Relationships at university: Expectations vs. Reality

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I always pictured myself moving into my room on the first day of uni and casually bumping into the love of my life. Our eyes would meet along the corridor, I’d glance away rapidly, she’d laugh nervously. We’d hang out in the kitchen, talking about our hopes and fears, making jokes at each other’s expense. We’d have an impromptu movie night, watch a dumb comedy together, accidentally touch hands or something cheesy like that. I’d awkwardly ask her out, she’d laugh and say yes. We’d get a drink in a bar. Kiss in the rain. Raise three children in a rural village in the Midlands. All the usual stuff.

My girlfriend at the time wasn’t exactly pleased with this rom-com dream I’d constructed for myself, but then she was always more pragmatic than me. We broke up. It seemed like the best thing to do.

As it happens, the closest I got to falling in love was giving a girl a small can of Pepsi Max and chatting about Resident Evil 4 for a good half hour. Which was nice, sure, but it wasn’t exactly a lightning bolt striking my heart. Had Fresh Meat lied to me? Was I doomed to do it the hard way, and actually meet and talk to someone and get to know them before anything approaching feelings surfaced? No, I refused to accept it. Love at first sight was going to happen, it was just going to need some manufacturing.

My parents met at a Rocky Horror Picture Show themed party, and still tell me this story 25 years of marriage later. So I had hoped that by dressing myself in a variety of stupid outfits, I would eventually meet The One. Pirates. Surfers. I think one time I dressed up as “England”, whatever that means. Drinks flowed, smiles were exchanged, but my heart continued to tick along at its usual pace and rhythm. I panicked. This wasn’t going to plan at all. I got super drunk and told a girl I loved her. It wasn’t true. It was all a bit weird, truth be told.

Why did my movie style love never happen? Probably because the reality is that people don’t seem to be looking for love when there are stacks of coursework to get through. My single friends maintained they had no time for relationships. My loved-up friends had mostly met their partners before university. I was flailing around seeking a Hollywood style of romance amidst a sea of Northern England disillusionment. Maybe it’s the rain. Who knows.

But then I looked back, and realised that while I had never found The One, I’d had a truly remarkable time. I’d met so many new people, made a bunch of friends, and had some wonderful relationships with people that remain important in my life. I might not have been about to grow old with these people, but we had danced and laughed and felt joy together. I hadn’t achieved my ridiculous dream, but the reality had been incredibly enjoyable.

There’s probably other people out there who dream of meeting the love of their life over a box marked “Books + Other Random Stuff”, and maybe there’s even people who did. But if you don’t, just remember; you might not meet The One, but everyone else is pretty awesome as well.

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