Coming out of the pandemic and into college, I knew what my biggest fear was… being alone. I have always struggled with that idea. Not so much in an existential way, but more in a day-to-day, social anxiety kind of way. How could I go to the gym by myself? How could I go to the mall without being accompanied by a group of friends? The thought of being alone was, in one word, humiliating. I don’t know where this fear came from. I have been lucky to have a steady roll of good friends throughout my life, whether they were with me in person or through facetime. But still, the fear persisted, only worsening during the pandemic.
At the end of the summer, I, for the first time, went to see a film by myself, and it was revitalizing. I felt in total control, not worrying about whether the person I was with was enjoying the film as much as me, and knowing that I could leave whenever I felt like it. I realized that I wanted to feel that freedom more. Along with these feelings of excitement, I was also preparing myself for the reality of moving to go to college. I was going to have to spend time alone, in a new city where I knew no one. But still, the idea of being alone mortified me. Sitting and eating alone in the dining hall? How could I possibly do that? It’s not that I judge others for doing the things I am too afraid to do – I envy them. I envy those who are able to be themselves, unafraid and unapologetic to just do their own thing and not worry about what anyone else thinks of them.
I have been trying to overcome this fear in small ways each day. Going to get coffee in the mornings, spending time studying in the library, joining clubs and going to events where I know no one. Just after doing this for the five or six weeks that I’ve been here, I have noticed my confidence increase an amazing amount. I enjoy my morning walks alone, and choosing exactly where I want to sit in the dining hall at lunch. Nowadays, in our world of social media and (for me at least) dorm living, being able to be alone and not experience constant FOMO is something to be proud of. I cannot say that I’m there yet. I still get anxious and compare exactly how I’m spending my evening to the people I see partying on social media. But I am trying to learn how to live my own life, and I encourage everyone else who feels even a tiny bit like me to try the same.
Working on myself and my mental health has been a big part of the first quarter of ASU for me. Upon arriving, I was completely overwhelmed. I freaked out over the smallest social interaction and wanted to cry every evening (and to be honest, I often did). However, as time went on, I was able to adjust to the small things. I have been able to get into a routine, and feel so much better for it. Looking back, my main advice to freshman in their first six weeks would be this: do not expect things to be perfect immediately. I know that TikTok makes freshman year sound like the best year of your life, and hopefully it will be, but you have to give it time. “Do not disturb yourself by imagining your whole life at once” – Marcus Aurelius.