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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Confessions of a hopeless romanticizer

<on’t think I’d ever consider myself a hopeless romantic, but I do drastically romanticize and overestimate people. It’s one of my major flaws. I have exceptionally high expectations for everything I do academically and professionally: grades, internships, and aspirations, to name a few. And the same rings true for the people that I choose to spend time with. I expect a lot from them, and very rarely do they meet that high bar of expectations. It’s not that my friends or romantic partners are bad people at all, they’re simply not all that I think they are or want them to be. And it’s ridiculous; I can’t craft people by hand, so I shouldn’t expect that they do and say everything that I want them to. We only get to choose these people, and as much as we like to think that we shape them, we don’t.

I think I romanticize people because of the undying support from my mother. I had the privilege of being told growing up that I could be whatever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do. My single mom gave me unconditional support when, in reality, she didn’t have the time or energy to do so. In order to hypothetically repay her for this, I did my damn best to work as hard as I possibly could. I did all my homework days before the deadline, didn’t drink or smoke, went to church when I didn’t even understand the language, played her favorite sport, and all around tried to be the perfect daughter. I did this out of unrestrained respect and admiration for my mom; she is the best person I know, and I expected other people in my life to be like her.

That’s an implausible dream. And time and time again people have shown me that, unlike my mom, their support is conditional rather than unconditional. Their love and appreciation has limits, and at their core all people are selfish. But yet I still believe that we all have the potential to be like my mom. That’s why I romanticize people.

I am without a doubt the most confident person that I know. Sometimes I think people interpret this to mean that I’m cold or unsympathetic or emotionally detached. That couldn’t be further from the truth; I’m one of the most deeply sensitive people that I know. But instead of getting emotional and crying, I get frustrated and angry. I’ve learned people react more sympathetically to the crying, damsel-in-distress outburst of emotion than the more rational, angry outburst. Because of that, I don’t think that people assume they can also hurt me in the same way they hurt other people.

Of course, it’s never our true friends’ intentions to hurt us, but they inevitably do disappoint us at one point or another. It’s heartbreaking to romanticize people and build them up into giants of generosity and compassion when really, nobody has that much to give. We’re all selfish, especially at this point in our lives when people are worried about school and jobs and the looming future.

Again, in the end we cannot control what people do to us. We cannot explain why we give 100% to get 50% back. The only thing that we can change is our reaction to feeling crestfallen. When the superhero persona of someone comes tumbling apart and they reveal to be truly what they are, just another human with earthly desires and selfish desires, there is nothing better to do than: A) React however the hell you want to react. Cry. Scream. Get frustrated. Write it out. Call your parents, and B) get used to this version of that person.

The best ways I’ve found to get used to that version are, of course, the corny saying that “time heals all,” but also realizing that you personally cannot get so invested. We all want to be close to people. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. But at a certain point, when people disappoint you, you can only let them into your thoughts and feelings so far. Express benign indifference; if they don’t love and support you unconditionally, don’t do the same for them. If you do nice things like put flowers in their mailbox every so often, stop doing that. If you hold yourself to ridiculously high expectations like I do, lessen these expectations not only for yourself but also for other people. Caring less may make other people realize they care about you more than they thought. But most of all, try to remember that it’s okay to be selfish too. As you shouldn’t romanticize other people constantly, don’t do the same to yourself. You’re not God or Mother Teresa.

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