Arriving at UCLA on that sweltering September day started a tsunami wave of hopes for the rest of the academic year. I had plans. I was going to be successful. I was going to find my best friends. Being a new transfer student, I shared the common freshman ideal: a crazed frenzy and desire to be actively involved in every social group on campus–even the offbeat, hipster literary journal where everyone was supposedly “too cool” to have friends.
The first week left me in a suspended state of panic as I rushed to floor meetings and opening club parties, all while showcasing a smile. I carefully chose outfits that would appeal to certain groups of people and adopted the persona of their majority—all while I created a sense of indefinite fatigue as I attempted to dress myself in the costume of someone I was not.
I would head back to the comfort of my top bunk, fall asleep and start again the next morning.
The last thing I wanted for my ideal fall quarter was to be spending hours alone in my three-person dorm doomed to eating take-out dinners by myself while watching sad reruns of Dance Moms on my laptop. I wanted genuine, fun loving, non-judgmental friends like the ones on Friends. I wanted people who shared my love of hiking, rock climbing and obsessing over obscure 60s literature.
At first, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people at my fingertips. I could text anyone for brunch, froyo runs or movie premieres (yes, that’s a normal thing to do here in LA). It was as if my social circle expanded to a size way larger than I was comfortable with.
However, as fifth week neared, it seemed as if the desire for close relationships began to dwindle with the people I’d only met a month ago. Students began to settle in with a circle of friends that they immediately clicked with and were attached to at the hip. To me, it appeared as if every person was bathing in the diversity of social groups, leaving them with booked weekends and dinners perhaps almost every night of the week.
I was not one of those people. I am not one of those people. I haven’t found a solid friend group where I feel at home, where I feel comfortable enough to take off my shoes.
I miss home. I want to return to the feeling of being known, inside and out. I miss having the assurance that someone will laugh at my jokes and embrace me when I’m feeling down.
People are very welcoming and friendly. However, it often seems like most people aren’t interested in a relationship that exists past “Hello, how was your week?” and “Goodbye, see you in class.” Lately, I’ve been finding that the surface level of the new student frenzy is wholly and nauseatingly insincere. As midterms and final papers loom in the distance, it’s hard to solidify relationships that don’t exist past a couple of lunch dates.
But it’s not their fault. If I’m completely absorbed in my academic journey and the pursuit of excellence, it’s hard to make time to invest myself in others who are actually really cool people.
I, myself, am guilty at being too self-absorbed to even bat an eyelash at other students who are so obviously having a difficult time adjusting to college life. We’re all stressed, scared and worried about the future. That’s a level of understanding that’s been difficult to reach. The social realm of university life relies solely on the effort you put into it, rather than waiting for people to knock on your door.
Relationships aren’t about convenience. Even though I have a plethora of phone numbers and people I can call at my disposal, I still feel like I’m on my own. And I’m still trying to learn how to maneuver this social maze.