The last time I went to school (I’m not counting last year because, well, you know) was over four years ago. I graduated high school with a fancy diploma and a whole lot of emotional baggage. I felt like it was all a waste. I didn’t feel any smarter after graduating, form any close, lifetime bonds with people or get any taller. That last one might’ve been what upset me the most back then, if I’m being perfectly honest. I knew that I wasn’t in the right emotional or mental state to go through college. I’d probably burn out, give up and have wasted a bunch of time and money. I just wanted to get away from everything and everyone. So I did. I left the country and flew across the ocean, back to my hometown. I thought if I went there and took some time away, I might be able to come back as a better person.
The time I spent living overseas for three years was exactly what I needed. I worked with and met the most amazing people. I managed to make those close friendships I wasn’t able to before, and I finally learned a couple of basic social skills. Can you believe I didn’t have even the slightest idea of how to talk to people until I was in my 20s? Actually, I’m still not that good at it, and being locked away during a pandemic sure didn’t help. But I’m a much more well-adjusted and decent person than when I was in high school.
That said, I’m pretty scared of my first actual year of college. Being around so many people and not knowing any of them? Having to be face-to-face with the professor who told you your essay lacked “purpose,” whatever that means? Walking between classes? Being perceived and quietly judged by the people you pass by? It sounds so awful just typing it out. It’s how conscious I am of myself that freaks me out.
I haven’t actually interacted with other students in so long. What if I’m still as weird and unlikeable as I was in high school? What if 22 is the new 50 and I fail to connect with the youth of today? What if I spend the rest of college not able to make friends with anyone and I look back on this article and think “well I’m wrong most of the time, why couldn’t I have been wrong that time?”
I’m being a little dramatic obviously, but I am pretty unnerved about coming into contact with people again after spending the last year hiding away in the safety of my house, handling everyone at screen’s length. Even though I’m way better with people now than I was in high school, and even though I try to make more of an effort to talk to people, I still struggle with social anxiety. I’m always picking out everything I think is wrong or off about me, and living with the constant worry that others will pick out those same things and hate me for it. I tend to overthink everything and wonder if I screwed up a social interaction so bad that they’ll never speak to me again. So that’s a lot of fun. Having said that, I would still very much like to have a real college life instead of whatever that virtual learning stuff was. I like people, even though they scare me a little bit, and I’ve been trying to think of college as a chance to start over as a new, somewhat better me. I think taking things one step at a time and not worrying too much about what someone else thinks about me will go a long way. We’re all in the same boat and just trying to get by, right? I’ll commit a somewhat awkward faux-pas, they’ll forget in a day or two, and the world keeps spinning. Really, my greatest anxiety is the possibility of things going wrong and us being back at square one: locked up at home, trying to learn and talk to people through a screen. I think it’d be pretty cool if we could avoid that. You know, by wearing a mask, social distancing, not going to school if you’re sick and getting vaccinated if you can — all that good stuff. And I mean, the vaccines are free. This might be the only time you’ll get free, easily accessible, life-saving medicine in America. Maybe that’ll be a fun story to tell your grandkids someday.
Nah, who am I kidding. Grandkids? In this economy?