Dear Auntie SparkNotes,
So I'm going off to college next year. The problem is I don't know where, and I know that a lot of people won't know for sure for a little while, but most people have a first and second choice, so they at least have a place to picture themselves at for the time being. Not me though, I have no clue where I will be or where I want to be. The college that was my first choice is 3 1/2- 4 hours away. Then I started rethinking it because while I love the college, I hate the distance. Ordinarily, this distance wouldn't bother me and I'd be excited for it like I was before I started rethinking, but last December something totally unexpected happened.
I got a boyfriend. A boyfriend with whom I've been going out with for more than 10 months and who is 2 years younger than me, I love him. So now you can see where I'm going with all this. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you can't make it through the distance then you probably aren't supposed to be together. Thing is, I'm realizing that distance puts an enormous strain on a relationship, that's why most couples break up after high school. We've already decided to stay together and to let things run their course, but that gets to be harder and harder to do. To accept the fact that we will most likely break up, the odds are against us, yet still have this glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe, I could wind up with him in the end. I know that the distance will also suck because I have a lot of friends who are like 3 years younger than me, that I don't want to lose. I just don't want to miss out on things at home but I want to still go off and have the college experience. And not a lot of colleges seem to have the major I want, which makes things pretty limited. I'm scared that I am going to regret whatever decision I make. I am freaking out! What do I do?
Why, you'll stay close to home, of course! I mean, really, why shouldn't you? After all, there's no real reason to strain your relationship with unnecessary distance. And you can totally study something else. And you'd be able to stay close to your high school friends. And really, it's not like college is the greatest thing in the world, right? There might be rapists there! Or bears! Or rapist bears!!! Yes, it's obviously the best and wisest choice that you forgo the dream program at your first-choice school and instead attend a college that's no further than, say, fifteen inches from your hometown. No, wait: fourteen. You can't be too careful.
...There! That's what you wanted to hear, right? Because I see what you're doing there, Sparkler: rationalizing with everything you've got, trying to convince yourself that bailing on your plans is an obvious and logical decision, as opposed to something you'd be doing for a guy.
Only let's be real: it is something you'd be doing for a guy. It totally is, okay? Until the boyfriend came into the mix, your first-choice school was... well, your first choice. If not for him, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And that's okay! Really! You're happy, you're in love, you're terrified of losing that, and you're fully entitled to feel that way. But just because your feelings are natural and valid, that doesn't make them a good basis on which to make the decision about where to go to college.
And given how hard you're rationalizing, I think you know it. So all I ask is this: that if you're going to give up your first-choice school for the sake of a 16-year-old high school guy, you at least be honest with yourself about the fact that...
a) this is what you're doing, and
b) doing it does not guarantee the success of your relationship, or even necessarily improve its chances, and
c) when you're in your 20s, you're almost certainly going to think back on this moment and want to punch yourself in the face.
Because you can stay in the same place all you like, but things are going to change. Wherever you are, wherever you go, they'll change. Once you've started college, no matter what the actual, physical distance between you and your hometown, your high school life and years-younger friends will seem very far away. Your interests, your ideals, and your personality will evolve. You're going to become who you are, and there's nothing you can do to stop that.
And the person you become as an independent adult, more likely than not, is going to want different things in life and in a relationship than the person you were at age 17.
That's why most couples break up after high school: not because of physical distance, but because they grow apart. (And because college, with its plethora of available and attractive new people, can throw the existing inadequacies of a relationship into particularly sharp relief.) But that can happen at any distance, whether the relationship is happening across an ocean, or over state lines, or even on the same campus. And if you and this guy end up together, it won't be because of all the things you sacrificed to make it work; it'll be in spite of all the challenges that made it hard.
So, what should you do?
Guess what: I'm not going to tell you.
Not because I think it's a good idea to put your relationship before your education—I think it's a terrible one, clearly—but because this is your choice. And if you weigh your options honestly and thoughtfully, you'll make the one that's right for you. You'll do the best you can with the information you have. And if the best you can do ends up netting you a painful, soul-crushing lesson about regret, impermanence, and what you should and shouldn't sacrifice in the name of love... well, maybe that's what you need.
What would you do in this situation? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.