Learning through heartbreak

Off the Beat

At the beginning of senior year, I wanted nothing more than to make the best memories and connections I could with my remaining time as a UC Berkeley student.

During my first three years on this campus, I would talk on the phone with a girl from my hometown who I’d been really close friends with. The warmth of our conversations turned into romance, which turned into a long-distance relationship that made up the highlight reel of my life for the past two years. But it ended unexpectedly on a cloudy afternoon last October — and with it, I lost what I thought my senior year would look like.

I couldn’t stop myself from dwelling on the initial pain of losing both a friend and lover. I really wanted to be ready to fully enjoy hanging out with my friends, learning from amazing professors and meeting new people, without thinking about my ex constantly. But as much as I’d made up my mind to be over the relationship, my heart clung to it — I was a shipwreck trying to convince myself that I could sail smoothly.

I found myself in the catch-22 of loneliness: I was sad because of what happened and I would try to distract myself by seeing my friends, but I also wasn’t much fun to hang out with because of the way I was feeling. This paradox often bogged me down, but remaining hungry for the knowledge and experience available around campus helped me enjoy life despite the heartache.

My favorite moments from last fall took place in a classroom next to Hearst Pool, where a professor challenged everything I thought I knew about the world, and during co-op band nights, where the music wiped my mind clean. But in between those moments, I began to spend more time isolating myself in my own room, taking long walks around campus and playing my guitar all night when I probably should have been doing my readings.

In hindsight, I know that I needed to wallow in my own heartache in order to get past it. On the other hand, I never wanted to spend my last days of college in a melancholic state of isolation. The truth is, I am not entirely past this stage — sometimes I still wake up in the morning, cover my face with a pillow and scream. But most days, I can remind myself that I am OK and be thankful for everything else in my life.

While the breakup left me feeling a mix of longing, jealousy, confusion and anger, in some ways it was also a blessing. For one, now I’m free to decide what to do after graduation without feeling pressured to take my relationship into account. I can carefully choose my path instead of wishing I could find my dream job near my ex.

What I’ve realized is that people have a tendency to romanticize or glorify how they think their life will be. We idealize our relationships and set higher and higher expectations for what we want from each other, our years on campus and our future jobs.

To students who are about to graduate: We are under a lot of pressure to balance finding work with maintaining the connections we have made. But if the past four months have taught me anything, it’s that I’ll never really know how life will work out, so there’s no use obsessing over it. And yes, understanding that I don’t have complete control over my life can be terrifying. But this very realization helps take the pressure to have my life planned off my shoulders.

These days, I have a lot of faith that everything will work out for me, and yet I realize that there is nothing I can do to force my life to be a certain way. Life has a way of unfolding when we least expect it in ways we do not expect it to, so the best we can do is embrace it and go along for the ride.

I think, in many ways, being in love is a lot like being in college. It is, without a doubt, beautiful, full of opportunities and an experience no one will ever forget. At the same time (and this is what movies and relatives don’t tell you about college or love), they will also cause you more pain than you can imagine. But this duality is precisely what makes both of these experiences worthwhile.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been in love for most of college, and I am sad that these experiences ended. But at the same time, I’m happy that I can bring the lessons they have taught me to whatever life has in store for me next.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.