Throughout my whole life, I have felt like a person who doesn’t do things exactly when I want to do them. Instead, I wait. I sit on it for a long time and contemplate taking action, whether that’s with interests, activities or people. I always feel a little scared and intimidated by the possible discomfort of life’s situations. That sentiment was not any different with my involvement in my college movie theater, which I had always wanted to be a part of since I started college.
But of course, I waited to get involved.
Movies have been my one constant and real love for a big part of my life. As I came into college and worked on trying to find my own identity, I leaned towards film as a large comfort and a way to relate with other people. I would always go to my campus movie theater to see old classics or new blockbusters. It quickly became my favorite place on campus. I would always hear about it being a student–run theater and you could go to meetings to program its films. It sounded exactly right for me, but I avoided it because I had fallen in a group of friends that didn’t intersect with my interest in movies.
Flash-forward to my junior year of college. I had been seriously thinking about being involved with the film programming committee for months at this point, and I went to my first meeting in the beginning of the fall semester. In the first meeting, we discussed what blockbuster films we should program. I enthusiastically raised my hand to talk about the importance of the great film Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and why it absolutely had to be voted in (it did, which gave me the utmost level of pure joy). I felt obsessed. Everyone in the meeting seemed so interesting and funny and I believed I had found a perfect outlet to talk about movies. The high energy of the people and the room seemed infectious. At the end, people talked about the building and different committees you could be involved in. I felt over the moon excited for the rest of the year.
Unfortunately, that excitement died out pretty quickly.
Even though I continued going to meetings, I had not made any friends. I would complain about it to my roommate: “No one talks to me” or “Every time I get so nervous to introduce myself that I just can’t do it.” Everyone acted so comfortable with each other and I couldn’t get myself to actually go up and talk to anyone. I continued to walk into the brightly lit room and find a random seat towards the back. After looking at the movie list, I’d make a comment about the ones I wanted and then leave immediately after the meeting ended. The cycle began to really burn me out.
One day I walked into a meeting and told myself I should say hi to some girls who I knew would recognize me. I remember I sat right behind them and said hello. They turned around and looked at me, only to turn right back to where they were. I had no idea why. At that moment I just sat there, trying to process what I should do. Maybe it was a misunderstanding. Should I try again and start talking about the movies written on the white board that we were going to vote in? Do I continue to sit there alone, with about six other people in the room, and wait for the meeting to start? I felt so awkward and small.
With my feelings all bottled up, I did what felt best—I got up and left. I didn’t like it there, I thought. No one had tried to talk to me and I was done giving it my time. I felt angry at everyone for not even attempting to speak to me. But I felt even more angry at myself for being unable to impress these people. Feeling disappointed in myself and my optimism for what this club could mean to me, I decided to quit.
But after a few weeks, I didn’t want to fully give it up.
It still felt really important to me to have something that I belonged with. I felt so stuck in my usual routine and desperately wanted to have something else to wholeheartedly give my time to. Just one thing. I wanted to develop my interest in film, so what better place to do it than here? But I didn’t make enough of an effort the first time. I always do things like this, so I needed to actually stick with it and not give up. After about a month of not going, I talked to a girl in my film class that I recognized from the theater. She told me I should come back and sit with her friends at a meeting, so I decided to give it another try.
As time went on, I slowly found a few friends that I connected with, but I still felt like I didn’t really know anyone, and no one knew me. I became discouraged from volunteering at movie showings because the same group of people was always there, dominating the social atmosphere of the building. I am outgoing, but I have a hard time starting a conversation with people I want to impress. That reality in this situation made me feel extremely inadequate.
As spring semester comes around, I realize that certain kinds of people thrive in this environment and others don’t.
The ones who thrive aren’t necessarily the biggest film buffs—you have to fit the social scene. I realized the people who love giving all their time to the college student theater are close friends. If you didn’t connect with them, you couldn’t fully participate. Every time I walked into the theater, I would see the same people hanging out the front desk. I would wave sometimes, but never got much of a reaction back. I don’t necessarily blame anyone either. They were all friends, but I hated that it felt so cliquey.
That all really frustrated me. What happens when you love the idea of a place, you believe in its mission and you want to be a part of its success, but you can’t quite feel like you belong to it? It never feels yours. It feels like you’re crashing a party that you were only half invited to. I love movies and I wanted that communal experience of sharing that passion with other people. That never happened.
Nevertheless, I applied for a leadership position with the student theater.
I had made a few friends there who felt the same way I did about the environment. They were going for leadership and encouraged me to do so as well. And regardless of how I felt about the culture, I really wanted it. I still wanted to be able to work with programming movies for campus. I still wanted to follow the idea of what the campus movie theater could mean to me.
In the end, I didn’t get the position, which devastated me. Looking back I could have done things differently. Even though I found friends and enjoyed committee meetings, I couldn’t break past that barrier to be involved in other parts of the building or make other connections. It is a very tight knit group, so I’m sure my lack of volunteering showed up badly for me. But ultimately everything turned out for the best. To me, the student theater could have been a way to find a real identity within my college career. Everyone just wants to feel a part of something. We don’t know what the hell we’re doing, and finding those people with similar interests and similar ways of thinking—those things are important. And you’re extremely lucky you if you can find a community that means those things for you.
I got a lot out of my experience with my college movie theater.
I met some great people that I hope will stay in my life for a long time, and I did have a lot of fun most of the time (I got to talk about my love for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, which goes a long way for me). But I ultimately found I didn’t get what I wanted from it, which I’m okay with. The college experience means a lot more than having an identity in a place or a thing. It’s about continually putting yourself out there and learning about what does and doesn’t feel right to you. It’s something that I’m still learning to do and will continue to learn way beyond my short college years. I don’t know, maybe next year I will finally try improv?