By LIZ KUSSMAN
Sometimes I catch myself thinking about how exciting life will be when I’m with someone. As I watch couples go off on Spring Break vacations together, I dream about my own ideal couple’s trip to California with an abstract, faceless (but perfect) boyfriend. From date nights to lazy Sunday brunches, there will always be something to look forward to.
There is a reason I so often escape into this fantasy of how fulfilled I will feel in some future, hypothetical relationship — and I suspect it is the same reason that we sometimes refuse to let go of relationships that may not be right for us. When I indulge in daydreams of a future with someone else, what I am really doing is retreating from the unsettling questions that have been haunting my mind lately: What do I want for my future? What are the dreams that I want to pursue, independently of anyone else’s dreams?
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a relationship — either hypothetically, or with someone specific — will give us the answers that we’re looking for. But it’s not up to anyone else to define us. No one else can tell us what our dreams are.
As the end of college looms near and these questions float around unanswered, I watch many couples fall apart and I wonder if they too have used their relationship to distract themselves from confronting thoughts of who they are to become. After all, when we are with someone, we grow together. We view ourselves in relation to the other person. Once we let go, the buffer is gone and we are forced to face ourselves.
When I find myself wrapped up in thoughts of how wonderful things will be when I’m in a relationship, I must flip my way of thinking. Life does not begin when we find a romantic interest. Life is now, and we will fall in love when we least expect it. After all, it is when we establish a sense of self that we have the most to offer, and when we are busy pursuing our own interests that we are at our best. The nights I have made the most genuine connections with people in the past were never the nights I went out looking to meet someone. They were the nights I went out to have a good time no matter what.
If we are at peace with ourselves, we don’t need to wait for a significant other to materialize in order to travel, move across the country or do whatever it is we’ve been waiting to do. We can go with our best friends, or we can go it alone. The rest will fall into place.
So while getting into a relationship sometimes feels like a goal to strive for — an essential stepping stone on the way to self-discovery — we must remember that a relationship is not a viable goal in and of itself; it is something that happens along the way. And while a healthy relationship may complement us, it will never complete us. That fulfillment has always been up to us.