Everyone always talks about the incredible college experience, how you will find the friends you will keep for life. The movies depict it as one of the easiest things to do. You accidentally run into someone at a club fair and then, flash forward a year, the two of you now formed an inseparable group of four. I consider myself to be quite the idealist when it comes to romanticizing every aspect of my life to make the horrible truths easier to handle. I like to think it stems from all of the fantasy books read throughout my life. Stepping into my first semester on a college campus, I realized that those movies don’t completely depict everything you face once you are there.
Transferring to a different university in 2020 formed a combination of challenging external factors.
Coronavirus turned into a pandemic and the world shut down. The isolation and deaths affected many, myself included. Over time I began to find comfort with keeping my own company. I kept in contact with my few friends from high school, though I couldn’t do much to see them. My mother was immunocompromised, and I didn’t dare risk bringing anything back to her. I reread book series and laid out in the sun whenever I could. I even started to go out on walks with nothing more than my headphones and some good music. I continued to keep to myself and the longer that I stayed alone, the more that I began to enjoy my own company.
I hoped much wouldn’t change when I decided to attend university a thousand miles from my hometown. I thought that I would step into this experience with a newfound love for myself and a confidence that only my middle school self could match. I tried to savor each moment of that imaginary confidence and joy while they lasted, only for them to fester into a bundle of nerves the closer I came to actually leaving. It took a while to realize that I would truly have no one once I was at college. My family and friends lived too far away from me to visit. I attempted to play it off as though I didn’t care, as if I would find my footing no matter what once I arrived. Everyone always says the human spirit will always preserve. I chose to believe that.
Yet, nothing prepared me for just how alone I felt once I stepped foot on campus.
Because of Covid, the college cancelled all the traditional activities meant to help first-year students form connections. Classes completely moved online. I spent days cooped up in my dorm room, binging shows over and over again to help calm my own anxieties. The college didn’t allow us to have roommates, which isolated me even more. I thought that I understood my introversion and that I could handle this type of loneliness. I handled it exceptionally for months until that point. But this felt unlike any I had experienced before. The calls and texts to my friends and family served as my reminder of the distance between us. That distance left a gaping hole in my heart, one I couldn’t fill. I was utterly alone.
I eventually attempted different activities to dull the pain the hole brought. I reorganized and cleaned my room more times than I could keep track of. No variation of furniture helped. I found myself complacent in a bubble of my own creation.My anxiety reached an all-time high with the stress from my classes only increasing it. I broke out in stress-hives and refused to leave my bed.
It took me a long time to recognize that I’m my own problem. If I truly wanted to break this miserable pattern I found myself in, I would have to be the one to take the first step in changing it.
I tried to find comfort in the loneliness I was experiencing much like I did before, when the world shut down. I set realistic goals that I knew I could accomplish, such as exploring the streets alone and taking in the sights of this new city. The sheer amount of people surrounding me during my adventures led to a shock in my system after the isolation I experienced for most of the year. Discomfort immediately overcame me and I almost ran back to my dorm room. However, I forced myself to continue to push the limits of my comfort zone. This led to me slowly beginning to fall in love with my own company once more. I relearned the importance of savoring each little moment that you can get to yourself. I treated those moments like a treat, one that I might not receive again. This helped my confidence grow. Finally, I felt like the person that I thought I lost forever.
It took me months to relearn that the people will come into your life as they are meant to. Don’t try to rush or force the things that will come to you in due time. Find joy and safety in your own company. The rest easily follows.