Inspired by the questions we ask in daily conversation but never find a happy conclusion for, Nonanswers explores the feelings, confusions and tribulations of Stanford students. Every essay in this column will be centered around a timely question, and will be structured around personal experiences, conversations and stories from my time on campus. Feel free to submit a question for me to dissect, or send me an answer (or nonanswer) for one that I ask 🙂
It is a Thursday night in Castaño and I am sitting on the floor with my friends, contemplating life and munching on a loaf of banana challah bread.
“Do any of you believe in soulmates?” I ask the room, recalling the flood of emails I’d received advertising Valentine’s Day fundraisers and social events.
“No, I think you can be in a relationship with pretty much anybody,” one of my friends replies.
“Maybe, but if I was happily dating someone and then met my soulmate, I wouldn’t leave my current partner for them.”
“But, if I met my soulmate and they were happily dating someone else, I wouldn’t let a goalie stop me from shooting my shot.”
We all laugh and go back to complaining about the work we aren’t doing.
Whether I believe in soulmates depends on how we are defining the term. Taylor Swift’s voice floats through my mind, singing, “All along there was some invisible string tying you to me.” But while the idea that my heart is cosmically tied to someone else’s is certainly romantic, it seems hopelessly improbable. I don’t believe that there’s one person in the world made specifically to be with me, because what if he’s on a totally different continent or, even worse, in love with somebody else? I also hate the term “other half.” I would much prefer to be whole and alone.
College is an interesting space to be in when you’re thinking about soulmates. Here we are, surrounded by smart, attractive, healthy people our age who share our interests, values and life goals, and still we find ourselves floundering to form any sort of meaningful connection. Maybe it’s an expectation thing; you build up a person in your head and then find out that they aren’t perfectly constructed to your every parameter. Maybe we’re all too unwilling to compromise, or we’re all too vain, or we just don’t know how to navigate a world where there’s always the possibility of something better. Stanford students have a tendency to never settle, but in the case of dating, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
When there’s such a disconnect between the depictions of love in pop culture and the reality of relationships and dating in college, it feels easy to write off soulmates as a bogus concept made up by people who just don’t get it.
But sometimes I think of my mom telling a story for the millionth time and my dad laughing in all the right places like he’s never heard her tell it before. I think of that last late-night drive with my high school friends before leaving for college. I think of the people in my life who know what I’m going to say before I do, who remind me when to slow down. There are people in this world who make it easy, who make you feel like yourself in the fullest, brightest sense of the word. And maybe that is the actual definition of a soulmate.
I’m reminded of a movie I watched on my flight home to New York for winter break, Cha Cha Real Smooth. In it, the main character Andrew tells his love interest Domino that everybody has multiple soulmates. People like him, who are extroverted and carefree, have “like 12 hundred,” while people like her, who are pricklier and more reserved, have “maybe four.” His point is that the people we cross paths with are meant to change our lives, and while at least a few of them will likely fall into this “soulmate” category, some are meant to just be friends or temporary characters, and it’s important to be okay with that.
I don’t know to what extent I believe in soulmates. Sometimes, though, I’ll see two people laying together on the Oval, or smiling across from each other at Coupa, or studying side-by-side at Green. And I’ll think to myself that they must exist, at least in some way.