Why do we hold up college as a good time to find a life partner? You hear it from your friends, from their parents, sometimes even from administration: “We met in college.” Yet college comes so early in life that any two people are guaranteed to change greatly in just a few years, and not necessarily to be more compatible. However, college comes too late in life for them to make a permanent impression on the other’s life, where two people come to grow into full adults as a pair. College is a four-year liminality between adolescence and “real” adult life with the added obstacles of yearly three-month breaks and some academic pressure. It’s also a nice place to learn a word like “liminality,” something nice to have in your back pocket when she asks “What are we?” How does this make for a good environment for serious dating?
I can make this argument easily and have been making it to myself for some time. The problem with reciting this ad infinitum is that you start to believe it, and it escapes the confines of just college. Do I really want to date any time in the four years after graduation? My post-grad job will take me somewhere I can’t imagine living in the long-term where I’ll make mediocre money and be surrounded by people largely much older than myself. It’s better to prepare myself for bachelordom, isn’t it? In the 20-year plan that governs my life, then comes graduate school. I tell myself this, finally, is when I will settle down and find the girl. She’ll be smart —after all, we got into the same grad school and I am nothing if not self-impressed — and I’ll be surrounded by other young (by then, young-ish) people looking to start the most ambitious period of their lives, someone with similar interests, and I’ll attend school somewhere I hope to make my life and a family.
But already I can hear my excuses. I’ll be broke, I’ll be so busy. I’ll have to focus on school and my grades. I won’t be a straight-from-undergrad student, and everyone will be younger than me, maybe uncomfortably so. I’ll be old, and already looking to have a child. Maybe I’ll have missed my chance! I’ll think I should have found her while I was working, and if she were the one, we would have found a way to make graduate school work. Maybe I should have found her back in college. Maybe I should come through every breakup to figure out which one was “the one.”
I refuse to be so cliché as to say that love is just an irrational thing, that you have to put all these worries in the wind and open your heart. I’m not quite that naïve and have had my heart broken more than once. And I know all the costs I’m describing are real. I can just hope that someday I’ll feel that it’s worth it.