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Band teacher Mr. Jones proudly displays the wedding photo he keeps on his desktop.
Photo by Rachael Maguire

Ah, Valentine’s Day. A day of candy, crushes, romance, and occasionally, an acute reminder of just how single you are. So, when surrounded by the fickleness of high school love, do you ever wonder whether there’s one person you’re meant to be with out there? In other words, the painfully cliched “soulmate”?

In looking for an answer to this dramatic, heart-wrenching question, it’s best to go to those who have experience and are willing to teach it. As it turns out, for this job there’s no one better than Providence Academy’s finest: the teachers.

When it came to advising students on life’s questions of romance and courtship, Mr. Ian Skemp, History teacher, reflected on his own story with self-effacing modesty.

“Honestly, I’m not entirely sure how I did it. It just happened,” said Mr. Skemp. “The best advice I could give is…something that I read somewhere: ‘Love may be unconditional, but relationships have rules.”

He noted that not every couple is a reasonable match, and advised students to “have dealbreakers.’”

Mrs. Mary Sue Walker, college counselor, agrees with this low-pressure approach.

“I think, soul mate…that’s a lot of pressure,” she said. “Let’s equate this to the college search. I think there are probably a lot of people in the world who would be good partners in crime.”

Dean of Students Mr. David Harman addressed PA students specifically when he said, “Wait til after high school. Although that’s counter-culture here. A lot of people at Providence pair up now and end up getting married, but that’s not my experience.”

Like the other teachers, he mentioned that personality compatibility was an important component for his own relationship.

“We amplified each other’s identities,” he said. “There was no sacrifice of who you were.”

Mrs. Catherine Berry, Upper School guidance counselor, gave advice on character traits to look for in the perfect future “soulmate,” saying, “It’s somebody who makes you feel totally secure with who you are. You don’t have to try to be somebody else.”

Band teacher Mr. Thomas Jones believes that while personal compatibility is important in looking for a soulmate, strong relationships must also include elements of virtue and Christ.

“If you’re gonna find your soulmate, and this is gonna sound cliche, but it’s the truth, you need to find someone who loves the Lord first and finds joy in putting the needs of others before themselves,” he said.

Finally, Director of Upper School, Dr. Kevin Ferdinandt, doles out a healthy serving of his love advice.

“Wait for the right person would be first. In the depths of your heart, in the depths of your soul, in the depths of your spirit you will know,” he said.

This begs the question: how do youngsters know that what they feel is truly in the depths of their being?

“By its fruits,” Dr. Ferdinandt replies. “Is there peace, is there joy and is that joy more than infatuation?”

Dr. Ferdinandt also struck at a practical aspect of living with your soulmate: if your love is well-fated, you will be able to stay sane even when your partner is acting crazy: “Make sure you know what their worst is and that you can manage it.”

Dr. Ferdinandt closed with a remark befitting of a Providence Academy Upper School Director:

“Be open to the possibility that one true love relationship may be only with God.”

Lila Anderson contributed to the reporting and writing of this story.

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