An awfully happy picture for a title that connotes with loneliness and isolation, right?
Last Sunday morning, Lucy (my roommate) and I sat inside the somewhat deserted dining hall around 10 am, having a talk over breakfast and hot tea amidst the pouring rain and 60*F weather outside. While our transient homesickness was really reserved for the first few days, we discussed our concerns about friendships here at school. The entire first week of school kept us so busy and entertained that there was really no "down time" --- we were cattle driven from event to event (I kid you not, we really were), meeting new people and thrown into activities here and there. But with the ending of orientation after that first week came the realization that time was ours (granted we all had mountains of homework to prioritize). That Saturday morning and afternoon after I wrote that blogpost made me realize how lonely it can be at college.
I was fortunate enough to have some really great friends visit from a nearby school that night, but the hours before that were incredibly quiet. It seems as if the campus loses 80% of the people over the weekend; granted, upperclassmen, professors, and grad students aren't around, but everything just felt so eerily empty. Aside from a few meetings and lunch with a friend, I spent the rest of the day doing homework in various locations. I tried to be "in public" as often as possible, because I felt isolated.
That weekend, Lucy and I realized that with the settling in process occurring more quickly without orientation events comes the inevitable and sad event of people settling into groups. While most people still remains respectful, polite, and friendly, no one feels the need to go out of their comfort zone, and unfortunately, those who don't have groups/cliques/"squads" (man, I hate that word) are left isolated, confused, dazed. Who do we find to hang out with now?
What do we do when we find people that we really like but don't share the same values, especially when it comes to partying? During the week, everyone's around, doing schoolwork, but the weekends are left completely up to each individual's goals and desires. The friends you made might have different ideas of what their weekend should look like, and it's especially hard to become closer to others without spending quality time with them over the weekends. Sure, you can get to know people by eating meals with them or making small talk in the dorms, but that's no substitute for spending time with people over longer periods of time.
Lucy and I, among what I honestly believe to be a decent chunk of people here, are constantly searching for deeper connections with others. Granted, it hasn't even been a week, but the crave for deeper connections grows every day. Nobody wants to go through the process of the awkwardness and small talk, but that's something that we have to face. When our friends visited that night, we were amazed by how close they all were just after a few days of knowing each other. One of the downsides of being on such a big, diverse, and busy campus is a lack of community and closeness --- our friends joked about how all they do at night is sit around and talk to each other since there's nothing to do, but to be honest, that's something that I wish we could do, just to build that closeness with others.
Let's be clear, the solitude and search for closeness has not dampened the experience --- although, the homework certainly has. It's just something that comes into our minds here and there, and sometimes, those little reminders that we don't really have the same deep connections that we left at home brings wistfulness. I'm super proud to say that my roommate is probably one of the kindest people here, and she's inspired me to reach out and be there for others who have been feeling severely homesick; she's set an amazing example for me.
So for those people who really aren't interested in partying, you'll have to make the extra effort to reach out to others to make plans. It's more work than just showing up at a party with hundreds of people, but I genuinely think that it will be worth it. The solitude, like the initial homesickness, is transient, and hopefully will get better as time goes on.
I guess I was pretty naive; I thought that it'd be easy to make so many friends since everyone here is so nice --- well, on one hand, yes, it's easy to make "friends" and find people to make small talk with, but it's not possible to find deep, meaningful relationships without effort and time, and that's something that we, impatient adolescents who are accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, have to understand.
Classes have not helped with our "struggle" (for a lack of better words) to build closer relationships --- there's really no time or opportunity, when college lectures basically consist of someone talking at you for at least 50 minutes. However, with clubs starting up soon (and our two church fellowships have helped significantly already as well), we're hoping that it'll be easier to find people to connect to.
In the meantime, I'm very grateful for my roommate, my family who I text repeatedly (again, mostly because I'm just so excited about everything that's happening here and because my mom's worried that I'm not eating --- Mom, trust me, I'm eating!), and my incredible friends who are all living in different parts of the country right now and who still text and call me to catch up --- these are the lifelong friendships that act as my standards for new relationships and inspire me to continue to search for meaningful, valuable connections throughout life.
This post was awfully long and reflective, but look forward to a week in review and perhaps a rant about schoolwork ;)
Until next time,
P.S. excuse any grammatical errors or random tangents --- it's 10:30, and this early bird doesn't function well after 9 pm. I've just been planning to write this for a long time, and I've finally had a half hour to do so ;)