My posts later in the week seem to have a theme of me rambling, so we will continue on that bandwagon.
Even though I did not travel far to study abroad in a super exotic location, it is still a different country and a significant change from where I was at for over a year, even before that. I’ve been told it’s a brave decision, an exciting adventure.
But here I am, feeling everything but brave or exciting. Although I wanted to make these months focused on me as a long-term tourist, I’m still at college. It’s a school-type environment that I’ve been incorporated in within some capacity basically my whole life. I know how I handle these situations. I can’t avoid the fact I live in a dorm and am going to classes and am surrounded by other students my age, and I can’t avoid the fact this is a small-enough college that people are very well established in who they consider close friends. I’m somehow behind on a game that I wasn’t planning on participating in until last year, deciding to study abroad.
It didn’t fully register to me until classes began that this is just like any other school. You see most kids, especially in college, always talking and socializing, doing things together and going out to parties and all the stereotypical activities I expect from college. It’s a concept that really bombarded me freshman year. The feeling that I wasn’t “doing college right.” I don’t like going to parties. I’m rarely spontaneous. I like going to bed early. Social situations in general make me very anxious. My anxiety has definitely improved from where it has been, but it’s always there. Unless I’m around the right people, I can consciously sense how awkward I feel and how others feel when I can’t carry on a random bit of small talk and it turns into silence.
At my home campus, it solidly took me the entire first year there to finally find my place and feel comfortable and be myself. Here, I have just over three months. I have spent far too much time panicking about missing a theoretical opportunity, that nobody here likes me and I’m just…existing. I even end up questioning people back home, that people don’t care about or remember me, that my habit for pushing people away when I’m especially anxious or depressed has resulted in me being entirely alone.
Written out, I know that isn’t true, but from a young age, I have judged myself harshly on my social abilities because I never felt like I was doing enough. I get worked up over racing thoughts about needing more friends or I’m not a good enough friend to have friends or I should feel really guilty for preferring solitude most of the time and that isn’t healthy and I need to do more.
Yes, I’ve already met super nice people here in my classes, and I’m very proud of myself for being so much more open in general with my personality, I can’t force myself into a nervous wreck over a problem I’m creating myself. Nobody is outright yelling at me that I should have way more friends and go out more often than I do except me, using some nonexistent, harsh scale of purpose and worth.
While would it be cool if I stumbled across a close friendship I’ll keep beyond these few months? Absolutely. But that’s not the reason why I decided to do this. I wanted to travel. I wanted to explore somewhere new, learn more about the world, others, and myself. It’s good to make some sort of connections and just be a friendly person to everybody, but if you’re happy with yourself and your life, that’s what matters.
I have some amazing people in my life. The friendships I hold dearest are ones that took years to develop. I admire people who are buzzing with many great friendships and can make friends with virtually anybody, I need to remember that I don’t have to be that way. I can be myself, someone who is kind and a tad awkward and friendly to others, but who believes in quality over quantity. I would much rather have one best friend who genuinely loves and cares about me, than have tons of people around me and an active social life that doesn’t fulfill me.
In reality, I want to really take this time for myself. This is a time I can be a little selfish, go on my own time to discover new places and learn how to love myself more and appreciate my life and the people I do have, not the theoretical people I’m “supposed” to have. I’m already outside of my comfort zone from my normal location and routine. I want to challenge myself but still take care of myself.
And what’s wrong with just exploring places alone? (Note: there is a very distinct difference between “solitude” and “isolation.” I know both well; the former is my preference.) I tote being independent, but here’s my chance to put words to actions. It’s only been two weeks, and I’ve already had an amazing time going on nature walks and taking in the beautiful campus and quaint downtown area. I’m not about to hold myself back if everyone else is out doing something else. I have trouble distinguishing between cultivating a meaningful relationship and trying to keep or build a connection just to say I did. This is the perfect opportunity to embrace the difference.
Before I go, I just want to add a HUGE thank you to every single person out there who holds me dear, who wishes me best, who cares about me and everything I am. You mean the world to me. Life gets busy, I get anxious, and I can horrible at keeping up with conversations, but know that I love you and am blessed beyond words.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie