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BERKELEY'S NEWS • FEBRUARY 01, 2023

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Meet me in the middle

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JULY 25, 2022

I’ve always liked clear-cut answers to my questions. Previously, I rejected the possibility that a gray space existed between the black-and-white reality I often envisioned.

Maybe it was my only child syndrome stunting my ability to understand compromise or my narcissistic obsession with being right, but middle ground rarely existed for me.

In elementary school, we are shown two yellow circles meant to decipher our moods. While the two black dots in the circle remain the same, the convex or concave curve underneath is interchangeable. We are not taught about the other emotions that messily squeeze between those two yellow circles.

We are happy or sad.

Relationships are no different. Big screen plotlines are primarily centered around the “will they/won’t they” premise. Were Ross and Rachel on a break? Is Ron finally going to admit his feelings for Hermione? Will Bella choose Edward or Jacob?

Every single question boils down to a simple yes or no that cuts out the complicated nature of love.

Yes entailed a happily ever after.

No was a friend zone the size of Texas.

My first relationship began and ended with a text message. My second relationship used basketball trading cards as a love language. Needless to say, there was nothing serious about a green blurb on a screen or Javale McGee’s 2015 shooting stats.

The lack of significance allowed emotions to take a back seat in my grand journey of love. That, or the fact I hadn’t even received a middle school diploma.

When I reached high school, however, hormones were flung around every corner of the classroom. Within days of school starting, my best friend and I counted multiple relationships where the spark lasted longer than the quickly extinguished flame. With a graduating class of 74 kids, news tended to circulate faster than a Kanye West twitter rant.

It was often fun, sitting on the sidelines and waiting until after school to unpack who blocked who on Instagram at the small deli down the street. I was able to play this yes-or-no game from a safe distance.

This was, until I crossed paths with a boy during the most romantic of settings: a choir and band trip over spring break my sophomore year.

Long story short, I crashed my car into his wooden fence at the end of our first date, and a two-and-a-half-year relationship was born.

On May 9, I shyly proposed we change a friendly no into a yes.

Unlike my previous relationships — if you could even call them that — this one was significant. His little white rescue dog became accustomed to my footsteps, and my senior portrait found a home in his black Volcom wallet.

But as time went on, calls were excused for card games and text messages were left unanswered for hours on end. I distinctly remember reaching the moment where the stability evaporated, much like his presence on the night of my senior prom.

On our last day together before heading off to college, I had smiled at him in the summer sun reminding him that distance makes the heart grow fonder.

He had replied that distance also makes the heart wander.

His love for me quickly took a back seat to the 50-mile gap that now separated us. In the winter break following my first semester in college, I stood in his driveway and changed that yes to a no.

Two weeks later, I returned to school for the start of my spring semester feeling lighter. The ties that pulled me back across the Bay Bridge were cleanly cut, and I was ready to be consumed in the life that lived under the Oakland Hills fog.

After allowing my emotions to rest in the hands of another for so long, feeling disconnected from stability propelled me to understand the beauty in the middle. The middle was a world absent of the labels that often constrict our ability to explore ourselves.

I found fresh air between the weight of feeling lonely and the claustrophobia that is coupled with commitment.

This fresh air gently prodded me along a windswept road of self-realization. I was able to experience the novelty of initial attraction while simultaneously educating myself on the connections that fell in between being single or taken.

In the coming months, I opened up a whole new dictionary of definitions. Situationships often referred to relations that were too messy to place a label on, while nonexclusivity meant you still wanted to see other people.

Most college students were wading in these waters, which led me to conclude that strong bonds are able to be forged in each of these new terms alike.

As my freshman year came to a close, complexities carried into the summer. I was not alone, but I also wasn’t imagining one person who I would eventually reside behind a white picket fence with. People entered and people exited, but I stayed put in a place of such certain uncertainty.

The place between yes and no became my new home. And I think I’ll stay here a while. So, if you want to find me, come meet me in the middle.

Emma Solomon writes the Monday column on adjusting to the lifestyle changes in college. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter
LAST UPDATED

DECEMBER 25, 2022


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