FACEBOOK NOTIFICATION: You’ve been invited to the event “A Fifth and a Friend Vday Celebration”
EVENT DESCRIPTION: Still haven’t found that special someone? Neither have we. Come celebrate and let’s forget that Valentine’s Day is even a thing.
It’s the season of love—a time that is particularly miserable for Boston College students. Despite the Hallmark cards and the touchy rom coms, I hate this time of year. And I’m not writing this as a bitter single guy who is “struggling to find bae.” I hate this time of the year because it brings out one of the worst aspects of BC culture: the need to find a significant other.
Two years ago when I was a freshman, I went to a BC alumni panel over Winter Break. One of the questions posed to the panelists was, “Why are you thankful for your time at BC?” Six out of eight alumni laughed about how they met their husband or wife during their time at school. I was terrified.
At freshmen orientation, the OLs like to say that 70 percent of BC alumni will marry fellow BC alumni. While they are trying to poke fun at BC’s social stigma, their words continue to fuel this presumption. Believing you need to find your significant other at college puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on students. Relationships are weakened because “finding someone” just becomes another task on the “normal” student agenda. Nobody wants to feel left out, and if everyone is marrying a BC grad, then you have to marry one, too.
This belief in finding an S.O. also destroys our sense of community, because it limits our interactions. If we are searching for a “soulmate” then we will be quick to ignore people who do not immediately meet our standards. It’s like Tinder—we swipe left freely and thoughtlessly. I can’t even imagine the number of meaningful interactions students miss out on because of the soulmate mentality.
We need to stop pursuing relationships like we do a homework assignment or internship. Finding a life partner cannot be another checkmark on your college to-do list. Let’s get rid of the mindset of, “Well, I’m not going to marry them, so we might as well break up (or not even date).” We should enjoy the uniqueness of college relationships for what they are worth—understanding that there doesn’t always need to be an endgame or final destination.
More importantly, our personal value shouldn’t be contingent on our relationship status. Just because we may find ourselves single does not mean that we are unwanted or unappreciated. This may sound pandering, but we must realize that learning to accept loneliness is one of the most crucial challenges of life.
We should try to remember that, at the end of the day, when we lie down staring toward the sky, we are deeply and terrifyingly alone. As comedian Louis C.K. says, “Underneath everything there’s that thing—that empty forever. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re all alone. Life is tremendously sad just by being in it.”
We all recognize this truth, but, nevertheless, we do whatever we can to distract ourselves from it. Subconsciously, we use relationships, no matter how strong or weak, to help us forget our loneliness. While these distractions are important for a happy life, we need to ensure that our relationships are fully intentional, ones that are built on a foundation of love and encourage both partners’ personal growth. They cannot just be a goodnight text that helps us sleep easier.
If we fail to accept our inherent aloneness, we become dependent on relationships. They become our only protection from this fear of an “empty forever.” In becoming dependent on relationships, we change our identities to accommodate our partner and do whatever it takes to avoid the breakup. By changing who we are, we limit our personal growth and ultimately lose the opportunity college provides us—to discover who we are. We lose this opportunity because we don’t independently decide our own future—we decide a future that is interwoven with someone else’s hopes and dreams. A life decided, even partly, by someone else will never be as fulfilling as the life you choose for yourself.
I am not saying that total self-absorption is the answer to relationships. I believe that the purpose of finding a life partner is to join your life with someone else’s so that you both may share in each other’s happiness and live a holistic life.
I am arguing, however, that searching for this life partner can be dangerous within the college context. Our time at BC is meant to be formative and it will largely dictate the direction of our lives. We shouldn’t hinge our futures on someone else until we are fully confident in who we are and what we want from life—this is why loneliness is so important.
We all want the Pam Beesly and Jim Halpert relationship. But being with someone cannot possibly be successful if it limits our growth. This line from Boy Meets World summarizes my belief: “You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. You are you and I am I. And in the end if we end up together, it’s beautiful.”
Relationships are not a bad thing—the moments of personal vulnerability and the intimacy they create are perhaps the most important experiences in life. But accepting the fact that ultimately all you have is yourself is a necessary step in your life. This loneliness will ensure that you create the identity you choose. So this weekend, do not drink like the world is ending, intent on forgetting how single you are. But remember that being alone is important—embrace the feeling.
Featured Graphic by Francisco Ruela