When I turned 18 this past July, nothing really felt different. It’s true that I am now legally able to vote, buy cigarettes (although I don’t plan to do so – don’t smoke, kids!), and sign my own medical forms, but I’m still the same clumsy, antisocial little fiend I’ve always been. However, what did change was that my emergence into society as a fully-fledged adult suddenly seemed to be drawing alarmingly close.
It was time, tragically, to say goodbye to those lovely childhood days of mindlessly going to and from school at the same time each day, having my parents nag me into shape, and being able to step barefoot into the shower at home without worrying about the complete lack of sanitation. As expected, we incoming freshmen have more freedom than ever before, but along the way we lost the privileges of being minors.
As I lay in bed last night, I started missing the comforts of home and family. My mother being the overprotective sort, I’d never spent more than a couple nights consecutively away from home. Also, the mattress was reminiscent of a brick. I wanted to run home right then and there.
Now, my friends, let me give you some advice on how to avoid a nervous breakdown and becoming a sobbing, homesick wreck.
1. Bring a memento.
Turning over in bed for the umpteenth time, mattress springs creaking all the while, I happened to fling my rubbery arm against a familiarly, comfortingly soft and spongy object. It was Winnie the Pooh! It was my one and only, my faithful, beautiful Winnie the Pooh.
There’s a funny story behind these cylindrical bears. I gave my cousin one of these little guys for his birthday a couple years ago. Nearly a year later, on my birthday, my older brother handed me a gift bag with none other than Winnie the Pooh inside. About half a year after that, my wonderful friends bought me a gift to cheer me up when I was having some issues. It was – you guessed it – Winnie the Pooh. I’m not done yet. A few months later, a friend gave me a birthday gift, and then there were three.
I had to laugh at the memory. I hugged Pooh and thought about those people and what I could do to make them proud (i.e. not run away from reality).
2. Keep in touch with old friends.
If you’re a teenager with a smartphone, you are probably already doing this. It seems completely reasonable. Yet, when I was a high school junior, I seriously considered throwing away all my old friends and entering college as a blank slate, with no ties to the past. This was such a good opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Thankfully, I spent my final year of high school appreciating the relationships that had taken so long to build, and they are now among my greatest treasures.
Texting my friends is something I’d done all the time back at home. Sending them Snapchats of random bits of my new college life is oddly calming. Still, the best part is when they respond with comments or their own snapshots of their own new lives. We’re together even though we’re hundreds of miles apart.
3. Participate in welcoming events.
Large parties? I abhor them with a passion. I don’t like crowds, and I don’t like loud music. Unfortunately, it is necessary for people to peel themselves out of their comfort zones in order to grow. You’ll learn to stand on your own two feet and grow a spine of steel. I’m sure you’ve heard similar things from several other people before, but it really is true. These events get freshmen to gather in a relatively small area, forcing them to infringe on each other’s personal space. And with that –
4. Make new friends.
Did you know that people are generally friendly? You could just be standing in line when the person behind you says, “Hey” and introduces him/herself. People will spontaneously approach you and ask your name and major. All you need to do is smile and not let the conversation die out (I’m not great at this). Sure, it might be difficult for some of you, but hey, if a shut-in like me can do it, so can you.
Make new friends and build a new family. You’ll be here for (probably) four years, after all.
5. Keep a journal.
I’m a very scatterbrained person, so I need a journal to help organize my thoughts and lock memories into my brain. Not only does this help me remember what happened, it distracts me from waxing nostalgic. Instead of “I really miss John, Jack, and Jill,” it’s “Today I met Tom and Jerry.” It might even be, “I just saw Dean Matsuda was dancing in the courtyard,” (true story). You start thinking about everything you’ll do tomorrow. You fall asleep smiling. Living in the present is a great way to forge a path into the future.
I have to admit that I’m being quite hypocritical right now. I left the Welcome BBQ after 15 minutes because (1) I couldn’t stand the party atmosphere and (2) no one was fighting for the shower. Also, I skipped the free football game because I don’t like football, crowds, or excessive screaming/cheering. There is an event going on downstairs, and I am in my room, alone, in the dark, blogging. Blogging.
Despite everything I just said, it is okay to spend some time alone. Otherwise, if you’re an introvert, you’ll implode. However, I think I will go see what’s happening downstairs. What about you?