Instead of romance, selfishness reigns supreme

by Madelyn Abry / Beacon Correspondent • February 12, 2015

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For ambitious Emerson students pursuing competitive careers, romantic lives often take a backseat.
For ambitious Emerson students pursuing competitive careers, romantic lives often take a backseat.

With Valentine’s Day looming (or approaching, however you like to look at it) I have started thinking about marriage. Not in the Pinterest or Tumblr way, where I obsessively stalk wedding photos on blogs, but critically. I’m honestly wondering why so many college relationships end up in breakups instead of marriage. After five full semesters at Emerson, I’ve seen that students here aren’t openly dedicated to their personal romantic lives. First dates or six month anniversaries don’t take precedence on our calendars—auditions, deadlines, and crew calls do.

My parents and grandparents went to college to study, but more importantly to find a partner to share their life with. Today—and especially at this school—we’re focused on our careers, giving any romantic endeavors a temporary quality. There are always exceptions to the rule, and I’m sure there are Emerson couples ready to make their way down the aisle, but this experience is far from what I’ve observed as the norm.

Emerson is a small school, but this perspective isn’t only present at our college. It reflects a larger shifting in our priorities from starting a family to education and vocation. What was once seen as a selfish approach has become our default mindset: We’re investing our time and money into pursuing careers, not long-lasting romantic relationships. We practice a logical and systematic selfishness. I don’t mean selfish in the taboo context that we hear nowadays regarding “selfies” and the mothers from Teen Mom, but rather the idea that being selfish means focusing on what will benefit you and you alone. It’s not about taking away from someone else, but investing in you.

College, and the subsequent time after, are all about change, often of a significant nature. We can’t expect our partners to grow with us when we are changing so much ourselves. Instead, students ought to be selfish and look after their own well-being and career paths. We’re young, and there is no pressure to build a life with someone. In fact, we’re often advised that because this is realistically the only time we can easily change jobs and locations, we ought to. In 2011, the Pew Center for Research found that the average age of marriage in the United States was 27 years old. It’s clear that for many couples, there is little pressure to rush.

Lena Dunham, resident it-girl and commentator of all things Generation Y, said in an interview with GQ that the healthy, lasting relationships that make it to marriage are a rarity in your 20s. “I think they’re the exception, not the norm,” Dunham said. “People are either playing house really aggressively because they’re scared of what an uncertain time it is, or they’re avoiding commitment altogether.”

Dunham’s observation goes beyond college and into the next decade of our lives. Maybe people are scared of committing post-graduation because they have been selfish for so long that they don’t know any alternative, or they want to continue being selfish. Maybe just the fact that we were born in the ’90s has us saying “Bye Bye Bye” to possible long-term relationships.

I am in favor of this selfish mindset. As students who pay upward of $40,000 to chase our futures, we’re devoting our time to something we, as individuals, find meaningful. We aren’t wasting this precious education we’re getting and, importantly, paying for. According to data from U.S. News and World Report, the average undergraduate borrower from the class of 2012 took on $27,183 in debt from student loans.

As Emerson students, we balance our time between classwork, hundreds of organizations, and a semblance of a social life. As a tour guide for the admissions department, I brag about the unique opportunities our students receive that are unique to Emerson all the time. Taking advantage of them is crucial to being successful here. We have the chance to be selfish and participate in activities that not only inspire us but also push our careers to the next level.

Going to Emerson is a challenge for me financially, academically, and socially. I have put everything on the line for this insane dream that I have to be a journalist. I’ve convinced parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, and colleagues that I have what it takes to be successful. I’ve sacrificed my involvement in theater. I’ve sacrificed valuable time with my family and friends for jobs, internships, and grades. For now, there is nothing more important to me than working hard to achieve my dreams, which means I’m not getting married anytime soon. Call me selfish? I’m a little busy, so I’ll have to call you back.