If you are a college freshman, or new to college, this is for you. If you are in a new time in life where you don't know where this change is going to take you, where you might not have your community yet, this is for you. Or even if you are stuck in a rut of everyday life where the new normal is quarantine and isolation, this is also for you.
The new normal of life is to not be social. It is normal to not go out places — it's even revered to stay in and isolate yourself from others. I know that, given the circumstances, this has been critical to the physical health of ourselves and others, yet it has been detrimental to the mental health of those who thrive off community.
I'm new to the whole college scene, and in the middle of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, have struggled. I have always been a people person — I love having that sense of community that you can only receive with close friends. But when quarantine and isolation started, I found it hard to relate and find that community again.
I was just about to graduate high school when it all started, so it quickly became the "new normal" for me and tons of others. Don't go anywhere without a mask. Hand sanitizer became the hottest accessory. You can't hug, high-five, or even fist-bump without being looked down upon.
We all had this one major transition to go through. When I decided to go away to college, I thought it couldn't be as hard as what we are already experiencing. But boy, was I wrong.
Because I am such a people-person, not being able to find that community of people was hard. Even just not being able to see people's faces or to see a smile was hard. I was in a new place, living with two people that I didn't really know, hundreds of miles away from my comfort, my family, and my home. I struggled.
Those first few weeks, maybe even the first two months, I would hole myself up in my dorm room. I didn't have anyone to talk to, and I fell into darkness thinking I was alone in this. Whenever I even thought about talking to someone I did not know well, or when I would get excited about going to a social gathering (where masks and social distancing were mandated, of course) I would quickly have the intense feeling of fear and anxiety. My heart would race and my head would spin so fast that I would stay inside. It was an extreme cycle of hope and excitement about cultivating new relationships, to then face fear and anxiety because I didn't know if I could do it.
This physical reaction to what was going on in my heart and my mind scared me even more. I have never been like this — I've always been the first person to step out and meet someone new. It felt never-ending. Eventually, I came to the realization that, like myself, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of students just like me who had the feeling of isolation was taking over their lives. Every freshman or first-year student is going through this — feeling lonely like they have no-one to go to. If this article does anything, I hope it encourages you that you are not alone. Don't be afraid to come out of your shell. Don't be afraid to take that first step and meet new people.
Stay safe, but know that this feeling of isolation and aloneness will pass. You will find your people. You will meet your community. You will be able to lead and minister to others going through the same thing that you are experiencing now when you see a victory on the other side.