This article is an installment of a Grind series called “Stanford Love Letters,” a twist on the New York Times’ “Modern Love.” We hope to collect stories, including essays, interviews and reporting, covering the topic of relationships — platonic and romantic — from the greater Stanford community. If interested, please submit to thegrind ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.
“I don’t know why I even try,” I write in my journal sometime that Monday while at the desk in my dorm room. My eyes are swollen, red, everything blotchy, as my pen scratches against paper. A word. Sentences. Paragraphs. The pages soon become a dumpster fire of almost-20-year-old angst. I even scribble a poem, a mediocre hobby my introductory poetry class gave me during the previous quarter.
When I’m done, I remember that even my emotions need to be dated. It’s funny. I realize the day is unironically perfect for what I’m writing.
Feb. 14 — a day that flip-flops each year for me between the distaste for bitter capitalism and the sweet, dreamy and creamy ideal of hopeless romance that exudes from my mind (derived from love poems and the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”). This year — bitter. As bitter as the dark roast coffee, sans sugar and cream, that wouldn’t be bought and gifted to me that day. Through my “hero’s journey” of a weekend, the highs of music and dinner and celebration and bacchanalia in a friend’s dorm coincided with the lows of burning my writing, heartbreak and realization that any idea of love I had for a person was just that — an idea. Not real, at most. Unrequited, at the very least.
I wouldn’t let anyone know that, though. At least for the day. Despite everything, I do keep trying, for some unknown reason.
That morning, I roll out of bed, abandoning the hugs of heavy fleece, and do my best to remedy the bitterness with the sweet — heart earrings, a heart chain choker necklace and a striped red sweatshirt. (Materialism!) I skip out on Stanford’s Valentine’s Lunch and head straight to work, stopping only to pick out candies from my RA’s bowl and buy myself a piece of chocolate marble bread at the cafe below Terman Library. I smile with my eyes at work in my creative writing class; a mask covers half of my face. No one can tell that something is bothering me. Yes!
I offer feedback to my peers, seeming invested in whatever love story we’re workshopping while I try not to focus on my own story. (The phase I decided I’m in is the falling action, the plot not yet resolved.) What better way to love yourself than to make purchases — I bike over to Tresidder Memorial Union and use the pay from my two jobs to buy Jamba Juice. Web browsing, another pair of pants somehow gets added to the cart. Urban Outfitters. Corduroy. Patchwork.
I indulge in sweet bitterness, an oxymoron of a day, by sitting outside on a picnic table, slurping down a smoothie and engaging in retail therapy. What am I trying to do exactly?
Whatever it is, it doesn’t work. When I drag myself back to my dorm, I throw a record on my turntable and cry, removing the mask of the pandemic and of my performance as my face contorts. The pent up emotions escape onto my pillow for hours. I eventually get tired of myself and call an old friend. We chat, catch up for a few minutes before I present the telenovela that is my college love story.
I get the “You’ll eventually get better” and “I’m glad you’re moving on” from her. I manage to have a steady voice; her presence from over the screen somehow temporarily mends my mind.
After ranting to her for an hour as she shivers on the fourth story of a staircase outside her room so as not to put my pain on blast to her roommates, I let her be free. I soon after put an end to the day; I inhale two melatonin gummies and return to the heavy fleece.
That’s what healing looks like. Or at least trying. I keep trying at love, but I have to also try to move on from something that was never mine. One day the pain will feel like a distant memory, but as of then I was practically putting a Band-Aid and Dollar Tree Neosporin over a gaping wound. (A stab from a sword, I’ve decided.) Would it eventually fade away, as if the injury never happened? Or would it leave a scar that no concealer could ever make skin-like?
That’s the scary part of being 18 to 24, a transitory period of emerging adulthood. Everything that you come across could either exist as temporal or permanent. You don’t know who or what is which, though — who binds onto your life forever and who will eventually exit stage left. My best friend at Stanford often says that “everything happens for a reason” and one day we’ll eventually find it. That may be true; even the most temporary of events, objects or people shape and mold your life. With everything being thrown at you every day at this stage of life, you are bound to become a new person, a new version of yourself every day, especially with the connections students have been able to grasp with college being in-person this year.
This heartbreak was just another thing thrown at me. I’ll be fine; this would all be temporary, I told myself. But on Valentine’s Day this year, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what the reason was and why he didn’t love me the way I loved him. The sad songs of the night would shape me forever, but a new melody would come … eventually.