The following is a list of facts I remember about my move-in day freshman year:
I woke up in my nearly empty room after at most two hours of sleep. We packed the teal Buick Le Sabre so densely that its belly nearly dragged on the tar. Although we struggled to find the Nics, I got to my room in the basement before my roommate, who was much less enthusiastic about the whole thing. Walking down Foss, I made eye contact with a beautiful person and informed my mother that I would probably be marrying him. When it was time for my parents to leave, my mom welled up with tears, while Dad played the cool guy. And I spent most of my first night in my room, alone and pretty bummed.
I am not a party person. I have warmed up to them since, but I might never be great at making small talk, especially when the continuation of that conversation depends on my screaming over a pounding bass. Walking into strangers’ houses feels intrusive to me, and it took me practically a semester to learn the difference between Pine and Vine. That first night, I needed to wander from house to house for only about an hour before it was time for me to retire to the dungeon. On the walk home, I felt like I had failed, like I wasn’t doing the college thing right, and that a life of solitude was all the next four years had in store for me.
Of course, that was not entirely the case.
When people first leave for college, they go with a list of ideals. They expect to meet the coolest new group of friends, to encounter only the most inspiring professors, and to grow into the absolute best versions of themselves. I certainly had a lot of goals. And while I can honestly say that those things have happened for me, none of them happened right off the bat. If there is one thing college life has taught me, it is how to be comfortably alone.
During the first few weeks of school, I couldn’t help fantasizing that every person I chatted with on the pasta line would be my new BFF. But after those initial days, as everyone but me appeared to settle into hir own crowd, no one seemed quite as eager to make pals. And what does an anxious, pal-less freshman do for dinner? She orders take-out from Summerfields. A lot.
I do not remember how long it took me to grow tired of burrito bowls and the view from my desk. I do remember that when I finally took the plunge and went to Usdan by myself, I noticed a few things: I was not the only person in the hall partaking in a dinner for one, and all of those who were accompanied by friends did not care that I wasn’t. It was liberating. As time went on, I found myself running into people to sit with more and more often, but I also learned to appreciate times when I didn’t. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten much work done while eating dinner alone. But it is a nice break from the library, and there is no better time to people-watch.
In college, everyone’s schedule is packed. Even after you have made a million friends, your dinner time, gym time, or library time will not always mesh with theirs. At some point, you will need to go it alone, so you might as well make good friends with yourself. It was only when I started spending more time on my own that I really learned to evaluate my own feelings on things; when you spend every minute with others, you are always a bit swayed by their opinions and their plans. There is no better feeling than figuring out what you want to do and doing it for yourself. And, after all, you are here for a liberal education; learning to think on your own is part of the deal.
As far as nightlife goes, it is perfectly okay if the traditional party scene is not your thing. It took a little while, but I found friends who prefer intimate gatherings just as much as I do. And there will be weekends that you need to spend in the library, too. I have spent enough Fridays in Exley to know that, while the walk there may feel like defeat, you will never regret it. It feels great to know that you made the best choice for yourself and stuck to it, even if it meant missing Chana. And besides, there’s something cozy about weekends in the fishbowl, barring the occasional snowball thrown at the window.
It took me about a year to feel like I had found a really steady friend group. With the exception of my roommate, I don’t really talk to any of the people I spent the first few weeks of school with, and I think most people would tell you the same story. I’ve realized now that while I was walking around feeling like everyone had everything together within a month of coming to the University and I was the only one feeling lonesome, more people than not were in the same boat as I was. But freshman awkwardness does pass. You do make long-lasting friends and meet really inspirational professors. And when it comes time to be alone, you realize that you are becoming a person you like spending time with.