Let's talk about heartbreak in Cambridge

Image credit: Nehuén Mingote Kisler VIA FLICKR

With blind dates, college marriages, and hopeful Crushbridge submissions pouring in every day, love may always seem to be in the air in Cambridge. 

It’s a beautiful city, particularly in summer, with green meadows and historic buildings to wander through holding your partner’s hand in one hand and an Aromi ice-cream in the other. However, this idyllic picture cannot be a reality for everyone all of the time, and I don’t think we talk about that enough. 

If dating, love, sex, relationships, hook-ups, or any combination of the above are important to you and are going horribly, it can feel like you’re the only one. But everyone’s love life oscillates – even those people who have been in love with the same person since year 10 – and when you’re on a low, try not to forget that the highs are waiting for you. 

I’m going to come on to break-ups, but first let’s talk about feeling lonely. Feeling lonely can be especially frustrating in Cambridge because you’re surrounded by similarly-aged people all of the time, and friends with active love lives, and as such you end up questioning why you’re the only one for whom nothing ever seems to be happening. 

You can end up blaming yourself for this, and blaming your perceived shyness, unattractiveness, lack of social skills, or whatever it is that you don’t like about yourself, and spiral into a habit of self-hatred. Admitting that you want someone or something to happen, meanwhile, feels like admitting weakness. 

I have felt like this before, and I know countless other people who have too. Wishing for a partner does not make you any less strong or independent as a person and feeling lonely is completely normal. One of the unique things about being in your late teens and early twenties is that people's level of experience will be wildly different: I know people who are engaged, and I know people waiting for their first kiss. Everyone's experiences are valid and wherever you’re at, trust me, you’re not alone. 

Another thing I don’t think we talk about enough in Cambridge is heart-break, whether from a break-up or disappointed love. I can’t personally imagine telling my DoS or tutor that my exams or essays have suffered as a result of boy troubles, but if we’re honest the upset they can cause can be as debilitating as physical illness. 

Cambridge is also a uniquely terrible place to be going through a break-up. For one thing, we’re all packed in like sardines so drama can get a bit high-school-ish, and if your ex studies at the University, or is in your College, house, or even friendship group, cutting them out and moving forward can be extremely difficult. 

You also face so much work and so much pressure that spending a week or two eating ice-cream straight from the tub, watching re-runs of FRIENDS and crying over old photographs just simply isn’t possible. Your friends, meanwhile, who should be cuddling you and forcing shots into your hands have their own deadlines to meet and exams to revise for. 

This is something we should all just be aware of. Being in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment can bring mental health problems to the surface and heart-break can also cause, augment, or trigger these. Talking about being lonely or heart-broken should never be a taboo, because it happens to almost everyone at different points in our lives.

Look out for your friends, and for yourself too. Look forward to the times when it’s your turn to be on a high. Don’t be afraid to tell other people what you’re going through, and remember to reflect on all of your mistakes and experiences – the amount you can learn from heartbreak about yourself is staggering and that, ultimately, is what your early twenties should be about. 

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