When you begin your semester, you prep for everything.

You make sure to buy your books a week ahead of time, sparing yourself from the long lines and out-of-stocks at the campus bookstore; you rotate new socks and underwear into your wardrobe (because what’s better than the feel of fresh cotton on your feet and nethers at the start of classes?); you’ll even walk the campus the day before your first lectures so you can plan your route between classes without getting lost. All this you do to ensure a successful semester, yet there’s one occurrence that there’s no priming for. I’m talking about the mid-semester break-up.

When I say break-up, I mean a break-up. I’m not referring to your on-and-off fling that you can’t decide if you like or not, or your bed buddy who’s stopped answering your texts. This is a relationship that you believed would go the distance, with the person you saw yourself settling down with. This is the break-up that hurts, as opposed to the one that just annoys you.

I’ve seen the argument that college students are averse to long term romantic entanglements, preferring instead the allure of “hookup culture.” I’ll concede this to a certain degree; compared to the effort of maintaining a traditional relationship, it’s markedly easier to swipe right, send a few texts, invite her over, smash bam pow, nice meeting you, see you never.

That said, there are many college students who choose to be above the gutter of writhing limbs, used condoms and walks of shame. Romance in the classical sense is the goal, unrealistic though it may at times appear. The issue here is that with such a high risk venture comes the possibility of catastrophic failure, like majoring in fine arts. Breaking up might be an inevitability, and worse, it might happen right in the middle of the goddamn semester.

Predicting an oncoming break-up is not always a possibility. Sometimes it is — you sense it coming like a distant storm. You and your significant other bicker, your mutual interests diverge, you stop sleeping together, you have nothing good to say about one another. At this point, your best wager is to just get the break-up out of the way and move forward.

Other times, your split hits you like a piano falling from the 30th floor. You’ll be having lunch together in the quad and she’ll hit you with, “You know, I woke up this morning and realized I don’t love you anymore.”

Say what.

Be wary of both breeds of heartbreak, but above all the second one, as it can mark the ruin of your semester. All that preparation and planning toward a successful semester can be undone by a mere two words: “It’s over.”

You can deceive yourself into believing that once you’re past the actual split, that it’s easy street from there.

What you’re not anticipating in this moment is the post-mortem, the fallout, the Ghost of Christmas Past.

It’s not a gradual process either; the moment you return home after parting ways — assuming you broke up in person, you jerks — you’ll notice traces of your (now) ex everywhere. You’ll have their clothes in your hamper, their books and movies scattered around your bedroom. Your phone and laptop are littered with pictures of y’all together (Jesus help you if any of them are naughty).

You’ll wrap yourself in a blanket on the couch and try to comfort yourself with an episode of your favorite show, only to remember that this was the same blanket you two snuggled beneath the first time they came over, and this is the same show you two would binge together.

It’s like you don’t have an identity of your own anymore. It’s been bogarted by some phantom that you’ll never see naked again.

This is the time for you to reaffirm that identity. You have to decide what is explicitly yours, and what belonged to the two of you (and thus what you must let go of). It behooves you to think back to before the relationship started, to try to remember if you both loved the films of the Marvel Universe, or if they were something that you enjoyed before that person ever entered your life.

Likewise, locales on campus must be claimed quickly. Running into your ex during your class days is bad news. Just glimpsing the personification of your heartache will send your day down the toilet post haste; good luck taking notes over the “Iliad” after seeing your ex walking to class with some cute little thing. Having an intimate knowledge of your ex’s schedule works to your advantage. If you know they hit the campus rec early in the morning, you can comfortably get your reps in during the mid-afternoon or evening (and now that you’re single, you’re definitely going to want to double your efforts at the gym).

It may seem petty and feeble to avoid your ex right now. It gives the appearance that you’re not emotionally equipped to manage your feelings. The truth is that you’re in survival mode. At present, your focus can’t be winning the break-up, but instead getting through the semester in one piece, keeping your grades up and not sinking into a solipsistic vortex of agony.

I say this because here is the stone cold truth: You’re not going to want get out of bed for a few days. If your ex meant something to you, the abrupt severance will collapse something inside of you. The alarm will ring for your 8am class, and your natural instinct will be to shut the damn thing off and just sleep, sleep because it’s better than facing your despair. It’ll happen again the next day, and before you realize it, a pattern has emerged.

This is not an option for you. One week of missed classes or blown off assignments can mount into a deluge. The semester stops for nothing. If you’ve ever needed a reason to immerse yourself in your coursework, this is it. You’re on your own now. Consider this a character building exercise.

Before you know it winter or summer break will arrive, granting you an opportunity to reconvene with family, to put the pieces back together and to regroup. Until you get there, remember: You’re in school for you, not your ex. It’s your success story you’re crafting. Failure of a relationship is not a failure for you. When the end credits roll and you come out on top, that’s how you win the break-up.

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