Words of advice to high school seniors preparing to embark on the infamous college journey: Have no fear. Worst case scenario, you end up sitting on the stoop of a grand, New England building, drunk off cheap beer, crying about a boy while listening to Joni Mitchell on your iPod.
It had been a little over a year since Nathan and I had finally ended our mess of a relationship. He was wrong for me in every way, but I was nineteen and thought I was madly in love. Rather than love me for who I was, he treated me badly, which only fed into my insecurities. That year was ripe with epiphanies, all of which helped me to realize that what my friends and family had always told me was true: A guy like Nathan didn’t deserve a girl like me, and our separation was for the best.
I was a late bloomer, and it wasn’t until junior year of college that I really felt myself coming into my own. I was free from a relationship that had made into someone I was not, and I began to dedicate my free time to friends and activities that made me truly happy. My heartache had nearly vanished. I had met a few nice guys, nothing serious, but that was fine with me. I didn’t want to fall back into the mentality of needing someone else to make me happy.
Girls repeatedly and proudly declare that they fall for the bad boys. I know because I used to be one of them. Let me save you years and years of grief right now — you are the only one who will finish last if you don’t pick the nice guy.
On a deliciously warm spring night in Boston, my friend threw a party. I remember standing on the tiny balcony outside her room and peering down at the crowd of college students that had gathered. Below me was a sea of baseball hats emblazoned with the letter “B,” short skirts, and high heels. I closed my eyes; all the voices seemed to fuse together in one intoxicated rant. I let the noise drone on, enjoying the feel of the warm wind playing with my hair, when suddenly a girl’s voice broke free and I heard a very distinct, “Nathan!” My eyes flew open, and I traced the voice back to a blond girl waving at someone. I allowed my eyes to follow the invisible line to the person on the other end and sure enough, it was Nathan. My Nathan.
I watched as they greeted each other, him swooping her into a hug, and her face beaming on the other side of his embrace. I watched as they disappeared into the house, and I willed myself to stay perfectly still as my body and mind filled with the memory of him, of us. I was shocked at my reaction. Although I believe no one ever truly gets over any relationship, I hadn’t felt any romantic feelings for him in months, and yet something inside me was pushing me to him. I had to go downstairs to find my friends; surely they would talk some sense into me.
I ventured down the spiral staircase looking for a familiar face. I felt the panic rise up inside me. The last time I had felt like this was over a year ago, when I felt like I had no control over my thoughts and actions.
I realized that I wasn’t looking for my friends. I was looking for him. For some inexplicable reason I had to talk to him. I felt like I was inThe Twilight Zone. I had seen him enter the house no more than two minutes ago, and now he was nowhere to be found.
Frantically, I made my way outside. I had to get back into the fresh air, and I needed quiet so I could call him. Looking back, it was as though someone else’s brain had taken over mine. This was not me, but I couldn’t stop myself.
I watched as I scrolled down to the familiar number on my phone, albeit one that I hadn’t dialed in a very long time. I brought the phone to my ear and began to walk. For some reason, the thought of standing still was impossible. I listened as it rang and rang, until finally an operator’s voice spoke clearly on the other end, “The number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please hang up and try again.” I was dumbfounded. Clearly there had been a mistake — this was his number, and it had been for two years. I tried again, and again, all to no avail. By this point, I couldn’t tell if I wanted to talk to him anymore, or if I just wanted to prove to myself that the operator was wrong.
Out of pure frustration, I sat down on the stoop of a building. I had to gather my thoughts. I turned on my iPod, and Joni Mitchell’s sweet, steady voice began to calm my anxiety. To my surprise, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. I was all out of energy and excuses, and despite the fact that I was in public, I made no attempt to wipe my tears.
I buried my head in my lap for just a moment, and when I looked up, three boys were standing in front of me.
“Are you okay?” One of them cautiously asked, since I’m sure I looked like a mess.
“I’m fine,” I lied.
“What are you listening to?”
He broke into a smile, “Well no matter what you’re upset about, at least you have great taste in music.” With that, he walked away, and the other two followed.
I should have been embarrassed but I just felt foolish. After all I had learned, I had let one silly moment push me back to ground zero, as if I hadn’t spent the last year loving me for me.
It took the simple words of a stranger to help me remember that I was going to be absolutely fine, and that’s the beauty of college. You never know who you’re going to meet, and what wisdom they have to impart. So have no fear, you will be fine, and you just might learn a few things.