As young people we are taught that our current feelings are not to be valued as highly as those of our elders. How can you have the capacity to feel complete love or betrayal or sadness when you don't have the life experience to accompany them? This is a damaging way to begin on a path of understanding who you are and how your mind works. This idea that your feelings and thoughts aren't worth enough can turn into extreme self-doubt, feeling disassociated from what is happening in your head, and this can stay with you.
'Young love' often has a reputation for being brief, unrealistic and inconsistent, with the few lucky 'childhood sweethearts' carrying on into old age. But if you were to put a marriage through the same divide that most young people go through, I can't imagine it would be a picnic. By this I mean the university divide. In a few short months you have to make some of the biggest life decisions you have ever had to make and ideally commit to them for the next three or even five years. All alongside choosing whether or not to abandon your relationship.
"I distanced myself from everybody and continued to fall into a dark place..."
My other half was the year above me, something that had not really affected us until this point. All we focused on was hanging out as a trio with our best friend, roaming around our favourite record shop and watching Friends with cookies in the afternoon. We had been together for three years, barely spending any days without the other at our side. In my last year it was like a box had closed around me. I distanced myself from everybody and continued to fall into a dark place I hadn't encountered before. He left for university in London and I was left behind.
Sometimes the hardest part about change is the things that stay the same. I was stuck in all the same surroundings and schedules as before, with my favourite part removed from them. I still had our best friend, but creative vs. scientific timetable clashes meant that we didn't see as much of each other anymore and I hadn't had the need to integrate myself with anyone else, at least not to the extent of building friendships. This meant that most of my free periods were spent alone, surrounded by the volume and business of sociability. Selfishly, this was made so much harder knowing that he was somewhere else, on an exciting new adventure, having a fantastic time.
"I turned into a clingy, needy girlfriend..."
I almost definitely spent more time crying than I did revising. Ideal for your final year of studies! I managed to keep it together when I was around other people, occasionally seeking out some privacy in the toilets when I wasn't wearing eyeliner. Reluctantly, I turned into a clingy, needy girlfriend, who cried after every visit and every phone call. Hours were spent sitting at bus stops, at one end alone and the other wishing I didn't have to leave again. To say that giving up on us never crossed my mind would be a lie. Thankfully this was only a fleeting thought that was quickly replaced with reason. I started to worry that I was missing out on this exciting ride that everyone around me seemed to be on, and to some extent I still think I did miss out in part. However, it dawned on me that all the sadness I was feeling was exactly what I would feel if we had given up, but without any of the beautiful parts.
I decided not to go to university in the end. I wanted my decision to be based on a love of something, or at least a strong feeling, rather than blindly pointing at an English degree. But my love of something was sitting waiting for me at a bus stop in Shepherd's Bush. I made it through my final year and moved straight to London, starting a year long course in Visual Merchandising. Now, almost another three years on, we are living in a lovely little house on a new adventure together. Our plan is fitting around his studies, meaning house moves and job changes for me, but I'm okay with that. I've had my fair share of raised eyebrows for the decisions I have made but I am so proud of us. We've come through the other side of that dark year and are proving those 'young love' cynics wrong day by day, year by year.
If you've had an experience with the university divide, long-distance relationships, or maybe you're going through similar struggles at the moment, I would love to hear from you. Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please remember that your thoughts and feelings are valued and important.