Here’s the deal about being a freshmen in college: everyone feels the exact same way you do. It’s draining to put yourself out there, meeting new people, being in a new environment… and here’s the kicker: everyone is just being the version of themselves that they want you to see (this includes you too) which is exhausting. What we really long for as human beings is connection… and therein lies the paradox. You’re all stumbling around looking for your tribe, when you’re not really being “yourself”. When people let you see their perfect imperfectness it opens that bond to the real part of people that we so desperately long for, especially in the throes of something unfamiliar. So you’re sitting in someone’s cramped dorm room, feeling like you’re having a hard time adjusting, hearing someone talk about something and you’re not listening because you’re texting your friends from home. The real problem is not that you’re bad at making new friends, it’s that no one is truly being authentic, but everyone is still looking to form connection. It’s hard to be yourself as you start the transformative journey of college because you’re changing.
Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone. Everyone feels left out. Everyone feels awkward. No one feels like they really belong after two weeks or even months of starting a new school. Choose your friends wisely. Take time to discern other people’s values. Hang around people who make you feel energized. Pay attention to when you feel drained. You don’t really get to see people for who they truly are until second semester. This is when the cracks of realness can’t help but begin to show.
So what do you do now that you’re in the middle of a major transition? Root into something greater than yourself. It’s scary to put yourself out there! Everyone is dying to be in their dorm room alone, escaping. During transitions we hold onto the familiar more than ever. We miss our families, our homes, even the ex-boyfriends we were looking forward to getting away from. Grounding in something bigger enables us to grow and move knowing that we’re supported.
You’re not bad at change. You’re not socially awkward. Transitions are tough. They push us to grow; to become better people. The secret to happiness in everything from friendships to romantic relationships to success in life during and after college is to be yourself. People like you when you’re being authentic and real. They like that you aren’t perfect. Take off your mask. Be warm. Be open. Be brave. Listen when people speak. Put down your phone. Ask someone to grab dinner with you. Ask a different person to go to the gym.
What I really encourage anyone starting anything new is to set up a daily practice of getting still and quiet. It will give you a chance (especially when there’s chaos around you) to listen to yourself; to develop a relationship to yourself. Being still and quiet will help you connect to that little voice inside of you. I call this your Inner GPS. It will help you pick the right friends, guide you to the right guy, help you figure out the right major to make you both happy and profitable. The next time you feel growing pains remember you’re not alone, everyone feels like you do, and remember to use your inner GPS. It’s there for a reason. All you have to do is get quiet enough to listen.