Looking for Labels

The college tours so many of us have been on are filled with anecdotes about friendship, the websites we scrolled through as we researched schools are complete with pictures of people, spending time in groups. Thus, it’s a given that when we come to college, we’ll find a friend group. I know I was certainly expecting to meet “my people” when I first started college. But it didn’t exactly happen that way. In fact, three and half years later, I still haven’t found a group. What I’ve learned however, is that it’s okay, healthy even, to not belong to a group.

The first few months of my college career were difficult, mainly because it felt like everyone around me had found their group and thus their place, but I was still searching. I had met individual people that I liked and could see those friendships developing in the future, but I didn’t have the group that I could meet for dinner every night. And I felt as though I needed that group, because that was the college norm. Everyone had their group, so why should I be any different?

The ten-week terms flew by quickly and by the time sophomore year rolled around, I still hadn’t found a group. I began to resign myself to the fact that I might never find that group that I was seeking. But I began to get more involved in activities that meant a lot to me. I met people through those activities, and though I didn’t necessarily find my group, I expanded my circle, while also participating in activities that I was passionate about. While I might not have had a “friend group,” I no longer felt as lonely. Simply spending time around people made me feel more connected to others. I also realized that I didn’t need to belong to one group in order to be fulfilled. There are many aspects to my identity, and I realized that I’m at my best when I’m embracing all of them.

People have an unrelenting desire to sort others into groups at every stage in life. You’re one thing or the other, but you can’t be both. In middle school, you were either a "Potterhead" or a Hunger Games fanatic. When it comes to politics, you’re a hardcore liberal or a die-hard conservative. In terms of personality, you’re either an extrovert who surrounds herself with others all of the time, or you’re an introvert who does the opposite. We’re constantly encouraged to adopt labels for ourselves and others. Yet life doesn’t really work that way. People can’t be defined by sticking a label on them – they’re multidimensional. You don’t need to be part of a “group,” and chances are, even if you have a strong core group of friends, there are still other people outside of your group that you’re close to. For me, embracing all of the things that I love helped me to discover interests I never even knew I had. In discovering those new interests, I had new ways to connect with people. And rather than looking for a label to define myself by, I was able to take pride in all of the things, no matter how big or small, that comprise my identity.