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Lilly Kwon / Staff Illustrator

It’s cold, school’s just about to ramp up with finals around the corner, and the stacks can get lonely, so you’d think the average sleep-deprived, stressed-out college student would seek warmth and relief in what artists, from Shakespeare to John Lennon, have gushed about for centuries: love.

Yet here at Columbia, we’re experts at putting off all things comfortable and relaxing in order to do what we’ve been told is far more important for now: succeed. And the traditional idea of success has never been based on whose shoulder we rest our heads on, or who rests their head on ours. Since love is not directly aligned with success, it is often pushed to the backburner where it can’t taint the delicate future we’ve so carefully concocted. And so love becomes little more than a glorified distraction, one that’s best avoided.

It’s indisputable—relationships get in the way. At best, they hijack the brain with the sound of laughter and favorite songs. At worst, they taint the course information we’ve spent weeks and months and most of our lives memorizing. Sure, such minor distractions aren’t so bad because his laugh is pretty cute and his music taste even better, but these thoughts of someone who’s become the newest addition to our lives are not the formula for calculating GDP or the name of the author who wrote that book our CC teacher’s now asking us to identify. How are we ever supposed to remember such insignificant things when love, like a drug, has left us in a haze? Yes, finals are in two weeks, but who cares about economics and “future success” when I have this person that makes me so happy sitting right across from me?

Days meant for studying and hours we swore we’d learn calculus get muddled together as we become mesmerized by the way they hold a pen. Suddenly, school and all the things that used to matter most begin to fade into the background until we realize the danger of being this content. Some of us realize the danger early, and avoid it altogether, and others are catapulted back into the reality of work and resolve to de-prioritize romance from our lives forever.

Love is thus made an afterthought, saved for Saturday nights when it resembles something else. Lust doesn’t waste time like love does, and nothing’s scarier to a Columbia student than losing time. So, we bring ourselves to hate the thing that is meant to bring us the most joy. We look the other way when couples practically gallop down College Walk, hand-in-hand, totally absorbed in one another. That won’t last, we tell ourselves as we rush back to memorizing formulas and facts for our next exam.

Everything is a matter of perspective. Love and relationships in college can easily be seen as wasteful ways to live out our four years here. Such involvements won’t get us the job or the grades we want, and they may even keep us from such things. But in the same vein, love has the ability to keep us sane and motivated in a place where both are often endangered. Sure it can go wrong, it can be harrowing, and it can make you act cornier and more embarrassing than you ever thought possible. But it can also erase the loneliness that campus can foster.

So though we often don’t realize it at the time, things work out when they’re meant to and don’t when they aren’t. Love gone wrong is a sign that it wasn’t meant to be, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth it. And the corny things like the jars of notes, the mixtapes and the scrapbooks—they aren’t so bad. So instead of writing romance off as a thing that can only harm and humiliate us, we should open our eyes to all the ways it can make life here so much better.

There is no way of escaping the risks and corniness and time relationships require. But once we embrace these things, the love we find will introduce us to bands we never thought we’d hear, relief we never thought we’d know, and a person we never thought could be so great. It will make us feel lucky and hopeful and rested even with the little sleep we tend to get. Love makes whoever we are right now in this hectic place full of pressures and expectations feel like exactly who we’re supposed to be. If this column communicates anything at all, it’s that sometimes I don’t feel good enough to be here. But the love I’ve found has made me think otherwise.

The future is important, but if one thing is to be remembered from this column, it should be that school and success and belonging to this imaginary club of accomplishment matter so little in the long run. What’s infinitely more important is the people we surround ourselves with and the things we do with them. My friends, my parents, Liam, Brendan, and Joe; my family before me and the family that will come after—I love them all more than six columns could ever encapsulate. Love in college may be hard to find, but it’s out there. And once you find it, don’t let it go.

Nora May McSorley is a junior at Columbia College studying Psychology. She can be reached at nmm2178@columbia.edu where she’d love to hear about you. Distance May Vary runs alternate Wednesdays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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