Illustration by Red Rader
In Nina’s column last week on the impact of growing pains, she referenced the experience of temporary visitors in life. These temporary visitors, as she expressed in her column, can be anyone, including the friendships you promised to keep from high school and the people you met during orientation week. Nina addressed that just because these friendships are temporary does not make them unimportant — that, if anything, they are an aid in your growth as you transition from one part of your life to the next.
Upon reading her description, I realized that this is a phenomenon that most of us experience but that few of us talk about. I, myself, have experienced this very type of relationship and have felt the pain of this experience during my time at Trinity. After having gone to a combined middle and high school, it wasn’t until going to college that I had to step outside of my comfort zone. For the first time in six years, I had to figure out how to make new friends. I was terrified.
The first few days, weeks or even months at a new school can be scary and lonely — and understandably so. When you go from being forced to see the same people every day in high school to having to actively seek out social settings, it is a difficult transition to navigate.
My first two semesters at Trinity felt incredibly isolating; my best friend was going to her dream college in Massachusetts, my partner was going to college in my hometown and I was thrown into a city that was not my own. Having arrived expecting to be able to have a group of close-knit friends like I once had in high school, I struggled to make friends. The people in my hall stopped hanging out after orientation week, my 8:30 a.m. introductory sociology class (shockingly) wasn’t the breeding ground for close-knit friendship, and there was nobody that grabbed me by the arm and invited me to their group of friends that I somehow perfectly fit into like in the movies.
It wasn’t until in my second semester when I was getting dinner at Mabee with a friend (who I wasn’t yet convinced actually wanted to be my friend) after class that I realized that I wasn’t alone. After a brief pause in our conversation about the events of our shared class, my friend asked me, “Do you have a real group of friends here? Or do you just kind of talk to random people?” She briefly shared her experience struggling to make friends that would stick, explaining how she was only able to connect with people that were, as Nina eloquently put it, temporary visitors.
The conversation I had with my friend at dinner, although brief, was formative in my full transition to feeling like I belonged on campus. In the months prior, I felt as though I had been doing something wrong, like everyone else just clicked and that I was the misfit who could only repel friends. If I hadn’t had this conversation with my friend and again a few weeks later with my roommate, I probably would have gone through with the plan I had formed to transfer schools.
I know that my isolating experience stepping onto campus my first year at Trinity is not unique. I also know that this experience is not unique to students going to college and that it’s something people experience from the age they are a child making friends in elementary school to the age that they’re spending their Friday nights in the bingo hall. So why don’t we talk about it more?
Acknowledging that loneliness is a feeling that we have all experienced can be the difference between someone having a terrible first semester and them coming to accept that they are not alone in their experience. It is not shameful to feel lonely, and it is not shameful to talk about how you feel. The conversation that I had with my friend had the power to change the route of my college experience from negative to hopeful. If you feel lonely, don’t be afraid to say something because chances are, you’re not alone.