First-Years Fall into Herds: A First-Year’s Journey Toward Being OK With Being Alone


You can tell who the first-years are by how they walk. I noticed it on the first day I was here. As I walked from Shove Chapel to the welcome tunnel, I saw clumps of anxious faces packed together.

I felt self-conscious because I was not a part of these masses. I was alone. Questions filled my head: “How have they already made friends? Is something wrong with me?” I looked around and instead of focusing on all the groups, I noticed the people walking alone. My heart rate slowed down. “I am okay. I am not the only one alone.”

Illustration by Lo Wall

The first few days in college are downright terrifying. Everywhere I went, I was followed by the thought, “You are not good enough.” The overwhelming need to do everything and know everyone was all-consuming. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like everyone else had friends and knew the names of buildings. If I had to describe the first week in one word: “panic.”

The first weekend was even worse. How could one campus have so many activities in one night? I heard murmurs of countless parties and events. I asked my newfound friends what they were going to do, and they all told me something different. I stretched myself so thin, I am surprised I didn’t snap.

I planned out my nights in my head, “OK, I will be at this event for 30 minutes, and then I will go to my dorm and change and leave for this party, and after I will meet up with these people.” By Sunday night I was exhausted, but every sound outside of my door was the sound of someone doing something without me and FOMO (fear of missing out) would prevail. Sleep was out of the question because if I was asleep, then I would be missing out. And if I was missing out, then I was a failure.

Now I am four weeks in and wiser than ever. I’ve realized that I cannot do everything. I am prioritizing the things that feed my soul. College is a paradoxical time; you want to solidify the friendships you have, but you also want to meet new people and go out, and you also want to catch up on sleep. My strategy is this: do the things that make me happy. If I am having fun at a party, then I will stay. But once I am no longer enjoying myself, I will leave.

As long as the friends I have made give me a sense of belonging, then I will stay with them, but I will never turn down an opportunity to meet new people or try new things, like writing for The Catalyst. Growing up is realizing that it is okay to walk places alone and acknowledging that you don’t know everything yet. Honestly, I still don’t know the names of all the buildings, but the fear of not knowing, of walking somewhere alone, has diminished.

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