Being a freshman in college brings with it more emotions and more change than you thought imaginable in your life. Whether you’re the person who is or was dying and could not wait to go/come to college or whether you are or were the person who was dreading the first day being away from home, you’ll hopefully one day appreciate this.
My first semester on campus brought with it a feeling of dreadful loneliness. Of course I was making friends and of course I was immersing myself in the campus culture, but every day I woke up feeling alone. The smell of fresh brewed coffee coming from downstairs in the kitchen was gone. The bark from the dog at the door waiting to be let in was no more. The fighting with my sisters over who would get to pack which snack for lunch no longer existed. The factorization of other people into my daily routine was erased.
For those of you who are the oldest sibling you will understand what I mean when I say that the feeling of responsibility for others is not a choice. We do not choose to feel responsible for another’s feeling, or well-being, we simply cannot help ourselves.
My dad moved out of the house the week after my 16th birthday. Of course it was not my responsibility to take care of my sisters, or go out of my way for my mother, but that is the beauty of being the oldest, no one has to ask you or tell you, you simply do. For the remainder of my life to this point, especially during my high school years I was the one who made sure my sisters were where they needed to be and on time even if it meant being late myself. I made sure that they completed their homework and did well in their classes. I made sure to be the link in the chain between them and my parents. I had a purpose.
To this day I act the same way. Why? To be honest, I am not quite sure. But for whatever the reason what keeps me up at night is the worry and feeling of being alone.
Being on a college campus in a new environment weeding through people like shirts on hangers in the closet, I began to meet new people and establish new friendships. However, I still felt lonely.
I did what any normal freshman would do, I tried to get involved. I pledged a fraternity looking for brotherhood and friendship. Unfortunately, I did not find what I was looking for. I joined an athletic team, yet I still I did not find what I was looking for. Every avenue I explored seemed to point me in the same direction: home. I missed the comfort of my own bed and a shower free of cheap flip flops. Most of all, I missed the sense of belonging and the feeling that others appreciated my being, even if they didn’t always show it.
But, like everything in life, time has a way of creating change. Change is neither good nor bad, but a disruption from the path we were on. Change can have positive or negative effects; we are the ones who decide.
One of my favorite quotes from the movie Wild is, “My mother used to say something that drove me nuts. There is a sunrise and a sunset every day and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”
I love this quote because of the power it holds. We can choose to see the negatives and seldom see the positives. The reality is however that there are far more positives in our lives than negatives, no matter how negative life may seem.
As such I began to establish relationships. And to my astonishment, what I found was that the friends I made weren’t the kids on the athletic teams, they weren’t the fraternity brothers or the sorority sisters, but the people who shared the same moral and ethical values as me. They were the people who would have my back and I had only known them for less than a fraction of my life.
Now it is my senior year and the ironic thing is that those same people are still my best friends. I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t still lonely sometimes, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes I am.
My only counter to myself is that my mother always says, “Only you can make you happy”, and she is right. Like the quote above, there is more beauty than ugly in this world and you just have to be willing to open your eyes to see it.
My hope is that from this you take away two things, one: you are the engine that drives yourself, and two: don’t sweat the small stuff because time has the power to heal everything.