Column: Feeling lonely? Don't let that consume you
During my first two years of college, I lied to myself about how lonesome I was.
Stepping onto a college campus — one with tens of thousands of bodies swarming over it each day — was enough to leave my parents feeling more than a little concerned as they kissed me goodbye and left me sitting on a twin extra-long bed in a dorm during my first Welcome Week.
How would their small, shy little girl adapt to this new environment? Would she find a place to fit in?
I didn’t know the answer to that. In my imagination, I likened the college experience to my time on my high school’s swim team, where I was picked up and thrown into the pool on my first-ever day of practice. I imagined that I’d metaphorically be “thrown” into the middle of college life.
I was thrown in, but I luckily didn’t drown. In fact, I feel like I have the “academic” half of student life locked down. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.
But the past two years of sitting alone in a dorm — where I studied until my brain hurt because I’m terribly afraid of failure — began to weigh on me at the end of my sophomore year. I realized I hadn’t placed an emphasis on building the “social” half of my life at all.
I regret that so much.
Our professors, parents, bosses and friends stress the importance of getting an education. We hear this as freshmen at our very first AOP orientations all the way up until we’re seniors walking up to receive our diplomas. And yes, new students, studying is important. Passing your classes is important. Getting a job to save money and gain experience? I have two of those. Trust me, both are important.
But part of me wishes I was in possession of a certain DeLorean time machine. I’d go back in time to sit down and have a long conversation with my awkward little freshman self.
Now, as a junior, I’d tell her and any new students academics can’t fill the gap of making friends here.
If you’re feeling sad, stressed or hopeless, it’s not healthy to bottle those emotions up and not tell anyone about them. For me, falling victim to that sometimes led to indescribable loneliness. I might have felt a semblance of release had I actually made friends whom I could have texted, called or visited about my feelings.
Investing into friendships can be daunting at first, but I’m saying you don’t have to be afraid to forge relationships with people.
I accepted that this past summer by taking on a job where I couldn’t afford to be introverted. Bit by bit, I gained the confidence to let my peers know my true feelings, personal thoughts and deepest fears.
Eventually, in the very end, opening myself up gave me talented colleagues who are some of the closest friends I’ve ever had.
This all boils down to the idea of putting yourself out there. For some students, that couldn’t be an easier task. But for those of us who are shy, insecure and afraid of what lies in store — I hear you. I see you. I know how you feel.
I promise you will feel better by giving others a chance to be your friend. They’ll be a shoulder to cry or someone to laugh with when you need it most.