Timing is an uncontrollable factor in relationships. As someone who is spending their semester in and out of airports, calling my flat in South Kensington home, I am caught in a constant state of here and there. The temporary nature of the situation follows me everywhere I go, lingering behind me like a shadow. Four months isn’t as long as one anticipates, no matter how many times the permanence of the semester sets in as I fall asleep. I wake up every morning in London, I wander its streets, taking in each sight and moment as if it will be the last time I experience it. Having these time limits make it almost improbable to form attachments. The thought of leaving to go back, to quit the life of an expat, seeps into seemingly every conversation, answering every “how long are you in London for?” with a diminishing number every time. It forces someone to become indifferent to emotion and keep things “casual.” I am no longer a stranger to this concept after the events of last semester.
Somehow during my time abroad, I have managed to find people who move around more than I do. One, most recently, was a man I met at a Super Bowl party I went to in Soho. A drummer and manager for a band, his lack of sports apparel at a sporting event intrigued me as much as his Rolling Stones T-shirt. Remember how I said I like people who like the same bands as me? After talking to him, I learned that he would be moving to California that coming Sunday. He wanted to take me out, but Wednesday night was the only time that worked for me and coincidentally that was when his band was traveling to Scotland. He would be coming back Saturday, he said optimistically. I would be flying back from Portugal that Sunday, right around the time he’d be on a plane to California. I had to laugh because circumstances can be uncontrollably funny. He was more disappointed than anything else, but left me with, “I’ve met you and now I plan on knowing you for a long time.” There’s that unrealistic optimism again.
Relationships are messy without external factors like time interfering and making things complicated. But this is not a reason to give up hope, not really. We are so young. Although we want college, and our abroad experiences, to last forever, it has to come to an end. The people we know now could be moving to a different city, different state or even a different country. Every person you meet is moving in a different direction and that can make it hard to want to start something with them. If you are involved with someone, it will make you question the grounds for which your relationship should continue or end. This is not all in vain or negativity, however. If there’s anything the recent resurfacing of an ex has taught me, it’s that people never really go away forever.
Our lives within the scope of the last five years, it seems, are always in a transitional period. I can only describe this feeling as being caught in between here and there, neither one being fully ideal. Many relationships can fall victim to the efforts of bad timing. I saw it happen to my friends who ended their high school relationships as they headed off to a different college than their significant other. It happened to me during my freshman year as I had to say goodbye to the guy I was seeing because he was graduating. During college, one finds more often than not that timing is the reason many relationships end. Sometimes, no matter how hard both parties may try, there is no way they can continue. This isn’t always a bad thing, though.
When handling a sometimes uncontrollable factor like timing, it boils down to two choices: do the best you can, or use timing as a reason to claim passivity. Being abroad finds me caught somewhere between the two. As much as I would have loved to share the optimism of the man at the Super Bowl party who I’m sure I’ll never see again, realism can set in and take its toll. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, take it in stride and search out the next best thing.