I worry about everything — a habit that has caused the growth of four novel gray hairs on my head. I can spend 20 minutes just mentally dissecting my face, analyzing each laughter line and wrinkle-soon-to-form if I keep looking at things like that. My newly 22-year-old friends complain about how they’re becoming old people. It’s laughable when you think about it, compared to some of the people we know, people decades and decades older than ourselves.
While we’re all busy feeling so old, we are also inherently very young. We’re the oldest we’ve ever been, but like the ocean itself crashing upon the shore, we are still moving and forming. I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year, and that’s going to shape both the relationships I have now and the ones I might have in the future.
One of the best parts of not truly being an “adult” yet is that there is still time to figure things out. Most of us don’t have children to look over. Many of us aren’t tied down. Some of us don’t have familial expectations to live up to just yet — we don’t have impending responsibilities that would prevent us from moving on and exploring possibilities. I understand this is not the case for all of us. I know that many of us have responsibilities to ourselves, to our careers, to pay our bills and feed ourselves. Some people our age are already married, or are even thinking about children already. That’s OK — everyone moves on their own timeline.
I try not to worry too much about my timeline. At the same time, though, I am cognizant of how I spend my time.
Last week, I went on a date with a very nice guy. I don’t mean that in the sarcastic sense, he was very attentive and sincere, but I knew that there wasn’t going to be a connection. When he texted me afterwards about seeing me again, I never responded. I know that wasn’t the best option — I could have handled it better. I didn’t want to go through the whole process of pretending to be nice in an effort to be polite and not hurt him. I’m still working on telling people no. Over the summer, I had to enlist the help of my many friends to muster up the right words to use to break up with the guy I had been seeing. These things come with time.
If you are not feeling it, then you’re not feeling it. I always loved the quote from Daniel Handler’s “Why We Broke Up” that simplified it best — “you either have the feeling or you don’t.” I wish this was something I had taken to heart earlier on, both in terms of myself and others. If there’s anything college has taught me — and there’s a lot — it’s that you shouldn’t try to force your feelings. You also shouldn’t try to force someone else to have feelings for you. Try not to linger on those who don’t reciprocate your feelings, or those you may not have feelings for. Keeping them around while you try to figure it out can be damaging and unfair.
I don’t think I understood the true vastness of the world until I traveled abroad. I met people in every country I went to — I talked to them, and even befriended some of them. People are not a scarce resource. This is not to say that they are interchangeable, but more to say that sometimes we forget how many people are always surrounding us. Spending five minutes on Tinder can also prove this, once you get past freshman-year exes and the ‘maybes’ and ‘should’ve-beens’ that you collect over the years. There are so many people we haven’t met us who will help us become a different version of ourselves.
My point is this — try not to become fixated on one person. Don’t worry if you’re not at the same point in your life as someone else. If you have never been in a relationship, that’s okay. If you’ve been in one since high school, that’s okay too. Sometimes it can feel like an episode of “CSI” while you try to piece together all the reasons someone doesn’t like you. Being the over-analytical bundle of anxiety that I am, this is a thought process that I subscribe to.
All of this is a process of trial and error. If you are not feeling it with the person that you’re with, you can save both of you a lot of trouble by ending it. Don’t toy with someone’s emotions because you aren’t sure how to have to hard conversations. Do not chase what does not follow.
You either have the feeling or you don’t.