Braving a cold, rainy winter morning, I recently found myself sitting at a campus bus stop attempting to make sense of a part-time, half-hearted, lukewarm relationship-but-not-a-relationship. To make a long story short: It ended. It’s college — things like this happen, and it’s hard to commit yourself to anyone when you’re in some strange, transitional phase between teenage angst and real life.
There can be a lot of reasons why it didn’t work — it was the wrong person, the wrong time, there was just no chemistry, or worst of all, the one you want is unaffected by the fire you’re so sure is setting you both aflame.
But the biggest love buzz-kill of them all is time.
Fast-forward from my messy and not-so-private break-up: The person I had been pining for texts me to announce he’s taken on yet another academic commitment — a time-consuming endeavor that will slowly eat away free time and patience.
I realized what was missing was time — we had buried ourselves in responsibilities and there was no time for an “us.” I was reminded why I just can’t make things work: There just isn’t enough time for me to do what I feel I need to and what I want to do. Desire is pushed to the side for school, work and part-time internships. My little free time is left to catch up on sleep, or best of all, sit around with friends, beer in hand.
Now that my messy could-have-been has become a definitely-not, I’m realizing what I need is emotional balance. Some kind of Zen I haven’t yet found.
Relationships require work. They’re exhausting, emotionally draining and laborious, and many students can’t fit them in between strings of part-time employment and mountains of assigned reading.
This is the conundrum of our modern, fast-paced world. We demand so much of ourselves. We spend our days typing away on smartphones and laptops, hopping from commuter train to commuter train, but in the midst of trying to outdo ourselves and our peers, we forget we could use a little affection. We forget how nice it can be to just hold someone’s hand.
Our generation has been accused by the media of being non-committal, over-stimulated and over-sexed. Magazines have run stories about the growing number of women seeking out casual relationships and the “it’s all good” attitude many young people have toward sex and anonymous hook-ups. Pew Research Group has found the number of people seeking a life partner has declined significantly. In 2006, Pew found that 55 percent of single Americans were not in a committed relationship, nor were they looking for one. But numbers can only give us so much insight. They can’t explain why people are moving away from the long-term.
It doesn’t mean people have abandoned love, or the desire to be loved by someone. Rather, we’ve come to realize as our lives become increasingly busy and more is demanded of us, we can’t give a relationship what we or our partners deserve.
We’re not dismissing love, but love doesn’t fit into our Google calendars — it comes second to what is essential to our survival in a competitive world.
Walking away from my sinking relationship, I’m also walking away from a part of me I realize I’ve needed to abandon for some time now: I can’t demand it all, I can’t expect everything, and it’s really okay that I’ve not yet mastered juggling midterms and rent payments.
Maybe I never will. Maybe I will float around until someone demands I once again reevaluate my priorities and slow down my pace — but for now, I’m OK with being a student and a full-time adult. My life isn’t really structured to fit someone else in when I can barely take care of myself.
I haven’t come close to finding balance yet, and that’s OK. For now, I can remember to not only take time for myself, but time for the people who have proven they’re worthy of my affection.
We shouldn’t be looking over textbooks at 3 a.m. — we should be sleepy-eyed, whispering in the dark to the people who matter most to us. It’s all about balance, wherever we can find it.