As college sits days away yet again, it’s all I can seem to think about. I know that even during the summer I was still a college student, being enrolled in classes and all; however, I have thoroughly perfected compartmentalizing my life, and college is no exception.
As I was busy hopping from city to city, concert to concert, sleeping till noon and abiding by my own schedule this summer, I did not feel like a college student. As the fragile humans we are, we tend to base our lives on how we feel. So, because I didn’t feel like a college student, I didn’t think, plan, or give any attention whatsoever to the giant mountain that is college.
Now that this compartment of my life is back by popular demand, things are about to change, starting first and foremost with an exponentially rapid increase in my sticky note use. Everything about college just makes my organizational skills take steroids.
On a less exciting (sticky) note, everything about college brings out the broken pieces of me. When I am at home with my family, I have the home field advantage. If I feel really sad, I don’t have to leave the house. If my social skills are maxed out at the unfortunately early time of five p.m., I can shower and get in bed, no questions asked.
I don’t have to interact with people I don’t know if I don’t want to, I know exactly where my family is at all times, and my safe fortress of a best friend is a mere five minute drive away.
In college, none of those things are true. If I wake up wearing a thin layer of sadness less like a veil and more like a pair of handcuffs, despite the fact that my 8 a.m. class is waiting for me, I have to go. I have to drag myself out into the world and participate as if mental illness has a pause button, making it superior and more enjoyable than the common cold.
Would my peers understand? Would my professor happily excuse me from class?
Of course not.
There are endless things to love about college, but common courtesy to those excruciatingly introverted and cursed with anxiety is not one of them. College has helped me grow in endless areas of my life, but unfortunately, it has deeply increased my anxiety. I love people, I am utterly fascinated by them, but I do not wish to be surrounded by them at all times.
Some days are harder than others, and the days when I am borderline shaking ready to crawl into a hole seem to be the days I am approached by the most organization-driven advocates, males wanting to “chat,” and students offering unnecessary small talk. My ultimate enemy is Satan, and nine times out of ten he approaches me wearing the dark mask of social anxiety.
College is not social anxiety-friendly. I feel forced all the time to attempt to be someone I’m not; a happy-go-lucky extrovert ready to be best friends with everyone I meet.
I am constantly being rushed, being approached, being touched by people I don’t even know. I never really feel comfortable enough to just simply explain I’m having a “sad day” and I prefer to be alone. Just today I prefer to draw my curtains and be in silence. Calm the shakiness. Sleep off the worrying.
But that’s the thing, I shouldn’t have to explain myself, my self-given curfew, my silence. I don’t owe you anything. I would like to think that the people near and dear to me think I am lovely and enjoyable. Just because you don’t really know me all that well and catch me on a bad day, not willing to do so much as make eye contact, doesn’t mean I am rude. I promise you I am avoiding a mental breakdown, not you.
Whether you are in college or not, I encourage you to always always always be kind. Everyone is unique, and as you meet new people, you can’t assume anything about them. They could be a bursting extrovert, but they could also be severely introverted. They could love all the questions you’re asking them, but your stream of curiosity could also be increasing their heart rate.
I am not saying that I live my life in fear, but I do feel like I am definitely more cautious than I would like to be when approaching average, everyday situations.
My mind is quick to be anxious. Waiting in line, riding the bus, walking to class, sitting alone, all common activities that make my mind wander until it worries. I tend to assume the worst more than I would like, assuming people don’t really want to have anything to do with me.
Perhaps if our world would address the pains of anxiety on a more deeper level and not be afraid to ask others how they feel about certain situations, the college environment along with our society in general would be a much more welcoming place. If someone looks uncomfortable, try to accommodate them.
If someone is acting like they want to leave, let them. A no is a no, and if I say no towards a situation, I owe absolutely nothing towards backing it up. Social anxiety is embarrassing, which in return typically leads to more social anxiety. Crying in public is one of my least favorite things, and I can’t tell you how many times someone simply asking me if I was alright would have improved the dilemma I was currently in the midst of.
College is a large, loud environment, and it is so easy to clump everyone together as the student body and forget to see individual faces. We are a people so eager to get behind movements, political parties, and organizations, but I beg of you to first and foremost get behind the individual. Just having one person fully see you and fully love you simultaneously can make all the difference.
Anxiety screams, but a selfless, understanding soul can help turn it into a whisper.