One of the most important lessons I've learned during college is to accept the aspects of life that are out of your control.
When you’re given the opportunity to make your own choices, believing that the decisions we make are permanent tends to be easier than acknowledging just how many moments and plans are temporary. Even when you feel confident with yourself and your environment, change comes swiftly and without warning, especially during your first year of freedom on your own.
My friend and I were experiencing the downside of our new independence when we both got our hearts broken by people we never expected to lose so soon. So many relationships aren’t meant to be forever, and neither one of us felt particularly confident about whether things would last beyond college. Nonetheless, we’d fallen in love for the first time and struggled with understanding how necessary the pain was in becoming the people we were meant to be.
In the process of trying to accept that our futures no longer involved the people we cared about so deeply, we were desperate for the lonely company of one another. More often than not, she’d spend the night at my dorm during weekends my roommate was away. We’d laugh over jokes and take care of each other during the moments where our heartbreak would get the best of us.
The weekend before exams was a particularly hard time; we were expected to transition from a regular homework schedule to studying for finals while preparing to leave our dorm lives behind. We also couldn’t forget that within our first year of Grand Valley were memories neither of us were ready to let go of yet.
We knew that leaving would only prepare us for 3 more years of adventures yet to be had, smiles we still haven’t shared, and memories we’ll never forget. But in that moment, we couldn’t seem to focus on anything except how the pain was affecting us. I knew I had to do something; we were both about to head home for the summer, and I needed one last spontaneous adventure with someone who was okay with embracing their sadness for a little while.
I missed my city; the one that raised me and taught me so much about culture, life, and love. I hated how whenever I walked among downtown streets, I could picture us laughing and taking pictures like the way things used to be. I used to love how whenever he walked down the street, the city felt so new to him; it always made me feel like I was experiencing Grand Rapids for the first time. Now, I couldn’t help but feel sad whenever I’d circle street corners because of too many nostalgic memories associated with them.
I knew my friend felt the same way, so I decided we were going to take our city back by creating new memories to replace the old ones. Together, we got in my beaten up car and I handed her the aux cord, knowing that the best way to fix a broken heart is music you can relate to.
When she asked where we were going, I just smiled and let her experience the world for what it was. We both spent so long trying to demand things from the future that I just wanted her to enjoy the moment rather than expect it.
I headed towards a highway that never failed to make me admire Grand Rapids and noticed my friend eagerly watching cars pass by her window, paying attention to the green exit signs and reading the names of the towns attached to them as if any destination was within reach if we were willing to drive there. She turned the music up, letting Post Malone fill the speakers and for the first time in a while, I saw her real smile; the one we both thought had been stolen. I could tell she was just as surprised, but we were grateful it was a step in the right direction.
As the number of highway lanes increased and we got closer to downtown, I unrolled the window of my car down to just let her live. Her hair flailed out the window as the cold night air took away the negative feelings and suddenly, we were surrounded by a gorgeous view of the city. There were thousands of lights among buildings that looked like stars in contrast with the darkness of the night sky.
We gazed over buildings we knew so well that we could point them out by the shapes of their shadows alone, remembering how to see Grand Rapids with the same breathtaking beauty we used to. There was something about the way the pavement of the highway rumbled while we drove fast combined with the heavy bass vibrations of our favorite music that made us feel like even if things never got better, at least for right now they were okay.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the summer air and feeling a lot lighter than before we left. Once we got off the highway and began driving through the downtown streets, my friend turned to me and thanked me for helping her take her mind off of things. I knew that what she needed wasn’t false hope that everything would be fine because maybe it wouldn’t be, so instead, I gave her an opportunity to heal by falling in love with a view that would never leave her.
I feel like lonely souls are the ones who understand each other best because they’re smart enough to know that sometimes you just need someone to tell you that it’s okay not to be okay.
I’m still thankful for that trip for making me realize just how many different ways there are to heal. Sometimes, the road to a positive future is as simple as learning to appreciate the world that exists around you and reminding yourself how many other reasons there are to be content with your life. While I still get hurt when I hear his name or find old pictures in my camera, at least I’m doing what I can to find happiness in things that aren’t him.
Experiencing a breakup is allowed to hurt, and yes, you’re allowed to miss them while you’re at it. But eventually, there will be a time where you’ll know you have to move on. When that moment arrives, don’t hold yourself back, especially when the change is inevitable. Instead, figure out what you need from yourself to push through. Strive to be a better version of you!
While there’s no guarantee you’ll find someone else, there is always a guarantee that happiness will find its way back to you again if you’re willing to accept it.