As I stepped out of the taxi from Reagan National Airport and into my third year of college, I was greeted by waves of freshmen in their Sunday night’s best, eager for a climax to their NSO experience. As I weaved through the noisy, sweaty debauchery on my walk to the front door of my house (after enduring a 30-hour plane ride, mind you), I never felt more alone.
Georgetown is undoubtedly a social place, and I’ve met my fair share of wonderful people who have shared and challenged my interests. But my silly heart is set—sometimes for a little too much, and perhaps at the expense of my friends—on the moments when I’m not around anyone.
These moments have permeated my college experience day and night, such as when you spend the entire Saturday afternoon in your five-person apartment, where the only companion until sunset is your laptop. When the roommate who was always napping in your room is no longer in your room, but now studying abroad. When you’re around strangers you don’t really want to talk to at a party, and you pretend to check new messages on your phone when none are coming your way. When you meet that friend who was previously the confidant you thought you had in your freshman year dorm and is now running in between classes in the narrow ICC stairwell, exchange awkward glances, and leave your own greeting hanging as he runs into the distance. In fact, these moments have come to define my time at Georgetown, to an extent.
For the majority of my childhood, I rarely had to exercise any discretion over my life’s direction. I was merely a member of a larger mass of youth experiencing the same things, and while I didn’t have the most exciting social life, I never truly felt alone. We—my classmates and I—all had to commute to school and back. We all had to take high school examinations, and undergo the college application grind. After hours, we would all turn on our computers at home and gossip online.
In college—or anywhere away from home, really—everyone gets pushed in a million different directions. I might be sharing a similar experience as you: running in between classes, applying for internships, answering calls from parents, sending emails to strangers, and consistently worrying about life in the future tense. But in reality, when I spend the entire day walking around on a campus thousands of miles away from home and talking to nobody but myself from dawn to dusk, I feel adrift in an echo chamber, and my insecurities and worries amplify themselves.
In my solitude, I tend to forget the fact that no one I meet has an obligation to become my friend or to have any obligations towards me, really. As much as I try to smile, learn new things about others, and generally to be an amicable human being to be around, I will never have any control over what other people think of me. I begin to waver and ask myself: why did that person never respond to my text? Why did that person in my Japanese class refuse to acknowledge my presence and then proceed to make snide remarks about the Voice loudly in class? Why do I feel left behind at a school constantly that is buzzing with action at all hours of the day?
To lapse into tunnel vision, fixated on a lost cause, is to deny the greater potential ahead: to meet and greet more new people who might bring better opportunities than the experiences than those I’ve already had. It’s unfair for the acquaintances and friends who’ve decided, either consciously or not, to distance themselves from me if I continue to force myself onto them; it’s also unfair for me to somehow change myself into something I’m not, in an attempt to fit in with those who no longer want to have anything to do with me.
In retrospect, I think that the increasing isolation I felt from moving thousands of miles away from home onto a campus and moving away from the sweaty commune of Darnall Hall into a townhouse away from campus thrust me into adulthood. By no longer having the convenience of always being around the people I know and love, I can only place trust in my fragile connections and hope that my friends, wherever they are, will still want to spend some more valuable moments together in our lives.
And so, I sit in my room, alone, and confident that after studying abroad in college, I will return home eager to seek companionship at a movie or a restaurant and catch up with some old friends. I plan on reviving a long-dormant message thread with someone I met over the summer, offering a time for both of us to Skype and see one another again. I hope that I’ll begin the next day hoping that I will be there for somebody wherever I am, and somebody will be there for me.
Kenneth Lee is a junior in the SFS and the online editor for the Voice. Carrying On is a rotating column written by Voice staffers.