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Credit: Sabrina Tian

I’m eighteen, and I haven’t had my first kiss. I haven’t held hands romantically — I’ve never even had a serious crush. Each year, Valentine’s Day feels like just another day.

Yet, I am somewhat of a hopeless romantic. My idea of love is composed of the lost-in-our-own-world feeling in Before Sunrise, the purity of an evanescent summer romance in Call Me By Your Name, and the whimsical shared adventure yet profound soul-searching in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind

My picturesque vision of love remains more of a fantasy than something I actively pursue. At the moment, I pride myself on being single and focusing my time and energy on my academic goals and career ambitions. To me, being in a relationship is more like committing to an overbearing responsibility.

At Penn, a version of love, far from my own, seems to be the center of attention. Hookup culture, Tinder dates, drunken passes made at parties — love at Penn, for the most part, is tainted with lust. I dread playing hot and steamy versions of Never Have I Ever — it’s embarrassing to expose that I lack so much experience. Everyone seems to have a story about a wild hookup, a summer fling, or a crazy ex from high school. 

In these moments, I feel exceedingly uncool. I yearn to relate to others and share stories of my own. Now, the pressure to be in a relationship not only comes from my peers, but also from my family. Since coming to college, my parents have grown exponentially concerned about my love life. My dad, who once praised me for wanting to be “single forever,” now frequently shares his wisdom on the importance of dating and marriage, saying they are essential parts of the human experience. My mom, who once abhorred the idea of me being in a relationship, now constantly asks whether a new guy has entered my life. I sometimes feel pressured to be in a relationship for the sake of being able to say that I’m in one. 

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But if there’s anything from the little I know about love, it is that it cannot be forced. If you’re anything like me and feel like you have missed major milestones in your adolescence, don’t feel embarrassed. Love is a lifelong journey, and we are just on a different timeline. Take things at your own pace, and let relationships unfold in their own way. In the end, age and time are insignificant. 

I’ve realized that our generation likes to place social currency on every little thing, including love. We feed into the misconception that having a boyfriend or girlfriend instantly makes a person more interesting. Comments like, “You’re so nice and smart. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” or “You’re too pretty to not be dating!” make it seem like being romantically involved with someone validates one’s existence. In reality, people should not value others and themselves based on something as shallow as a relationship status.

Too many times, I’ve seen friends lower their expectations for the sake of companionship, or because society and media endorse that it is the right time for that first kiss, the right time to hold hands and walk down the hallway, or the right time to pursue a first love. In reality, there is no “right” time for love, but there is always a “right” time for respecting yourself — every time, every day. Hold up your standards and never settle for anything less. 

I have a dear friend who was recently broken up with, just days before Valentine’s Day. At the time, I didn’t know exactly how to comfort him. I did only what I felt I could — I sent him a list of feel-good movies and told him to eat ice cream and cry it out. I wish I had also reaffirmed that being in a relationship doesn’t define him as a person, nor should it play a determining factor in his self-worth. To him and others in similar situations, you are the only person that can measure your own self-worth, and don’t allow the absence of a significant other make you feel unworthy. Now, you are your sole priority, and you have the divine luxury of spending your time exactly the way you want to. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with desiring a significant other. Although I may staunchly believe that I don’t have time for love, there lies an underlying tinge of desire, telling me that it would be nice to have someone alongside me on my journey of figuring out Penn. It would be nice if I could someday wear a “I met my husband at Penn” button not as a sardonic statement but one marked with tender memories. 

In the meanwhile, I am in no rush for that day to arrive. For now, my Valentine’s Day might be spent vegging out and fantasizing over my celebrity crushes through a television screen, and I’m okay with that.

CHRISTY QIU is a College freshman from Arcadia, Calif. studying architecture. Her email address is christyq@sas.upenn.edu.

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