27th September 2018

Shout out to my ex: navigating life post break-up

University is a turbulent time, and that it why it is the best place to go through a break-up. In an environment that encourage self-reinvention, we are reminded that we are not just someone’s ‘other half’.
Shout out to my ex: navigating life post break-up
Photo: Nick Youngson @ The Blue Diamond Gallery

A lot of the advice aimed at new students encourages them to swiftly sever any romantic ties to home. To those freshers currently still in the throes of a sixth-form passion, this advice may seem cold, cynical and totally inapplicable. To those who have followed this advice and are currently going through the painful stages of a break-up, you have come to the right place.

University is an environment full of people constantly reinventing themselves. It is one of the rare times in your life when an entire overhaul of your personality is somewhat expected. And for good reason; it’s practically a fact that you won’t be the same person when you leave. This lends itself to the feelings of reinvention and self-definition that are inevitable following the end of a relationship. Here I speak as a student in the midst of such a redefinition. As such, I have found a great deal of comfort in being surrounded by people who have no idea what they’re doing, or who they’ll be by next week.

For many, the comfort of arriving at university with a safety-blanket just a phone call away is a tempting prospect. In reality, going to university is an experience that, if anything, should change you. If you find yourself viewing change as negative because of the distance it may bring between you and your partner, then you are seeing yourself as a half as opposed to a whole. The common narrative presented to us is that compromise is essential to successful relationships. Yet, to see being in a relationship as the ultimate success is to devalue your individuality. Personal growth at university is as inevitable as it is important, and stunting that can be damaging.

I spoke to a friend who ended a long-term relationship shortly after her first year of studies. She explained it was simply because she and her partner had become different people. Growth away from each other can mean growth towards a better self. There is no right way to do university; some home relationships last while others do not. And there is no shame in either situation. But, if you feel yourself changing beyond the person you are with, do not feel guilty for wanting to pursue that change.

Piling the end of a relationship onto the already intimidating list of newness may sound unmanageable. However, I have found that being in an environment far from home has actually helped in some ways. At a distance from the prying eyes of parents and otherwise inescapable confrontations with your past, your individuality is given space to blossom. To be at university during the transitional post break-up period forces you to remember that you are constantly moving forward. The breadth of distractions and opportunities means that, when faced with the task of rebuilding yourself, there is no end to the tools at your disposal.

Ultimately every person and every relationship is different. You should never feel pressured to end or begin one on the basis of someone else’s advice. If you do happen to find yourself in the midst of a bleak break-up, embrace the benefits of being in an environment that encourages self-invention. To lose the stability of a relationship during a time as turbulent as university is daunting, but it can also be a positive opportunity.

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