We’re always told – at least I was told – that high school and the friends you meet there are great, but college is the time to establish who you are and make life-long friends.
This is not going well for me.
In high school, I was the varsity athlete, the member of student council, the alto in choir who could hit 1st soprano if needed, and especially the scholar. I was published in different books and papers. I received many, many awards. I graduated with an above-perfect GPA, and that was even after they cut a few of my elective credits to try to make it less above perfect. I was comfortable with having a group of good friends and not a lot of super close friends. I was excited for college. If high school had ended on such a good note (There were problems, but in the long run, they were nothing – a fact I recognized even at the time.), college was bound to be absolutely amazing. I would be set for life.
I’ve come to realize that’s not happening.
My first two years at a community college were ok. I did not make many connections for after graduation, but I did make a new friend with whom I still talk. I coached and babysat to pay for school, but I didn’t leave the bubble of my church and high school community. I got a full-time nightshift job outside of my safe bubble. That increased my number of professional connections. I also gained a few people in my social world I can call friends, but only with one or two am I at the good friend level. I moved to a private university. Being a full-time nightwalker still, as well as a full-time student commuter left little to no time for a social life. I kept telling myself: senior year. Senior year I will call off work and go to events.
Senior year came. Everyone had friends with which they planned for events. The guys and the girls were coupled up. Guess who had neither? I did network out amazingly, but in friends for life, I am sorely lacking. “That’s ok” I’ve been telling myself. “I have my fire department family.”
I’ve been on my fire department for several years. I’m still an outsider even though it’s a small-town department which has had a member of my family on it for 4 generations. I’m the only one who went to a different school. I am one of 2 in my age group who went to college, and the other one quit coming to trainings and non-glorious calls. Make no mistake – I’m not disliked. They don’t intentionally exclude me, and every single one will have my back when needed. I’m just invisible.
Would I do anything different? Yes. I’d go to events all years of college, even if they were just study groups. Use PTO time or trade for parties, not for a night off before a big test. I would make more of an effort to make friends early on in the experience.
Being an adult has been a challenge in other ways. Not only am I missing the social life I’ve had, I’m also missing the sense of identity. I knew who I was. I’m not in choir; I’m not athletic. I was great at academic challenges. Now I feel as if I’m failing with less than an A in most classes. I no longer even feel like I have a high level of intelligence. Nobody comes to me for homework help or study tips anymore. Who am I? Everything that gave me confidence is gone. I am a shadow of my former self just trying to stay hidden from attention where that fact would be brought to light for people to wonder “what happened?”