Second Semester Senior Year Realization #1

I wasn’t invited a get-together yesterday and my first reaction was feeling left out. Which, technically, I was. But then I realized that, had I been invited, I probably would’ve been kicking myself for going. I don’t like having to fangirl about Harry Potter all the time, or hyperbolize my homework load, or complain with the rest of my peers as they do so often. I feel a closer kinship with my professors, my home friends, my boyfriend and his older friends, and even my parents and family. Wes has been unspeakably wonderful for me in several regards, but after studying abroad, my lack of patience for being someone I’m not has proven fatal for several friendships. Although it’s an exercise in honesty I’m proud of, that doesn’t mean it’s easy or that I have a readily available second friend group to turn to.

At the beginning of last semester, I was invited to a nearly identical gathering. When I arrived, I was excited to see the friends I hadn’t talked to since pre-London. But after being offered a G&T and settling onto a couch with a quasi-friend who almost made it but was decidedly too busy and cool for me, everyone started talking about what seemed like trivial topics. I became frustrated that I was wasting my time listening to my peers try to one-up each other with prideful stories that lacked substance. So I left, disappointed, visibly bored, and distraught.

I’m grateful for these moments where I internalize reluctance to stay in college. They act as boosters to get out into the real world and thrive. But it’s tough love.

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Mirrors

Despite the fact that I did not bring a floor-length mirror to college this year, I have a feeling that the next two semesters will bring an unprecedented amount of self-reflection. (Was that a really corny opening? It seems like a typical way to start an article. Maybe it’s both.)

Since it’s the start of the semester, I’ve been meeting with a gaggle of professors to discuss employment and projects. Today I met with one who used to make me nervous. He’s not the only one who did: When I went to office hours or spoke to profs after class, the authority complex would kick in and my confidence would waver. I’d remind myself of their higher status and that I should be as humble and appreciative as possible. Today, when I saw that one prof, he very vocally exclaimed how much “older” I seemed. Twice. His intentions were extremely pure, but it almost felt a bit confrontational… similar to if someone goes over the top when complimenting someone on losing weight, to the extent that they question how they were received “before”.

Anyway, that sort of weakens my next point, but I’ll say it nonetheless: I think that studying abroad gave me a thicker skin. I’ve noticed that my level of social anxiety has plummeted compared to last year.

Finally, it seems that some of the strongest informants of how and how much I’ve changed may be my companions. It must be pretty noticeable!

I’m a Fresh Senior

I thought the extent of my reverse culture shock was my eyeroll at all the American travellers wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts. Transitioning back to life at home, working in the summer, was relatively painless. My parents and sister were still great, my relatives were still lovely, and my friends still understood me. Elior had been abroad and we’d kept up on each other’s lives, so there was little distance between us. Reconnecting with Marissa was great, being with Lilly and Cristina was fun as always. My work family at the restaurant was an amazing pool of new and old coworkers. Couldn’t get much better than this, besides missing London and travelling, but that’s to be expected.

So now I’m back at college and it’s here that RCS is impacting me the most. I knew I’d changed in some ways but that didn’t affect my relationships at home. Here, many of the friends I cultivated over 2.5 years look pretty different through a post-study abroad-colored lens.

True, it’s only my second day here. However, about 1/3 of the people I’ve seen aren’t interesting to me anymore: I’m not willing to extend my personality in ways I used to. Just like how I lost much of my bubbliness in the chasm between high school and college, I now lack the ability and patience to listen to BS. I demand realness from conversation and interaction. If we hang out, please tell me things that matter and don’t waste my time. After being abroad, I’m now especially prepared to be happy by myself somewhere else. Even though Middletown isn’t popping with culture, there are still many things I could do instead of listen to a bunch of people about whom I used to think highly chat about trivial things. I guess I’m happier being alone than I used to, too, so I’m not receiving that social self-esteem boost that attending parties used to give me. I’m happy with who I am, so although socializing is great (in some forms- see next paragraph), it’s not as powerful as it once was.

Now, I’m finding that I love to chat with cashiers and clerks and anyone with whom wants to actually talk with me. I like talking with people I don’t know. They’re each little boxes with untold facts and opinions and quirks inside. In comparison, these old college friends feel stale.

I don’t recognize the majority of the students here anymore. I feel like a freshman with the confidence and knowledge of a senior.

Yesterday, at a get-together with some kids I used to really like before London, Sarah said I looked bored. And I was. I spoke rarely, not hastening to assert my own point of view about what felt like an inconsequential topic. I dislike wasting my breath and energy.

Some people have told me that I act like I’m 25. In some ways, I agree. But knowing that makes looking at the school year ahead rather daunting.

I’m really excited for all the activities and classes to start up. Finding enough of my new chosen type of socialization will be a challenge I’m ready to accept, but not without first mourning the loss of a few friends. However, they weren’t that great to begin with. So, maybe it’s for the best. Closer to the truth.