There’s a feeling we all get when a gorgeous stranger passes by or pops up on the Instagram “popular page.”
Friends say it’s a coincidence, but you swear it’s fate. It's as if, in that instant, the heavens have opened up, shone down a light and whispered to you, “That’s the one.”
We’ve all seen the story play out countless times on the big screen.
Any rom-com enthusiast knows there is a point in the movie when the protagonist finds the one character he or she will spend the next 90 minutes pursuing.
And we all know these two will definitely end up together because, if not, it would be rated as the worst love story ever, right?
Well, let me make something clear: 90 percent of the real world is built upon nothing but sucky love stories.
Everyone experiences these same movie moments, but the sheer difference is that not all of them end in an elaborate chase to someone’s heart.
Realistically, these scenarios end in dry conversations, useless attempts to obtain a phone number, drunken mistakes and/or true heartbreak.
And, isn’t it insane that all of this pain can stem from a relationship that is so brief and surface-level? I mean, after all, we’re pining after someone who we’ve never even properly met or gotten to know most of the time.
So, is it really possible to get so attached so fast?
I’m no expert, and you can call it “being psycho” if you’d like, but I believe you can. Everyone, at some point, has caught feelings for some ambiguous figure before.
Whether it’s a celebrity crush, a person’s social media profile or a person who's only been described to you by a mutual friend, if the person seems to match what you’re looking for in a significant other, you’re all in.
We have this scary ability to instantly become emotionally, and sometimes mentally, fixated on people we virtually have no clue about. Personally, I believe this to be a sickness all its own.
So, break it down:
Symptoms of this sickness: desperation and unrealistic expectations.
We get this mindset that “life as we know it will cease to function if we do not successfully engage this person in conversation.”
We make pathetic (and sometimes half-assed) attempts at talking to the person, and we often do not take the time to plan out what we say.
You’ll dream up scenarios of the two of you making out, cuddling in bed, relaxing on vacation at a secluded beach house, visiting each other’s parents for the holidays, buying your first pet together, having your first fight, making up after your first fight and so on.
You essentially “fall in love” with someone you’ve never really spoken to because, in your head, this person is already the perfect mate.
But, don’t worry if you’re guilty of this condition. You’re among friends, and we’ll get you through this.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Speaking as a 20-something young adult, the aforementioned “symptoms” of this condition are further magnified by society.
We, as young people, are constantly receiving messages that tell us we should aspire for love, that we’re “missing out on” if we’re single or that everyone else around us has somehow caught on to these ideas more quickly than we have.
In this digital age, we’re constantly plugged in to every little thing that happens around us, and these messages are messing with our sense of timing and good judgment.
You may think you’re resilient to these worldly pressures, but are you seriously telling me you weren’t a little bit ticked off at your friend's recent engagement announcement on Facebook (especially when you’re still getting over your last breakup)?
Or what about the 200 plus Instagram likes your best friend got on that photo with her boyfriend? (It sort of makes that “artsy” photo of your frozen yogurt cup seem a bit meaningless, huh?)
We’re all affected. There's no denying it.
As young people of this generation, we internalize the stranger who passes us by as the one we could call ours because we see it happen for so many other people.
There’s a part of us that hopes and prays if we could just figure out how to be nice enough, cute enough, bubbly enough, sexy enough or simply just “enough,” the person would want us back, too.
Inside all of us lies a basic desire to be wanted, plain and simple. That’s why it’s not so crazy when the stranger on the subway is the only think we can think about.
We want love, and when we catch a rare glimpse of what could be just that, we attack like the poor, clueless love predators we are.
What's the prognosis?
You’ll be okay, but hear me now, 20-somethings: You have time. You aren’t missing out if you aren’t tied down by age 24.
Be strong enough to enjoy this time, and work on yourself in the process.
I’m not saying it’s easy because it does get lonely, and there are times when you’ll want to unfollow or unfriend everyone else who is in a relationship.
You won't always be happy for your friend who just celebrated her anniversary.
You won't always get a reply from the guy you met online. You won't always have a happy ending.
But, it takes some bad love stories to get to the one that’s truly worth retelling.