Even though I’m seven years older than my sister, there’s no doubt that we’re related. We’ve got the same nose and eyes, and even though she’s been experimenting with hair dye, our roots are the same exact color.
But despite all these physical similarities, our family loves to talk about the one big thing that made us so very different — our social lives.
We moved to Maryland from Idaho when I was entering seventh grade and my sister was starting kindergarten. At the end of that first school year, she’d had countless playdates, sleepovers and soccer team dinners. My social calendar for the year was… a little emptier. Like, consistently spent-weekends-binge-watching-“Doctor Who” empty.
I’m an introvert. My sister is an extrovert. It took me two years to find a solid group of friends that I liked to hang out with, and even then, I spent most of my time with the same three people.
I chose to come to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln because I didn’t want to go to the same college as all my high school classmates. I wasn’t friends with them, and I didn’t want to have to pretend to be friendly with people I didn’t care about. Unfortunately, this plan worked a little too well. I was pretty much living in isolation for the first few months of my first semester of college in the fall of 2019.
There was so much pressure to establish relationships and friendships right at the beginning of college. I went to all the little trivia nights and movie nights for my dorm and made awkward contact with every person who looked like they also had a Percy Jackson hyper fixation in middle school, but I didn’t really find friends. I was forcing myself to talk to people because I felt like if I didn’t make friends during the first week, I never would.
But I don’t perform well under pressure. All the connections I made felt rushed. I felt like I had to present my inner-self to these people right away, and that’s just not how I operate. It made me awkward and stressed, and I don’t know about you, but it’s really hard for me to enjoy the company of others when I’m constantly running through the list of all the things I need to do in order to earn their friendship.
It felt like there were a million opportunities to “make friends” during the first two weeks of freshman year and then, if you hadn’t found your people by then, well, have fun watching Netflix alone in your dorm on Friday nights.
I really did try to put myself out there, but I can’t form fast bonds with people. Some people can, and that’s great, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. I spent the first two months of college thinking I was going to spend every Friday night in a world of lonely escapism when the reality was making friends just took a little time. My best friend in the entire world is my suitemate from freshman year, but I didn’t start to consider her a friend until three months into living with her.
I still don’t have a ton of friends, but I have a handful of people across campus that I enjoy spending time with. The turning point for me and my friendship journey was when I stopped going to events just to meet people and started doing things I wanted to do. I got a job at the Writing Center and The Daily Nebraskan and met some really cool people who I had a lot in common with. If I had just stuck to going to events I saw in my “Next At Nebraska” emails, I never would’ve met these cool cats.
Not to sound too cheesy, but seriously, if you just focus on being yourself and doing what makes you happy, you’re going to find your people. And if you don’t, well, feel free to submit a Letter to the Editor telling me how my advice ruined your college experience. Maybe someone else who hates my advice will see your letter, and then you’ll find a lifelong friend.
Sydney Miller is a senior psychology major. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.