April 23, 2014

KUSSMAN | On Graduating Single

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I will never forget what my Human Bonding professor said about meeting romantic partners in college.

“Look around you,” she told us. Chairs squeaked as 600 students sifted in their seats and scanned the room, wide-eyed. “In college, you are surrounded by thousands of people your own age. As far as meeting a potential mate, this is as good as it gets.”

Her words were met with groans and nervous laughter. In a lecture hall of 600 people, I had never felt so single — and unsettled.

That was a year ago — in the spring of my junior year — and it was the first time I stopped to consider the question written on the uncertain faces of every student in that lecture: Are we supposed to be meeting our soulmates in college?

My endeavors in dating during college have involved a lot of trial and error — mostly error. I’ve fallen too quickly for boys who were charming but shallow. I’ve gotten my hopes up; I’ve expected too much and I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve hurt people along the way, too. I’ve entertained feelings for people I knew I would never actually date; I’ve (inadvertently) led on nice guys and I’ve made mistakes.

Now, graduation is fast approaching, and with it the end of my college career. But amidst all the uncertainty shrouding the end of college, one thing is for sure: If we were supposed to be meeting our soulmates, I seem to have missed the boat.

And yet, as I reflect on these past four years — on all the formals and date nights and wine tours, all the late night texts exchanged with boys who would never actually be my boyfriend — I wouldn’t change any of it.

Of course, there have been disappointments. If I had a dollar for every guy who asked for my number and then proceeded to disappear off the face of the earth, I’d be a rich girl. But the fact that the cute pre-med student never called doesn’t take away from the delight that I felt walking home that afternoon when he asked for my number. There is value in that delight just as there is value in the excitement I felt getting ready for a date night that didn’t work out. I enjoyed all of those moments because they made me feel alive and full of possibilities, and the fact that these things may not have worked out in the bigger picture does not undo that. Why should we let the outcome ruin the journey?

I would be the first to admit that graduating single sometimes feels like a failure of sorts. But the truth is, a failure would have been to not play at all — to not go on horrible dates, to not fall hopelessly in love and to not make a fool of ourselves. Armed with these experiences, we will tackle the next step knowing more about ourselves than we could have ever hoped to learn.

As we stand at the threshold of who we are to become, I wonder: What will we carry with us from our days on the Hill?

For some of us, it may be a romantic relationship we have found here. But for others — myself included — it may be more complicated than that. We will carry our memories of the journey and anecdotes of our own personal growth and failures — that time we got too drunk and embarrassed ourselves, the person who we let down, the times we got our hopes up and the one who broke our heart.

After all, every experience is an opportunity to gain perspective. And as I watch friends accept job offers and graduate programs all over the country, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning.

So the way I have come to see it is like this. Everyone has his or her own trajectory. If we happen to find a meaningful relationship in college, that’s awesome. But if, instead, we wind up with a dating history that looks like an etch-a-sketch gone wrong, that’s kind of awesome, too. In the words of one of America’s most iconic single men, Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother: “Not every night has a happy ending. But all of it is important. All of it is leading somewhere.”