Ellen Willis is a sophomore at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in Film & Television. She plans to specialize in screenwriting with a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology.
Oh no. It’s really happening. Your palms are sweatier than a glacier at an Alabama state fair, your heart seems to resemble that of a racing Apache tribal drum, and your heavy head starts to feel like a cheap Party City balloon with way too much helium inside thanks to the disappointed employee who was supposed to end up in Yale instead of his local party store. It’s a classic tragedy. You are sitting all alone in that college dining-hall, not a single familiar face in sight. It’s high school all over again – no one to sit with at lunch will earn you a swift reality smack to the ego and a merciless bullet train to the bottom of the social food chain. But something is different here. This is not your fluorescently lit high school cafeteria with the supervising gaze of the underpaid gym teacher on your back – no, this is college – your leap of faith into the canyon of independence, your stab at this thing called adulthood.
College is much more than shipping your life to a new location in a hoard of FedEx boxes, even more than saying an emotional and bittersweet goodbye to the familiar nooks and crannies of your sweet hometown. College is your time to evolve – a personal metamorphosis in which you not only adjust to the changes around you, but the changes within you. This universal human tendency to place our identity in the familiarities around us, such as our tried and true friends around the high school lunch table, finally has the opportunity to grow into something more. Rather than finding personal value in those familiar faces and things around you, take the leap to college as a time to look within yourself and into your own unique identity, unlike any other in the starriest reaches of the universe. Your identity does not lie in the ever-changing peers and personalities around you, but the stagnant heartbeat that you (and only you) can call your own.
Friends and acquaintances will naturally come and go, and if our self-respect, worth, and value are placed in this idea that we are never allowed to be alone, to be without constant company to prove to the outside world that we are well liked, we will soon find ourselves on a sinking ship. Since when is it a sin to be alone, to be forced to look within ourselves and spend time with our own thoughts? This feeling of obligation to constantly surround ourselves with other people simply provides a temporary distraction to unlocking harmony within ourselves – the ultimate and unlimited resource of peace with yourself that will make that college experience much more enjoyable and rewarding. Forget the pressures of social life; laugh at what you want to, say what you want to say, be who you wish to be. Find the peace within your own soul first, find the value and respect in simply being you, and the tranquil flow of genuine companionship and friendship in college will soon follow.