February 13, 2017
Filed under Op-ed
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My boyfriend gasped when I told him the population of my hometown. My town is small enough that trying not to run into someone you know requires a specialized set of skills (especially on days where you don’t feel like showering just to go to Walmart for one thing).
My town is small enough that when you make a friend in first grade, she will probably end up being your best friend for life. It was scary knowing I would be leaving her to go to college two and a half hours away with not a single friendly face to be found.
It’s been a semester since then, and I still find myself worrying about making more friends. Make no mistake, it is not just a West Chester University phenomenon. A friend from home told me about a girl that is transferring because she does not feel like she belongs at her college. It’s been a semester, people! Why are we rushing this process?
There is an unprecedented amount of pressure to immediately find a group of people to identify with. I’m not sure where this sense of urgency originated from.
What’s the rush? We hardly know each other yet! Are we that scared of being alone with ourselves? Maybe we are worried that if we don’t make friends immediately, it means we don’t belong here.
We have begun to measure how much we belong in a community by how many friends we have within it. In essence, the more friends we have, the more connected we feel. That is not true!
The feeling of belonging is only something that can come from inside ourselves. It cannot, and should not, be measured in how many people we are friends with. While the two are not related, our mentalities place unnecessary pressure on ourselves, resulting in insincere friendships.
Personally, I am working on not worrying about the amount of friends I have and instead worrying more about who they are. I fear that we are getting impatient as we continue looking for friends, which leads to us settling for unhealthy friendships, and that is a mistake.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame people for wanting to feel as if they belong. It’s human nature.
I am, however, worried that some of us are not tackling this issue in the right way. We are relying on friends to make us feel something that we can only find through our own self-reflection.
I’m slowly realizing that I cannot rely entirely on other people to make myself happy. More importantly, I’m realizing that it is okay (good, even) to rely on myself. Instead of using others for constant reassurance, we should find a way to assure ourselves.
Friends are lovely, but they can’t fulfill every single one of our needs, nor should they be asked to. The only thing that matters is that we know in our hearts that we belong here, because I promise, we do.
Casey Meyer is a first-year student majoring in English literature. She can be reached at [email protected]