It’s been two years since I left my country and family to pursue my dreams of becoming a physician. I struggled adapting financially, academically and socially in the initial stages. I guess that was a given considering my whole life was uprooted and I had to relay my foundations.
Today, I feel like I’ve finally got some grounding in life, and I’m doing everything I’ve wished to do academically, socially and in extracurriculars. I realize, though, that a large part of me still feels empty emotionally. It’s not that I’m not happy — I feel great, but my heart still craves grabbing onto the emotion of love, and I can’t help but think about how my past molds this feeling.
In college, lots of us are in different stages of life. Some of us can’t wait to be in a relationship, while others just want to have fun. For some, doing well academically feels satisfying enough, but others just aren’t in the right headspace to let someone in and are still trying to figure themselves out.
When I came to college, I couldn’t wait to find that girl who’d become my partner in crime. My main priority in life was always to find the right girl. But, surrounded by all these people on my floor, I felt like what I wanted most was just to have fun and hookup with as many people as possible — or at least that’s what I started feeling when I came here. Part of me simply wanted to fit in because I was alone in a new country with so many new, different people. It also isn’t hard to pick up on the fact that freshmen masculine culture (where having a “high body count” gives you points for clout) prides itself on seeing multiple women.
As I saw myself and friends around me hooking up, I couldn’t help but think about how this made me feel. Sure, it’s fun in the moment, and part of us feels so validated when things work out, but I also realized what it was doing to me as time went by. First, I felt like I was on display, always trying to say the right words and present the most “attractive” image. Second, I’d only feel more insecure after some hurtful reactions I’d get from women. When you hear, “Oh, that’s a very Indian name,” or someone just walks away as you speak because of your accent, you feel isolated.
Rejection is difficult, and everyone can understand that, but it also comes along with the process. And evidently, you can’t have everyone like and be attracted to you, so you’ve got to suck it up and move on. There’s also a feeling of disappointment when one realizes these rejections are all so superficial because they’re based on your physical metrics and what you project in a first impression of very few minutes. There’s no conversation starter or attempt to actually get to know the other person in multiple instances, which is what starts a cascade of focusing on outward qualities and basing self-love on the amount of validation you get from others. As I said, it’s like you put on an exhibition and your beauty gets graded by other people’s perceptions of you rather than your own.
Luckily, I found this girl during freshman year who really helped me see what I truly wanted. Our relationship, if you could call it that, seriously imploded because of our environment, but the whole experience brought me some newfound insight on love. I realized the capacity in which I wanted to be loved was not physical but rather emotional. I wanted somebody to understand me and hear my stories and be loved for that.
Part of me always felt like I didn’t deserve a functional family because I grew up in a house with parents who fought a lot. As a result, it was so easy for me to turn to hookup culture in college. Even though I matured at an early age and set my priorities straight, I had to reinvent who I was as well as my values and belief systems upon arriving here. It’s part of being in a new culture, I guess. When you don’t know who you are and are still trying to unravel your personal identity, it’s challenging to seek love.
Raised with not much of a father figure and my mother as the one who made me the man I am today, part of me always gravitates toward being around women. She’s instilled in me the idea of holding women in high regard just because of the way I’ve seen her do everything for the people around her. I guess this upbringing is why my heart feels lonely at times even when I’m hanging out with all the boys.
When you seek love without knowing or loving who you are, it becomes hard to find someone who’s going to care for you for the same reasons you care for yourself. I came here with a goal, and I didn’t have time to just have fun with people. I’m here to make real connections.
When you grow up in a dysfunctional family, the idea of love is rather problematic. You feel scared to find yourself in a similar position in the future, but when you move past that and learn there are better opportunities out there for you, there’s nothing that will stop you from searching for a relationship. What pushed me to grasp this was meeting my ex’s family who, in all honesty, was just purely wholesome. When I finally surpassed the feeling that my past makes me believe the present isn’t in my control, there’s nothing that stops me from going after what I want.
My heart and brain constantly think, feel and hope to be complete by sharing life with someone I love. The whole thought is so difficult. Some days you picture yourself being with that special someone, and other days you can’t help but picture yourself with no one by your side. Faith is such a hard concept: You need to believe in something even though you have no empirical evidence to believe it.
It’s tough to fathom a future in love when the emotion itself is so volatile. Some of us are so hurt by the past or the way love has broken our hearts that no part of us has the energy to try again. Some of us aren’t ready to welcome someone in, but our innate sexual drives make us want to be with others just to feel validated by society or cling onto the notion that we matter. Some of us don’t yet know the way we want to be loved or feel unloved even in a relationship. Some of us are so invested in our careers that we forget to take time to feel something outside of work. Some of us have never experienced love to know what’s out there. It’s important to fit others into our stories based on the chapter of life we’re in and what we want rather than trying to match with someone else.
Love is a scary, complicated rollercoaster we all struggle with. I think what’s been most eye-opening for me was dissecting myself — what I didn’t want to change and be loved for impartially and the aspects of myself I see as weaknesses that I want to work on and grow with my partner. Most importantly, I learned what I actually want from love and that in order to love others, one must know why they love themselves. While I’m stuck at that point where I’m frustrated because I haven’t found someone yet the thought of how hard it is to actually do so depresses me, I know what I want from my other half and what I’m looking for, which makes me feel like I’m headed in the right direction. But then again, who knows — That’s the funny thing about love.
words_devarsh desai illustration_jess morgan