We know the terminology: Hookup. Fuck boy. Bae. Some chick/guy I’ve banged twice, but only because we had a decent Bumble conversation. We’ve broken these down, subverted them in our played–out and unoriginal discussions about “Penn’s hook up culture”. But at some point, we’ve all secretly, or not, wanted a consistent figure in our romantic lives. We’ve wanted those labels.

Yes, hooking up is often meaningless. And yes, a fair amount of Penn probably doesn’t know what a real emotional connection feels like when they’re too busy having shitty sex after an even shittier date night. But when everyone around you seems to be hooking up, it’s hard not to ask yourself—why can’t that be me?

If you aren’t hooking up with anybody, that’s completely okay. Embrace it, and these questions will all disappear faster than your dignity (and cash) after a post–Smokes’ Wishbone run.

I came into college fresh off of a big breakup. I spent most of freshman year doubting I would ever be able to be happy again—truly happy, like the constant joy you get from an amazing relationship. From knowing that you have a best friend who worries when you worry, who’s happy when you are. I was desperately clawing for that feeling again, but I also found myself drawn to the glamor of single life.

I was torn in between wanting to fall in love again, and wanting to always be that guy some girl was hooking up with.

Every romantic experience I had that year, meaningless and meaningful, defined my happiness. It was a debilitating cycle of connection, hopeful expectation and disappointment: Meet a girl, attempt to flirt with her via Snapchat for a few weeks, build her up in my head as The One, maybe hook up with her, feel awesome for a couple days, continue to build her up, and then crash down back onto square one when I realize it was all just a casual, fleeting thing (or nothing at all) that I foolishly prioritized and overanalyzed.

Whether or not anything ever did happen with a girl, I consistently let that last step—the crashing down onto square one—consume me. It’s a dangerous way to live, because I was allowing my relationship status to define my own happiness. “I haven’t been truly happy since senior year of high school,” I’d think to myself, “and now I’m disappointed by every failed attempt to get that back.”

But several months later, everything changed. “The One” came into my life! We met in an organic setting, through mutual friends; I asked her out, and we went on four great dates. She was my type, easy to be with, and—she liked me. I thought I was finally going to be happy again.

Lol, nope.

She ended things on our next date, explaining to me that she had way too much else going on in her life for things to get serious. I could tell she sincerely didn’t want it to have to end. But it did.

I understood where she was coming from, but I was devastated. I had been so, so close to getting the one piece that had been missing from my college life. I spent the next few weeks moping around and feeling sorry for myself. A good friend saw that I was visibly upset and asked what was wrong. He then gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever heard—advice that made me want to write this piece in the first place.

“I want you to stop basing your happiness on whether or not you have a girl in your life. You need to be happy with yourself first. Any girl should just be a bonus.”

That changed everything. He was totally right. Whether you’re in a committed relationship, someone’s bae, another person’s Friday night hookup or single and desperate to mingle, please remember that your own happiness comes first. The presence of another person shouldn’t, and doesn’t, define your well–being.

Don’t stress about whether or not you woke up by yourself. Stay healthy. Study hard. Call your parents. Take that hour out of your day to get lunch with a friend you haven’t chilled with in a while. Remember how lucky you are to be at Penn. Remember how lucky you are to be alive.

Once you learn to cultivate your own life, and your own happiness, you will be able to enjoy “someone else” so much more: as an added bonus.

If you want the tl;dr in a lame metaphor, think of it this way:

Your life is a test. Focus on getting an A. If you just study for the extra credit, you’ll never learn the material, and you won’t do well on the test. You’ll never be happy.


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