Along with the given academic pressures that come along with starting college, there is also an unspoken set of social expectations. Upon entering college, I embarked on a journey in recreating myself. I no longer wanted to be known as the anxious, nail-biting, unconfident girl, that preferred staying in and watching a movie with a cup of tea. Knowing the social culture that college is notorious for, I decided this was my perfect opportunity to be the fun-loving cool girl that I had always wanted to be.
The first night that I settled into my new life at college, I entered a world that I so desperately wanted to belong in: a fraternity party. Here, I was no longer a cheerleader, I was no longer the girl who got dumped, I was no longer anything at all. My high school identity could be forgotten—as I was now just a girl—trying to enjoy being pushed by an innumerable amount of other girls wearing latex pants, trying to enjoy the scent of seltzers and sweat, and of course trying to look as cool as possible so that I could live out my party-girl fantasy. But that’s exactly what it was. I was trying to live out a fantasy that quickly became my own personal nightmare.
A huge part of my first year of college was trying to find a middle ground between my hidden aversion for frat parties, and my longing to feel accepted. Why did I hate what seemed to be everyone’s favorite Friday night plan? I began to find that I was forcing myself to do things that were not authentically me, instead of taking time to do things that made me feel good. I was stuck at a crossroads as I watched everyone bond over Toga Tuesday while I had to say “no” and just take a night for myself.
The feeling that I was abnormal for not wanting to constantly participate in what I thought was an integral part of being a college student passed as I formed closer friendships with the girls that I was living with at the time. Eventually I realized that I could be myself and stop feeling ashamed for saying “no” to a night out, all the while still bonding with people and not getting the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). We went on a drive to get a change of scenery, and what followed was a small but impactful conversation.
We both admitted to each other that the frat scene was neither of our cup of tea. We both agreed that the expectation to go out every night was tiring, and bonded over our other similar interests. I learned that both of us had different expectations for what going out in college would be like, and ultimately that was okay. I realized I was not lame, and I wasn’t being judged for not feeling like going to a frat party.
By the end of my freshman year of college I truly had recreated myself, but not in the way I originally thought I would. Rather, I learned that growing up and starting my newly independent life was never about recreating myself. Redefining my fantasy of “recreating myself” meant finding who I was at my core. Through many drives along the scenic 154 route in Santa Barbara, traveling to New York for Spring Break, and many movie nights in, friendships were made and conversations were had.
These friendships that I formed by simply allowing myself to be authentically me, helped me to love the parts of myself that I kept hidden. I had neglected the deepest and most interesting parts of myself, because I thought that’s what I had to do in order to be fun and not miss out on the lifelong friends and experiences I had hoped to make. To my surprise, these were actually the things that, one, I couldn’t actually hide, and, two, attracted the most unimaginably amazing people and experiences into my life.
Most importantly, I began pursuing things that reignited the passion that I majorly burnt out before beginning my new life in Santa Barbara. I traveled more than I ever had in my life, I tried so many new foods with my friends, and I experienced so much art. By the end of the year, I was a more confident version of myself, all due to the fact that I allowed myself to do things that I love, rather than do things that I thought other people would love.