just mean for you to think outside the box and let go of that notion that you only have a tiny window of time in life to fall in love and be stupid.
I promise you’ll still be as stupid five years from now. Embrace that.
Here are the perks of not falling in love in college:
The Time to Know Thyself
Life will offer you the chance to wear as many hats as you like, to mix and match and throw them away if needed, all in the name of finding the one that fits.
Not being tied down to anyone in particular will most definitely propel you out of your comfort zone to the zone where you meet new people every weekend, join the weirdest clubs for an excuse at something to do Thursday nights and figure out what works for you.
This time to figure yourself out is such a gift. You’re not wasting time, you’re becoming better for it.
The experience of coming out the other side, triumphant of your accomplishments and your failures, and being able to call them yours will always be life’s greatest teacher. Your future love will thank you for not chasing butterflies.
The Freedom to Make Mistakes
Granted, you don’t need to be single to have this freedom, but being single and making mistakes is a different kind of freedom. There are less casualties to be considered.
You don’t need to be afraid to jump in the ocean in high tides for the sake of anyone else. Your decisions will always affect somebody else, and you can either let that time be now or later.
For now, you have the freedom to try new things, let them change you, hate that change and come back to who you were, at little cost.
But that’s part of the process that needs to be factored in. There are limited moments in life when you will be able to risk things this easily, so I say having a little baggage to account for is definitely something to be embraced.
The Changing Tides
Every semester is a chance at a new you. You get to meet different people in your new courses, something new catches your eye at every club recruitment table and you decide you want to learn to crochet, line-dance or shoot darts.
You will most likely start chronicling your years as times you were friends with this or that group of people, that time you got really into rock-climbing or that time you started hanging out with a group of nerds, etc.
That sense of wonder, and the chase toward all that is yet to “become” is probably better than the “thing” itself. Once you settle down with someone, half of those possibilities are gone.
There will be a time for that. For now, the journey is where the growth happens, and this is the place to let those changes come about organically.
The Liberty to Choose For You
Remember that episode in “The Hills” where Lauren Conrad decided to not go to Paris because her then-boyfriend Jason wanted to spend the summer together in some beach house in California? Gosh, SMH.
This doesn’t have to be you.
Whenever life hands you lemons, you’re going to be able to make lemonade anywhere in the freaking world and be all the better for it.
So yes, you can go to Paris after graduation for all the times Lauren didn’t go. You can take that job in Seattle guilt-free because it pays freaking awesome. You can join the Peace Corps, if that’s your thing, without the fear of missing out, or the fear for “the one that got away.”
The Opportunity of A Well-Rounded Experience
Because you did “you,” chances are you did a whole lot of stupid sh*t.
Chances are you dated that footballer who didn’t do you any good during sophomore year, and you partied too hard Friday nights during your junior year. Failing that organic chemistry course taught you what you didn’t want to do, and you had the freedom to study abroad for a whole semester in Germany.
You didn’t thrive in the comfort of two arms; maybe you sought this out, but along that journey, you found way better things.
Chances are you met hundreds of people in all your stints to find yourself, and you gave unknown things a shot. Because of this, you left college with a truly well-rounded experience.
You came to college with a sense of wonder, and you get to leave with the same wonder, just a more refined version of it.
Be in no rush to settle down. If it happens, don’t fight it, but don’t let that be a measure on which you judge the value of your college experience.