Last night, a bunch of people came bustling by my door, and one of the girls loudly proclaimed “We should have just asked that girl for directions!” I agree –– Liz Waters is so confusing that I have yet to see any of the buildings connected to mine. The overly nice Midwesterner in me wanted to go help them figure out where they were going, but I was already chilling in my pajamas; and even though my bed isn’t that comfortable, I was tired… I listened until, eventually, the giggling faded away, as they passed through the end of the hallway. I laid there and looked up at the ceiling, which was plain, rather than covered in photos like mine at home, and realized how unfamiliar my surroundings were. Despite the comfort of my favorite Spotify playlist and the warm glow of my string lights, something felt… off. I couldn’t fall asleep for the longest time, and my mind started to wander.
Where were those people coming back from? I wondered. It was 11:00 p.m., which seemed late enough to go to bed and still be cool. Was there some kind of event that I didn’t know about? My heart started beating faster. Was I basically a grandma if I went to bed before midnight? Okay, I know this sounds stupid, but it was August 27th; I had just moved in the day before, and one of the random girls I added on Snapchat was already at a frat party, while I was in my room trying to sleep. Awesome. For a minute or two, it looked like everyone else got the “Guide To Being A Cool Kid In College,” while mine got lost in the mail.
My first few days at UW-Madison had been amazing. Knock on wood, the transition has gone much smoother than I could have ever imagined. Yet, I’ve found myself having one particular thought over and over: Maybe I’m the only one. As in, maybe I’m the only person in my dorm room, while everyone else is out having the time of their lives tonight. Maybe the person I assumed was a freshman (spoiler: they were not) and asked where they got bacon in the dining hall went back to their table and told everyone that I obviously needed new glasses. Maybe I’m the only person who doesn’t know how to get on the 80 bus without having anxiety and following Google Maps the whole time. To be honest, these feelings aren’t new, and I don’t think they’ll go away as classes start. As I listen to my relatives tell me how college was for them (even though they graduated in the 90s) and my advisors explain that every decision I make is an important one, I have to remind myself that each of us comes to college with a unique perspective, but that doesn’t mean we are alone.
For example, people might think it’s weird for me to FaceTime with my mom for an hour on my second day of college, but when you go from living with just that person for most of your life to suddenly not, things change. This reminds me of one of my last days of high school when a teacher asked us to describe something we wished we would have done before we graduated. My regret was not learning how to speak up for my beliefs until junior year and therefore not being the most authentic version of myself that I could be. I don’t want to repeat the same regret when I put on my graduation cap four years from now. Already, I have found that if you think you have a weird question about college:
- It’s probably not as weird as you think it is.
- Other people have that question too.
Lots of people like to talk about the obvious forms of independence that college presents, like making sure to eat or go to sleep at a reasonable time. Yet, they don’t mention how sometimes those simple tasks involve hard choices, like coming back from an event half an hour earlier than all your friends, because you have a meeting the next morning. It can feel isolating to make these kinds of choices, but the confines of a dorm room are not your entire world. I promise that there is someone in your learning community, your residence hall house, or in your first class who feels the same way you do. It’s up to us to put ourselves out there and find those people.