The Social Caterpillar

Written by Dila Sarikaya.
Graphic by Peyton Cabaniss.

College students love to talk to graduating high school seniors about how incredible college is. The instant freedom, the raging parties, the new worldly perspectives, the brilliant professors, the sense of accomplishment. They told me to expect it all, and they were right. I’ve experienced all of it, every bit of their laudations.

However, despite experiencing the many positives that college life has to offer, I was ill-prepared for the downsides associated with the college experience, and with living away from home. The fear of the unknown, the sense of loneliness, the feelings of inadequacy. Why did no one prepare me for that?  

When my sister came to UT, she would often call home and tell us about how lonely college could get. I thought my social butterfly qualities would protect me, and that I would surely have a different experience. After all, I’ve never had any trouble talking to people or introducing myself or making plans.

I was wrong. The inevitable not-good-enough emotions caught up to me.

It’s not that I can’t talk to people – I can and I do. However, there is this nagging feeling that none of these friendships will be permanent, so why put in the effort? I often end up by myself in my room, doing nothing or doing homework. At least falling behind in classes isn’t an issue.

I’m not alone in my solitude. My friends tell me they too feel like they’ve fallen behind in the social experience. They see new cliques forming and the emergence of friendship seems like an everlasting competition to see who can get closest the fastest. Part of me knows this is surface level, but another part of me can’t help but feel a little envious of those who don’t worry about how permanent each friendship will be.

Perhaps this is a product of trying to control the tide rather than letting the waves carry me. Whatever it may be, I know I’m not alone in feeling left behind. Knowing that life back home is continuing without you there.

It can be a hard rut to avoid falling into, and I am so grateful for Vega and Fareena, Alisa and Or, Keyara and Cassandra, Sena and Ben for being in my life. Being able to reach out to my family and friends and ground myself once again in reality is what keeps me going, and affirms the idea that everyone has a place somewhere. Seeing how my sister has flowered motivates me. I use it to motivate myself and my own friends. I know that there is a bright, shining light at the end of the tunnel, even though I can’t see it now. I can already imagine myself getting there, through personal growth and social accomplishment. Most importantly, I have that hope and that drive, which ultimately is all I need to move forward.

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