Call me a naive romantic, but I believe in love at first sight. Why? Because I’m pretty sure it happened to me.
When I bought tickets to see Icona Pop, an electro-pop band, at Necto Nightclub in the Fall 2019, my expectations for the night included getting ready in residence halls and screaming “I don’t care, I love it!” with my friends. My agenda did not include falling in love. It was only two months into my freshman year of college and I was basking in my newfound independence, not looking for commitments of any kind. I especially didn’t think I was destined to meet someone at Necto — a club notorious for nights of drunken regret — of all places.
If you’ve never been, believe me when I say Necto is one of the least romantic places on campus. It’s randomly stacked on top of a bookstore, unassuming from the outside. Inside, it’s grimy, with sticky floors from spilled beers and wasted college kids sloppily dancing all over each other. The vibe is chaotic, but also exhilarating; the ambiance promises a chance to get lost in a crowd and forget to worry for a night.
Once inside, my friends and I were pushed onto the packed dance floor. I glanced around, vision spotty from the flashing lights, lost in a blur of twirling bodies until suddenly a compelling force grabbed my attention. Whoa. My eyes locked with someone else’s gaze across the club. Something about this stranger was immediately captivating.
It was as if we were old friends; his stare was familiar and comforting, but with a twinkling hint of excitement. Despite my initial plans, I felt as if this was my reason for coming to Necto all along and I was only just realizing. Something inside me clicked. I knew I had to talk to him.
Yet without warning, he disappeared into the swallowing abyss of the club scene. Inevitably, I panicked, racing thoughts of how I’d never see him again pervading my mind. I knew I would forever wonder what could’ve been. Frustrated and upset, I turned back to my friends, trying to allow myself to once again get lost in the music — and to my surprise, there he was on the dance floor.
In my mind, I casually walked up to him, smoothly introducing myself. In reality, I aggressively ran towards him and awkwardly blurted out my name. I don’t usually trust random guys I meet in nightclubs, but for some reason, I had a gut feeling that he was special. Maybe it was his sweet smile or the way his stare made me feel safe and adored. Whatever it was, it led us to dance together all night and spend almost every day together that fall. The rest is history. We’re still together today, one and a half years later.
Looking back, I like thinking this was love at first sight, but if I’m honest, I’m not entirely sure. It felt surreal at the moment, but the details are blurry now — maybe I added this fairytale description later, once I was truly in love. It could’ve been nothing more than the combination of a cute boy plus a carefree club atmosphere.
Or maybe I did feel a promise of love in his stare.
I know falling in love simply by looking at someone sounds crazy. I’d argue, however, that love itself makes no sense. It supersedes logic. It’s powerful, wrapping itself around your life and becoming the center of your world. And as John Lennon tells us, it’s “all you need.”
With this in mind, I wanted to explore the idea of destiny’s true role in love. I wondered if the idea of love at first sight was something other people my age had experienced. Furthermore, I was determined to learn if love at first sight indicated you’d found your “soulmate,” or if these ideas were separate, unrelated instances of fate.
I met with three women who shared their soulmate stories with me. They each brought differing views on the concepts of love at first sight and soulmate bonds. Even the word soulmate meant something totally different, depending on who I asked.
I acknowledge these stories are solely from a female point of view and may not reveal a thorough range of perspectives. That being said, their descriptions of soulmates were deeply powerful in aiding my understanding of destined relationships. My view on what soulmates or love at first sight could look like shifted dramatically after talking with each of them.
First, I met on Zoom with Emma Anderson, a freshman studying sociology and criminology at Ohio University. When Anderson met her boyfriend, she fell in love at first sight, even under difficult circumstances — they were both entering a treatment facility that focuses on mental rehabilitation and substance abuse.
Anderson instantly felt drawn to him, describing, “We saw each other across campus the first day and it was crazy.” She added, “As soon as I saw him, I was like, ‘I’m gonna fall in love with that kid.’”
According to Anderson, her partner agreed that he felt love at first sight too. In our interview, she explained to me that he has told her “I noticed you and you just shined like a light. Out of every girl, it was you.”
Despite their distressing surroundings, Anderson emphasized, “It was exactly (the) right time, right place to meet him because we were both so lost.” The precariousness of the situation made their love stronger since they needed to overcome personal challenges for their relationship to succeed.
They were also up against certain rules at the treatment center, as Anderson admitted, “we weren’t really allowed to talk to each other until we got to a certain level (in the program).” Their situation didn’t make falling in love simple, but they had a common goal in sight. As Anderson explained, “When we met, we wanted to better ourselves for the other person.” Considering the situation, she said this relationship was necessary to help bring them both to a better place within themselves. It seems like the timing was predestined.
Anderson doesn’t think he’s her soulmate, though. Rather, this is her “twin flame.”
“For (a) soulmate, I feel like your souls connect and (with a) twin flame, it’s really about energy,” Anderson explained. In her mind, there are multiple people with whom she shares soul-level connections, like her fraternal twin whom she believes is another person destined to be in her life.
“I would say (my twin is) my soulmate and (my boyfriend) is my twin flame, like my other half,” she said. While only one of these relationships is romantic, they’re both on a deeper, possibly fate-driven level for her.
Anderson’s twin flame relationship was high-stakes from the second they saw each other. However, not all soulmate or twin flame connections begin with such powerful, all-consuming feelings.
For Art & Design sophomore Rachel Grabow, her soulmate wasn’t introduced as a romantic interest initially.
Grabow has been dating her girlfriend for over a year now. On a Zoom call with me, she told me with a smile, “I think she is my soulmate.” She continued, “The first time I talked to her, it felt like I knew her forever,” a sentiment similar to that of what I felt at Necto.
But at the start of their relationship, her partner was still figuring out her sexuality. Though on the surface, this conflict may appear to be an obstacle, it didn’t deter their connection in any way.
“It was so special that our relationship progressed from a best friend soulmate idea to something more romantic and intimate,” Grabow said.
To Grabow, soulmates aren’t contingent on romantic attraction; they can adapt over time to fit the relationship. She elaborated on this definition, explaining that a soulmate is someone who, “complements you in a way that can make you feel special and loved unconditionally.” This is a broader definition compared to Anderson’s, in which she said such a connection indicates communion of souls or energy. In Grabow’s opinion, soulmates are less about an actual soul connection; rather, a soulmate can be anyone who consistently loves you.
Their personal definitions reflect different backgrounds and core beliefs. Personally, my ideas of relationships and soulmates have been heavily influenced by fairytale love stories I grew up hearing.
Most portrayals of soulmates or fated lovers in popular media follow exclusive storylines that support a heteronormative ideal. Our fairytales and media are full of unrealistic relationship standards which lead us to believe we must fit into strict stereotypes of either “Prince Charming” or a “damsel in distress.” However, soulmate relationships and love in general can appear in many other forms besides these limited tropes. None of the women I talked to shared stories which perfectly matched a fairytale description.
Grabow doesn’t believe these exclusive ideals impacted her view of love.
“Heteronormativity was never really an issue in my life, especially growing up,” Grabow said.“I have grown up surrounded by gay people since I was really young.”
She said she always knew she could love anyone, emphasizing, “I’m really lucky to have parents like that who aren’t just accepting but progressive in that way of how they raised me.” Her background cultivated an open mind of how love would look in her life.
That doesn’t mean she believes in love at first sight, though. When recalling the first time she saw her girlfriend, Grabow said, “That wasn’t love at first sight, but looking back on it, I could see feelings develop.”
She continued, “Maybe we would call it (a) crush at first sight.” I like this idea, as it doesn’t come with all the labels and expectations of love with a capital L. It reminds me of Koi No Yokan, a Japanese term that essentially means, “The feeling upon first meeting someone that you will inevitably fall in love with them.” I imagine this idea like a seed, planted when two potential soulmates meet, which will someday blossom into love.
This seed, or premonition of love to come, resonates more with my experience at Necto. Perhaps my understanding of love at first sight as some monumental, life-changing experience doesn’t reflect reality. It could appear as an initial spark of Koi No Yokan. Feeling a crush or hint of love to come could indicate you’ve found your soulmate, as Grabow explained.
In reality, soulmates don’t have to originate from our typical understanding of “love” as sexual or romantic feelings, but instead could appear in unexpected forms, like a friendship.
For some, feelings of love never appear in a soulmate connection.
In a Zoom interview with Georgia Smith, a senior at Tamalpais High School in Marin County, Calif., I learned that soulmates don’t ever need to develop romantic feelings. Smith’s best friend is her soulmate since they’ve remained extremely close since meeting in preschool.
“(I have) always felt like I’m closer with her than my own sister. “No one else really compares to that relationship.”
Her soulmate connection lacks romantic feelings, but this doesn’t detract meaning from their relationship. To this point, Smith elaborated, “I haven’t found a romantic love that’s equal to the love I have for her.” This shows that soulmate connections can be just as fulfilling, even without romance.
Smith had a different view of twin flames than Anderson.
“I think that twin flames (are) someone you think you share a soul with and soulmates is more like your souls are connected, but different,” Smith said.
Though they have different definitions of twin flames versus soulmates, both Anderson and Smith have found connections that take precedence over all others.
Smith first came across the idea of soulmates when she was learning about spirituality: “Once I heard about soulmates… I was like ‘oh, that’s what that is,’ it gave it a name.” For her, spirituality introduced her to ideas of fate in relationships. She shared, “Spirituality, I look at it as a kind of religion.” She added that, “you can choose how far you want to go in it and what you want to believe.” And I agree — we can pick which definitions resonate with us, based on our experiences.
It was then that I realized the ideas of love and fate may not be as concrete as I initially thought.
Maybe a soulmate can be whatever you think it is.
I set out searching for stories to understand the mysterious ideas of soulmates and love at first sight and discovered three completely different theories. Even with varying circumstances, definitions and levels of romance, these women each identified reasoning for their deep connections.
I now believe there are infinite ways for soulmates to present themselves in our lives. There’s no correct interpretation of abstract ideas like love and fate; we all create unique meanings, depending on our individual experiences and beliefs.
Whether we call it a twin flame, soulmate or best friend, I believe we will all find someone who makes us feel loved on this incredibly deep level. Regardless of your beliefs after reading these stories, it’s important to keep an open mind and heart.
You never know where Koi No Yokan is hiding; I hear it frequents nightclubs.
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