"Then – after a few false starts - I fell in love, and everything else fell into place"Eliza Pepper

For the longest time I didn’t really think too much about relationships, dating, or anything remotely related to love. I spent the beginning of my time at Cambridge holed up in the library or in my room, ignoring emails about RAG blind dates and the Snapchat stories of my friends from home living with their significant others. I had worked so hard to make myself and everyone around me proud, I didn’t feel like I needed anything else.

Then — after a few false starts — I fell in love, and everything else fell into place.

I was happier than I’d ever been before. I was having the most fun I’d ever had, but somehow still was motivated to work (because when I finally finished that essay, I’d get to go and see the boy in question). I’d met someone who made me feel like I could do anything, but I didn’t want to do anything without them by my side. I couldn’t (and still can’t) listen to any romantic songs without thinking of them. I don’t really believe in destiny, but even so, I catch myself thinking that we were meant to be together.

Unfortunately, things haven’t always been a fairytale for me and my boyfriend — and not for the reasons you might expect.

Beyond being a truly magical experience for me, falling — and staying — in love has reminded me that sometimes, for some people, being happy is not enough. And while it felt so perfect when he and I were walking by the River Cam in the freezing cold, drinking hot chocolate and dreaming of our future together, in the eyes of some others, it was not so perfect.

“People always tend to have something to say when it comes to matters of the heart”

Be it your family, your friends, or even complete strangers, people always tend to have something to say when it comes to matters of the heart. Barriers start coming into play: race, religion, gender, and profession, to name but a few. It’s a story that’s been told throughout history. In 1958, an American couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, were interrupted in the middle of the night when armed police officers burst into their room. Despite being kind and peaceful people, they were criminally charged. Their offence? Living together, married, as an interracial couple in Virginia, at a time when such marriages were prohibited. The Lovings, who went on to have three children, engaged in an extensive legal battle against the United States Supreme Court and were ultimately successful. Their victory was a milestone for interracial couples in the United States, slowly paving the way towards a more hopeful future.

However, the world is still far, far away from being a place where love can break down barriers, rather than having barriers put up against it. For example, according to the BBC, as of May 2021, there are still 69 countries that have laws that criminalise homosexual relationships, and even in countries where same-sex marriages are completely legal, stigma and challenges still exist for those in such relationships.

“That’s the magical thing about love: it’s so different for everyone”

I am grateful to have grown up in the United Kingdom, and even more grateful to have come to Cambridge. I acknowledge that, when compared to many parts of the world, we have it easy. Legally, there is nothing here to stop me from being with my boyfriend and being truly, completely happy. But sometimes I see my other friends, navigating their way through relationships with no fear of hearing the words “you’re a disappointment” or “you’re not our child anymore”, and I feel envious. I wouldn’t trade my boyfriend for the world, but I sometimes wish that things could somehow, by some miracle, be easier.


Mountain View

Does absence really make the heart grow fonder?

But then I find myself falling again. And that’s the magical thing about love: it’s so different for everyone, and once you’ve fallen in love with someone, you get to fall in love with them again every day, in so many different ways. For me right now, love is walking in the sunlight with my boyfriend each morning. Love is the tin of cookies he bought me the night I came back home to him. Tomorrow, love might be something different, and something else the day after that. But above all, love is what reminds me that no matter how difficult things may get for us, there is a reason why things did feel so perfect when we walked beside the Cam together right at the start of our relationship, sharing a flask of hot chocolate.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have ultimately ended in tragedy, but it does showcase an important message: when you’re in love, even when your whole world seems against it, you will do anything to stay together. So rather than using the ending of the play Romeo and Juliet, I’m going to think about the slightly less intellectually stimulating alternative: Taylor Swift’s song Love Story, in which Juliet does actually get her Romeo.

Life is much more complicated than just a love story. But amid all the chaos and challenges, people do fall in love, and it’s the most beautiful experience imaginable. Whatever the barriers, if you fall in love, don’t give it up.