A year ago, today, I was crowned homecoming queen for my high school.
I remember how special that night was for me.
My family and cousins and all my friends from church and school came out to support me and that cold October night, when I should have been worrying about college apps, I remember sitting there realizing how blessed and lucky I was to have so much love in my life.
I’m going be completely honest here, I had a great time in high school.
Totally unpopular opinion, I know.
And I know you’re probably rolling your eyes thinking “okay we get it Aswathi you were homecoming queen of your high school well duh of course you had a great time”
But it was so much more than just that to me, I appreciated the structure and routine high school had. I loved that I had the same group of friends since elementary school. I loved being in classes with people I’ve grown up with. I enjoyed walking in the halls and always having someone to say hi to. I was thrilled when I ran into someone I knew picking up something from the store or studying at Starbucks. I loved the familiarity of my small Murphy bubble. Things were comfortable there and the last thing I wanted to do was to get out from under that warm blanket.
But soon enough it was time to go to college and surprisingly, I was excited!
I was going to the best university in the world (hook ’em horns!) that was great for what I wanted to do, one of my best friends was going with me, I knew and liked my roommate, I was going to be living in a great city, I got to do lots of dorm shopping, I was excited to meet new people, I mean there was just so much to look forward to!
But when my parents dropped me off and just left… it felt like someone had not only ripped off the warm blanket but also simultaneously dumped a bucket of ice water on me.
Everything felt so real so suddenly and for the first time in my life, I was alone.
Like honestly, purely, completely alone.
You always hear about how the years you spend in college are some of the best years of your life and as true as that may be, what no one does tell you is how difficult it can be.
The first weeks here have been hard.
I’ve gotten sick (like the vomiting gross bad kind) I’ve gotten lice (yeah studying for your Calc midterm with lice shampoo in your hair isn’t ideal), I’ve cried (probably every day), but more than that I’ve felt out of place.
I’ve felt sad.
I’ve felt like I had nobody to talk to.
Everyone I knew was having fun in their own worlds doing their own things and the last thing I wanted to do was bother them with my problems.
I spent time scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook and saw how all my friends back home seemed to have moved on and were having the time of their lives at college, which only amplified the fact that I was sitting in my dorm room all alone. They were having so much fun! So why couldn’t I?
I joined student orgs and tried to get involved, but it seemed like everyone around me was already BFF’s and I wanted real friendships not forced fake ones. I mean yeah, there were people in my classes that I talked to but our conversations only really stayed within the realm of school and small talk. I grew up with the same friends my whole life and I wanted to make new friends, I just didn’t really know how. UCLA Sophomore Clara Nguyen words it best in an op-ed piece written for the New York Times where she says, “I didn’t know how to be someone new while at the same time being who I always was.”
I tried to be approachable and go out of my comfort zone, but I couldn’t find the confidence and just ended up feeling defeated. I felt like something was wrong with me. I felt insecure and blamed myself.
Maybe college was just going to have to suck for me, I thought. Maybe I was just going to have to stick with the same two friends for the next four years. Maybe I peaked in high school and the rest of my life was just going downhill from here.
But what hurt the most about all of it, was that I thought that I was the only one who felt this way.
And the truth is, I’m not.
A recent study done by the American College Health Association surveyed 28,000 students from 51 universities and found that more than 60% said that they had “felt very lonely” in the previous 12 months.
The thing that makes loneliness so much harder to deal with is that nobody talks about it. Nobody wants to talk about it. You always hear people talking about stress and mental health and the freshman 15, but you never hear anyone say anything about loneliness.
I get it though, loneliness isn’t pretty. I mean who wants to mess up their perfect Instagram feed with a post saying, “I’m lonely and have no friends!!!”
But there are so many Freshman who I’m sure are feeling the same things that I am and just because nobody is talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that I can’t be so hard on myself.
I’m away from home, away from my parents, away from everything I’ve ever known, of course it’s not going to be easy. And it’s social media for a reason! People only post their best and brightest most fabulous most curated selves and I shouldn’t look down on myself because that wasn’t my everyday reality. Truth is, it probably isn’t theirs either! I can’t keep blaming myself, it’s not my fault I’m too cool and can’t find friends on the same level as me!
All jokes aside, while college has been rough so far, I know that this is still just the beginning of my wonderful journey. I’m not going to let something that I know so many other people are going through bring me down and keep me from being my best self. Things get better, they always do and I’m not going to let now dictate how the next years of my life are going to go.
I’m going to keep on keeping on because I can.
And if you’re reading this and going through what I am, guess what? You can too.
I’m going to keep moving forward with a happy heart, open mind, and of course my head full of lice. 🙂
To the sun and back,