I've spent most of my life desperately crushing on someone.

It’s a fatal flaw of mine. I can’t seem to help it. In middle school, I combed through countless YA novels where the witty, reckless female protagonist would get saved by the heroic, muscular love interest. Every single time, I wished I was her. I wished someone would swoop into my life and drag me on an adventure through other realms of existence.

I always thought that that was what love was: being with someone who cared for you so deeply that they'd go to war just to have your hand in marriage—or something equally ridiculous. I thought that love would take my breath away, and that once I found it, everything would be easy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my vision of love made me blind to the flaws of my many crushes.

The first boy I crushed on in high school brutally broke my heart after five years of pining by telling my friends that he was not only uninterested in me—he actually thought lowly of me. Then there was the frat boy I flirted with on Tinder until he slowly ghosted me. There was the boy who swept me off my feet by asking me out late one night before I found out that he had made out with everyone on my dorm floor. And of course, I can’t forget to mention the handful of women I've crushed on who I didn’t realize were straight.

Despite my countless failures when it comes to romance, I’m still in love with the concept of falling in love. I still find myself daydreaming about potential meet–cutes ripped straight from rom–com storylines.

Once quarantine hit, my quest to find epic love became a lot more complicated. In those first few months stuck at home, all thoughts of romance fled my brain. It was difficult to worry about anything other than the health of my family and friends. But as the weeks passed and life in the midst of a pandemic became more routine, memories of my stagnant love life started to creep back in.

I’ve never been a fan of dating apps. As a hopeless romantic, I've always been obsessed with the idea of meeting somebody out in the real world. Talking with a prospective partner online felt dull in comparison. I’ve used apps in the past, and the matches always turned sour. But after spending months bored at home, I soon found myself downloading not just one dating app, but three: Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble.

Tinder was easily my least favorite. Once I was back in Philly for the fall semester, I started swiping through potential options. Too old. Too far away. Definitely a creep. The people I matched with would often hit my line with a sexual innuendo that inevitably pushed me away within seconds of chatting.

I had a bit more luck on Bumble and Hinge, though Bumble was the first app that I ultimately deleted. Bumble was a step up from Tinder because at least I didn’t have to scroll through a barrage of inappropriate texts unless I consented first. Hinge, on the other hand, was the easiest platform to really connect with people on. With Hinge, you know when someone's liked your profile, so you can limit your search to people who have already liked you and decide if you want to connect.  

And that’s how I met my first real quarantine match. For the first time in a long time, I wondered if I’d finally found someone. We talked over FaceTime and played a few video games. I showed all of my friends what he looked like and told them the details of our conversations.

Still, I had the other dating apps installed on my phone. I had a few awkward encounters here and there with an accidental match. A few of them were a little creepy, too. Still unsatisfied with the state of my love life and a bit tired of the dating–app scene, I turned to the internet in search of new hope. Ultimately, I ran into what would become one of my most visited sites in the following months: Evatarot.net.

Intrigued by what the site proclaimed would be an "exceptional fortune telling experience," I first turned to Evatarot as a joke. I’ve never been a super spiritual person; I'm a physics and astronomy major with a biological concentration. Astrology and I have always been at odds. But clicking through the cards and getting a long essay answer about my romantic prospects for the upcoming month gave me something that I had been lacking in my love life for a very long time—a sense of control.

As long as I kept checking in on my tarot reading, I told myself, I’d know exactly what was in store for me love–wise. Even if her divinations weren’t totally true, I could at least pretend there was a possibility that life would go exactly as Miss Eva Delattre had predicted. Besides, even if my soulmate didn't walk into my life that month as she foretold, I didn’t have to worry because she’d warn me every time there was another “woman standing in the way of a male prospect." It seems that Eva is very heteronormative.

Meanwhile, I kept seeing my Hinge boy (virtually, of course) while wondering if there would ever come a day when I’d meet him in person. My friends asked me if I was actually into him. I responded that he was attractive, so yes. Yet somewhere deep down, I knew I was lying. The more I got involved in dating apps, the more I wondered if I was really on there to meet someone, or if I was just trying to fulfill my desire to have some semblance of a love life.

Unsurprisingly, things went downhill with my Hinge guy. All it took was one extremely awkward FaceTime call, and that was it.

I tried to connect with a handful of people over dating apps after our romance went sour, but I never felt truly drawn to any of them. The entire experience left me frustrated. Desperate for romance, I tried to force myself to have feelings for my dating–app suitors, but when it came down to it, I couldn't.

The last tarot reading I did wasn’t through Evatarot. After months of consuming her inaccurate predictions, I turned to a different fortune–telling source: my best friend from my first year at Penn. She’d recently gotten into tarot and wanted to do a practice reading about my love life. Her reading informed me that my greatest issue in the romance department was self–sabotage, and that if I managed to get past my problems, I would finally reach a perfect union.

My first interpretation was that I needed to try harder. That I needed to ask somebody out. That I was sabotaging myself because I refused to put enough effort in. My entire life, I had obsessed over finding the perfect love story. I had convinced myself that I needed to somehow "fix" my romantic life—and before I got too old.

Now, I know that I was wrong.

I don’t have control over who and when I love. And I don’t have control over who loves me back. Even if I try suppressing my feelings, they’re still going to be there. And even if I pray to every god in existence, there's no guarantee that my crush will ever take notice of me. As daunting as those realities seem, I've found peace in the fact that there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. All along, my real self–sabotage was assuming that I had control over love in the first place.

After years of carrying this mental burden, I feel like I can finally see things clearly. There’s no real way for me to know what the future holds—despite what online tarot card readers may say. I don’t know if the person I currently like will ever ask me out. Or if I even cross their mind. I can’t control what happens next. And in a way, that's reassuring.