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When A Big Campus Feels Really Small: Dealing With an Ex in College

Picture this: It’s your very first day back on campus, and finally, you’re not an awkward, clueless freshman. You drove 10 hours to get back to Ann Arbor and you finally get to see all your friends from last year. You move into your house of 50 girls and get to scream and hug each other. After you unpack and clean your room, you get dinner and decide to do something fun together. You decide to go to the annual Greenwood Block Party, which is apparently a huge tradition that your freshman self was unaware of. You get dressed up in a cute new summer outfit, curl your hair, put on makeup, and head out with a group of your closest friends. You make it to Greenwood and it’s packed full of people. On one side of the block, there’s a group of kids twirling flaming batons. On the other side, there’s a kid playing with a flamethrower. It’s a picture-perfect night. Until you run straight into your ex.

In all honesty, that encounter was my fault. I forgot he was living on Greenwood. Regardless, it didn’t help the uncomfortable handshake and apathetic hello. It definitely didn’t help the following screaming encounter of him asking why I decided to show my face on his street. Needless to say, I stormed away and cried all the way home. The perfect first day back on campus was apparently an illusion.

Flashforward one week, and it was the first day of classes. The first day of classes also meant the start of a history class with my ex. When we were together freshman year, we thought it would be a great idea to complete a humanities credit together – not such a great idea in hindsight. That morning I logged into Canvas and read through the entire class roster and found one name I recognized. A junior in my sorority was also on the roster, so I got her number and messaged her instantly. There was no way I could sit through that class alone. The class started at 4, so naturally I got there at 3:30 to avoid any more awkward encounters. I sat down in an inconspicuous middle row and waited patiently for my sorority sister to join me. At 3:59 I was starting to get nervous. She hadn’t shown yet and I was too scared to move my head away from staring into my lap. In a moment of courage, I peeked around the room and my eyes landed directly on my ex’s who was apparently trying to hide as well, picking a seat directly behind me to avoid eye contact. Sweating and red-cheeked, I hid even further in my oversized hoodie. Luckily, the girl I messaged finally arrived and I had somewhere else to focus my attention. Little did I know that me and her would instantly click and spend the rest of the class joking and laughing. The following couple of classes remained the same. We sat in the same middle row, my ex sat in the back row behind us, and I never got to class later than 3:50.

Now that half a semester has passed, I don’t care if I walk into class right at 4. I don’t care which row I sit in, and I don’t even care if my friend can’t make it to class and I have to sit alone. Looking back, I honestly don’t know why I was so bothered and paranoid. I don’t know why my eyes darted around the room a mile a minute during every history class. I don’t know why or when having an ex became such an obsession. There’s no reason that ending a relationship on campus should mean altering your schedule to avoid them, or having a near panic attack when you make eye contact across a room. I think the act of experiencing all those feelings is what made me realize how insignificant and fairly foolish they were. We were together for half of freshman year, so how did we suddenly turn into not just exes, but adversaries? I don’t regret breaking up, but I regret how it created this self-conscious, obsessional beast inside me whenever I saw him. I regret how it turned me into a basic, petty bitch who wondered if he was still thinking about me or if my life seemed better than his now. I don’t know the exact moment I stopped caring and released my negative emotions. All I know is that it created the biggest wave of relief in a long time. I can actually focus on my lecture and listen to every last word my professor says without feeling a burning hole in the back of my head. I don’t have to hide whenever I see one of his friends pass me by on the street, and my night doesn’t have to be ruined if I see him across the room at a party. Coming to the realization that I am better than that petty bitch that I became has made me able to finally step outside the bubble of freshman year that followed me back to campus this fall.

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