Well, it’s been a while – by my standards, at least. But I like to think that I have a pretty decent excuse: for the past week I’ve been going through orientation at my university and trying my introverted best to bond with people and engage with my new home.
No matter how much I hate to admit it, events like these where your success and happiness depend largely on your social energy make me nervous, cranky, and tired. I’m a serious introvert by nature, so I like to spend a lot of time alone or in the company of people with whom I feel entirely at ease. I can hang around with Kieran, for example, for no end of time, because I don’t have to try to socialize with him. Things work naturally between us; I feel similarly about hanging out with my closest friends. Making a concerted effort to socialize, though, intimidates me. I’m constantly plagued by the fear that something might set me off or I might get too tired and miss an important event or I’ll be otherwise written off socially because I, quite frankly, don’t like socializing for the sake of socializing.
Despite this, my orientation week was pretty productive and I met a lot of nice kids who will, hopefully, become close friends over the years. My roommate, Bethany, has very much the same outlook as me towards socializing: we enjoy good company, but we agree that socializing in general, small-talking and the like, are hard because they don’t feel worth the effort in the same way that deep conversations with close friends do. We get along great, which is much more than you can say for a lot of roommate pairings here and at other schools.
At my school, we have a pretty unique housing system that breaks dormitories down into smaller “houses” that do activities together, share lounges, and become generally pretty close. I was placed into one of the more extroverted and less insular dorms (yes, I may be an introvert, but I’m much more socially well-adjusted than many of my peers at my school) so I was worried that my house community wouldn’t be super strong. However, I’ve really bonded with a bunch of my housemates.
I won’t go into details on anyone in particular yet because I’ve only known these people for a maximum of a week, but I think I ought to reflect on the process of friend-making that I’ve experienced here. Since I went to the Academy, a pretty tiny place, for my entire high-school career, I haven’t had to go through the process of actively making friends for quite some time (and the last time, my freshman year at the Academy, things didn’t exactly go so well). So naturally, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this whole thing. What do you mean I should just talk to my neighbors? What if we don’t have anything in common? What if they’re not interesting? What if I’m not interesting? As I’ve said, I hate small talk, and I wish I could just jump past the awkward early stages of getting to know someone. Sadly, it’s a harsh reality of social interaction.
My strategy for the week, for the most part, was to just latch onto anyone who would talk to me and seemed to enjoy my company. I was nice to everyone, reached out to housemates, and bonded with them over random things. I also broke out my pack of Cards Against Humanity on the first night, which helped break the ice for my house, I think, than for me individually. I just wanted to survive orientation week until I could jump into life at my university on a bigger scale and really find my niche. For me, friends tend to come with time; it can be frustrating, however, to look around at my peers making their n3w b3$t fr!3nd$ and wonder why that won’t ever be me. It’s even more frustrating to look at my peers and wonder if I’ll ever be in the same place socially as I was at the Academy.
I certainly wasn’t popular in high school, and I certainly didn’t make a ton of friends. I didn’t mind that though; I didn’t want a ton of friends. I wasn’t in the business of tallying up human beings for my personal records. I was, however, in the business of finding lasting connections, and the friendships I made during my time at the Academy will last far into the future. I made friends with people like Naomi, Raleigh, and Phoebe, in whom I could confide if I was having trouble keeping it together or needed to cry or just wanted a hug. Because I had such a close, personal experience with unforgettable people in high school, I struggle to see how I’ll ever have such lasting relationships in the big, impersonal environment that is my university.
I have, in spite of it all, seemed to make some friends. Most of this has been a product of going out in the evenings, hunting for parties; while this is certainly a refurbished cliché, it was the hunting, not the parties, which truly brought us together. I went to one party and one pregame all of orientation week while many of my peers hit more than one a night, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the o-week social experience.
Even though we’re in an urban environment, buildings can be pretty far away from each other here because I live in a dorm on the southern edge of campus. Between parties, my friends and I would wander the streets of our new home and talk about whatever. I shared Sleigh Bells with my new compatriots, blasting “Crown on the Ground” out of my iPhone speakers at top volume, and my eccentricities started to reveal themselves. I began to realize that people did, in fact, want me around. I didn’t have to push my way into their lives, a sentiment I’ve been fighting for a very long time. They wanted me there. I belonged.
In the coming weeks I look forward to settling in more deeply here and making myself at home, but for now I’m pretty content with my social situation. Sure, I may not hop from event to event on a packed social calendar, but that’s not what I want. As long as I have a place where I can belong, that should be enough for me.
I really miss Kieran, though.