Young and Desperate

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Dear Hoopers,
I’m a 22-year-old college senior and I am completely in love with one of my professors, who is probably twice my age. Over the years, he has changed how I see the world and how I navigate life and my relationship to him is something I cherish. Last year, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. He sent me flowers and a deeply touching letter, something my own parents and friends didn’t come close to doing. I see him often at events and I always manage to look foolish out of panic and intense feelings of total adoration, like I’m a giddy high schooler with a crush. The thing is, I’m not naive. I know there is absolutely no chance of reciprocation and what I feel is totally one sided. But the pain of this fact is driving me insane. I think about him constantly and knowing that the love I feel can never and will never be shared is just making it harder and harder to even be around him. I feel so lost. I just want to return to what could’ve been a good mentor/student relationship, but I’m afraid my feelings are destroying that chance.
-Young and Desperate

Dear Young and Desperate,
First of all, I am sorry to hear about your suicide attempt. It’s important first and foremost that you are taking care of yourself and focusing on your well-being. Having experienced what you went through, this professor may seem even more appealing in your eyes because he showed an act of caring outside of the classroom when your friends and family fell short.

Don’t let his care for you as a student get confused with romantic interest. You’re an adult, not a giddy high schooler with a crush. You can make your own choices. If you want to act on this impulse to embrace a possible romance with your professor, nothing is stopping you, but I guarantee it won’t end well.

Don’t let his care for you as a student get confused with romantic interest.


You’ve had a really tough year. If he has changed how you see the world and how you navigate life be thankful! But you’ve got to move past this for your own sanity. You know it’s not realistic, so why fill your mind with something so unattainable? There’s nothing wrong with having a crush on a professor, but when it comes to you feeling “destroyed” by the thought of it not escalating into a romantic relationship, it’s time to get a reality check.

If you don’t think a mentor/student relationship can exist being in his classroom, I’d consider rethinking professor choice. Find healthy distractions like extra curricular activities, surrounding yourself with friends and focusing on future life and career aspirations. If you can’t stop obsessing then I would find a mental health expert or campus counselor to help you process through these feelings in a healthy way.

Dear Young and Desperate,
He helped you see the world in a different way and that is powerful. He showed you care and concern when you were at your lowest and that is powerful. These feelings that you are having for him are powerful, but the challenge for you is how to handle them well. I appreciate the insight that you have about the situation. You know that even though you are desperately attracted to him, this relationship isn’t realistic for your future.

I think it would be good for you to be able to find a way to listen to your head and not your heart when you are around him. Having strong feelings towards someone you deeply admire is very normal. It is critical to channel those feelings toward friendship and not toward romance. Realistically, we can’t fall in love with every person that we deeply admire and if you are fortunate you will have quite a few people in your life that you admire. It will be critical to your future professional and personal success to be able to rethink your unrealistic and unhealthy fantasies about being in a relationship with him.

It is critical to channel those feelings toward friendship and not toward romance.

-Dr. Ryan

If you try your best to rethink your feelings and find that you can’t let them go, it may not be realistic for you to return to the same mentor/student relationship with him. Given that you are graduating, your time around him will likely change anyway and I’m sure that the opportunities to be face to face will reduce with time. You could always rely on his email mentorship. It may not be as fulfilling but could provide the emotional distance you need to maintain the relationship.
-Dr. Ryan