Before coming to college, you would never hear me call myself an introvert. I have always been the first to talk to any random person and make a new friend wherever I go. I was always the “outgoing one,” and almost everyone who knew me reassured me by saying, “You’ll have no problem at school! You make friends everywhere!”
And that’s exactly what I believed would happen. I came in as a freshman expecting to “find my people” instantly and effortlessly. It would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed.
(I want to note that my experience making friends in college is very different from many other students. Very often, students come to college and find friendships that are more real and intimate than they have ever experienced before. If that is the case, that is wonderful. However, it is simply not the case for everyone.)
I would call my parents crying, wondering what was wrong with me. And they would tell me to wait it out. If I continued to be myself, they said, the right people would be drawn to me.
As my first semester came to an end, I felt myself spiraling downwards. I poured so much energy into comparing my personal relationships to the ones of others that I saw. Ones that I knew nothing about, except for what they posted on social media or what I saw at lunch. I had made a couple good friends. But for some reason, I felt myself constantly comparing myself to those with big groups who would go out together. I threw myself into my classes, into anything that would distract me from the loneliness I was feeling.
By second semester, I packed my schedule so much that I didn’t have time to think about how lonely and left out I was feeling. For three months, I completely burnt myself out, barely getting sleep, before getting sent home because of the pandemic. Oddly enough, it was the rest I needed.
While going back home was tough, I deepened friendships that truly uplifted me. I realized those were the friendships that provided me with true, genuine and unconditional love. It was eye-opening in the sense that I was attaching value to the wrong thing. I also realized how ungrateful I was being for the few genuine friendships I had made. This time away helped me realize very important truths about healthy and long lasting friendships.
- You shouldn’t have to change who you are to fit in with the people around you.
If you find yourself compromising your beliefs or values in an effort to fit in, you’re surrounding yourself with the wrong people. If you can’t recognize yourself in your actions or even your words — and not in a good way — you may be hanging around the wrong crowd. You might even feel exhausted after hanging out with them. When you’re around the people who are truly meant for you, they will accept you exactly as you are, the same way you would accept them for who they are.
- It’s hard to make friends with people who prioritize different things than you.
If you prioritize your sleep, health and grades, it might not be easy to find others who are willing to go to bed at 10 p.m. instead of going out. If you’re trying to make friends with people who put drastically more or less value than you into certain aspects of life, it can be difficult to match schedules or lifestyles that would allow you to actually spend time together.
- Life experience plays a large role in the type of people you spend time with.
People are attracted to what they know. They are drawn towards people who have gone through similar things as them. While you can be intentional about spending time with those who have a diversity of backgrounds that contrast yours, that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are naturally inclined towards those with shared experiences. Especially when it comes to making friends, if your environment doesn’t have a lot of those that you can really relate to, it can be difficult to feel connected. However, this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make friends. It just might be a little more difficult.
Making true friendships isn’t always easy, even if you have the blueprint for what they should look like. College is our time to refine who we are and tap into the things that are best for our lives and our future. Friendships are important. Make sure that you’re pouring your energy into the relationships that pour back into you.