Written by Vanessa Ho
Edited by Morgan Jenkins
the experiences of a freshman of two-months navigating the hidden realities of college
there’s a saying that goes “we are born alone and we die alone”. i never really fully understood what is meant by the phrase until recently when i got to college.
growing up, i absolutely despised being alone. for me, being alone meant i was left to battle with my thoughts. being alone meant i was bombarded with never-ending streams of thoughts that polluted my mind. being alone meant falling down the rabbit hole of “you have no friends. you are worthless. you are annoying. people don’t like hanging out with you. they’re avoiding you. no one cares about you. you will be alone forever”.
in my mind, “fun” always meant “being with other people”. that’s why, while watching shows like gossip girls, legally blonde, and pitch perfect, i often fantasized about what my future life in college would be like. i’d always imagined meeting my best friends on the first day. i imagined endlessly partying until the morning. i imagined fancy dinners and hour-long shopping sprees. i idolized the college lifestyle that people often gloat about on social media - thinking that the raving at tailgates, the partying all night, and the daily brunch dates at cute cafes would be my saving grace from loneliness. the “college life” became the light at the end of my tunnel — something i yearned for as a means to escape my fear of being alone. i convinced myself that, in some shape or form, this college lifestyle was the “life-changing” experience that people often refer to.
as much as i’d like to write about how college has been an absolute dream and how it has completely transformed me into this incredibly independent person who doesn’t need anyone to realize her worth and to be “okay”, i can’t. i still hate being alone. and deep down, i know that i will never be able to completely escape my fear of being alone.
but here’s what i’ve learned so far.
college isn’t just the partying until the sun rises or the nightly dinners at fancy restaurants or even the endless shopping sprees with your galpals “just for fun”. college is also being holed up in the library until closing, alone. it is sitting in a crowded lecture hall alone, walking down bay state road jamming to taylor swift alone, and even eating dinner alone. college is about accepting the fact that there will be moments where you are alone, and learning how to be okay with being alone.
there are two ways to look at the phrase “we are born alone and we die alone”. on one hand, the phrase emphasizes the essential loneliness that comes with being human and the inevitability of being alone. as much as we’d like to fill the void of our loneliness with instagram posts of us “living the life” or snapchat stories of us partying, there will be moments where we sit in a crowded lecture hall alone. there will be moments where we walk on comm ave. alone. there will be moments where we are forced to eat alone. but rather than focusing on how i have to go through it alone, i take comfort in knowing that there are others who are also going through what i am going through. there are others who sit in the dining hall alone. there are others who have yet to find their “best friend”. there are others who walk to class alone.
but on the other hand, the phrase highlights the fact that while our beginnings and endings may be predetermined, our journey is yet to be written. it’s like how that one saying goes, “life is not about the destination. it’s about the journey”. by letting ourselves focus too much on the fact that we are alone, or that being alone is unavoidable, we often forget that being alone is actually not that bad. you are in control of your life — of your emotions, your thoughts, and your actions.
so rather than letting yourself wallow in those moments of loneliness, embrace those moments. appreciate the peace that comes with being alone. appreciate the silence that allows you to reflect on the journey you’ve taken and what’s to come. appreciate the fact that, before anyone, you are, and always will be, your own best friend. it is in these moments of “aloneliness”, which tend to be mistaken with “loneliness”, that we are able to reflect, to learn, to grow, and to truly understand who we are as a person — our interests, our sense of self, and our passions.
being alone can be overwhelming, especially for someone who so often tries to surround herself with people to feel “okay”. and even as i’m writing this, i still often forget that being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. but, i can confidently say that as a college freshman of two months, my most “life-changing” experience so far is taking those first steps to battle my fear of loneliness — allowing myself to understand and accept the fact that being alone is normal.