I had a lot of different expectations coming in to my first year at San Diego State.
Dorm life, a packed schedule and new friends were all things on my radar as I drove down Montezuma Road on move-in-day. While my time here as a freshman thus far has been nothing short of fantastic, there’s one thing I’ve been going through that no one talks about. It is something I know my peers, friends and roommates are most likely going through as well — loneliness.
How can we be lonely when we’re surrounded with nothing but people? More than 30,000 people accompany me here at SDSU. I live in a small dorm room on a floor with a lot of other people. This loneliness stems from being in a sea of new faces, but not having a deep connection with any of them.
This loneliness is not the, “I don’t have anyone to talk to and I’m left alone all the time” type of loneliness. We go to parties, drive to Ocean Beach and eat at Pancho’s with all of the new people in our life, but have often yet to genuinely click with any of these people. Deep friendships like the ones we left behind after graduation take time to develop, and the expectation that these kinds of friendships will develop overnight is a myth that needs to be left at home.
By the end of our senior year of high school, we’ve had the same friends and routine for four years. You’re close to your best friend, your family and maybe a significant other. Graduation rolls around and suddenly you’re miles and miles away from most of the people you love. It’s hard. But we’re all in the same boat.
Before college started, I was under the impression that everyone on my floor would be best friends before classes even started. I thought I’d be out having fun all the time and making friends with people in my classes. Not to say this isn’t happening or that I have no friends, just that it’s not happening at the rate I expected. There’s a lot more downtime than there was in high school, so a lot of the time I find myself eating or doing homework solo. This feels odd to me now, but I know I’ll come to value these pockets of alone time as the year goes on.
This doesn’t mean I’m not having a good time and I that I’ve felt anxious since I’ve been here. I am doing fun things with fun people and starting to create little routines with certain people.
However, freshman loneliness is the one thing I wasn’t prepared for coming to college. I went dorm shopping and bought pepper spray, but was never given the heads up that, “Hey, you might not feel excited for your freshman year at all times, but that’s normal.” Freshmen come in prepared to struggle with a heavy course load and communal bathrooms, but not prepared on how to navigate this unique and, at times, challenging, new social landscape.
We all want to feel a sense of belonging. By the end of my senior year of high school, I had all of my loved ones within arms reach. Now, it’s texts and FaceTime calls between classes and before bed. Freshmen are left looking for that same feeling, and they often feel like they’re doing something wrong when it still hasn’t happened yet.
This is an issue because no one talks about how you’ll be feeling once your parents drive away on move-in-day. I wasn’t prepared for this odd mix of anxiety and anticipation of my future. All of my new friends are amazing, but they don’t know me on a deep level yet. This instinctual need for closeness is what fuels this sort of empty feeling. I’m starting college at my dream university, I’m meeting new people, but I’m still getting adjusted.
I think a large part of the problem is the expectation society puts on college freshman to fall in love with their new lives the second they step foot on campus. People will feel uneasy, depressed or even decide the college experience isn’t for them. All of these things are valid.
Everyone finds their own way at their own pace. One thing we need to be better at as a collective whole is getting the message across that it will take time for you to feel genuinely grounded your first year.
Only after I started opening up to people did I realize that other people felt this way, too. It’s okay that you haven’t found someone that’s your “ride or die” yet. Walking to class or getting dinner alone is okay. If you don’t have a group to go to a party with, that’s okay too. We’re all finding our way within this massive campus.
I love my roommates and new friends. I miss my mom and my best friend. But, I love the new routine I’m slowly developing. Whether you’re best friends with your roommate or don’t speak to them, we’ll all find our people — eventually.
Sam Mason is a freshman studying criminal justice. Follow her on Twitter @sammmason.