Many of life's most abrupt changes and exhilarating detours leave us feeling out of place.
Sometimes the period of adjustment lasts longer than we'd like, even when our new circumstances are just as good if not better than they were before.
I've often felt like an outsider amongst those who adjust well to new situations. I find myself standing on the sidelines wondering what is wrong with me. I feel alone, like I am the only one struggling to adapt to a new environment, make close friends, and find my place. Assuming that others have an easier time at this that I do, I constantly second-guess everything about my circumstances. If I experience even a brief moment of insecurity, the quick conclusion I jump to is that I am just in the wrong place.
There must be something different about me.
I'm not like them.
They don't like me.
Truthfully, it would be so easy to go backwards and retreat into familiarity and security. But growth does not come that way. This struggle reminds me of the way it feels to move on from a painfully ended relationship. It's difficult, feels unnatural, and sometimes you want to run back to the person you needed to leave, whether it was a friend or a "romantic buddy." The strange feeling of new-ness and insecurity will not last, though, and the growth that you hope for will come when you commit wholeheartedly to letting yourself move on and move forward.
The lesson I find myself in the middle of learning right now is that the feeling of being out of place does not mean that I am the only odd duck. Although I sometimes experience the sentiment of a fish trying to climb a tree or a penguin trying to fly, I am choosing to believe that there is meaningful purpose even in this confusing stage.
Watching the quick-adjusters go on midnight adventures and host hang-outs with thirty-plus friends at a time, I question whether or not the "typical college experience", as it's been called, is right for me. I label myself as a weirdo, like a fish out of water, when I see social media clips of classmates and familiar faces out being reckless every weekend, and I find myself discouraged when my dissatisfied comments are met with, "well, that's what the college years are for".
The choice that I have made is to begin my intentional life where I am right now, to make purposeful what I sometimes see as pointless, and to make use of every precious and fleeting moment. Every day I have to remind myself of the fact that I am okay even when I feel different. I hold onto the truth that life is beautiful enough without getting high, and I let go of the idea that I don't fit in because I want more than a hangover out of my Saturday morning.
Struggling to adjust in a new environment is an inevitable part of life, and just as circumstances change, so will the people around you. Your friend group may evolve, disappear, grow, and then expand again in the course of only a year. Acknowledge that change can be uncomfortable, take a deep breath, and live out the convictions that make you who you are.
Don't let the feeling of being out of place discourage you, because it's only a feeling. There's going to be challenges regardless of your environment, so make the perspective-changing decision today to be the salt and light that you want to see in the people around you.
Take advantage of every breathtaking minute, friends, and don't let your fleeting feelings of uncertainty pull you away from your individual purpose-- even if that purpose is standing out when you just want to blend in.