Now that exam season is coming to an end, winter holidays are fast approaching. Some people choose to spend the time relaxing around the city, while others visit family and friends. I am one of the latter- every year, I’ve gone back to my hometown and spent the winter holidays with my family.
Since this is a blog post, you probably already know that it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.
In first year, my brain decided to mess around and add an internal conflict on top of the conflict I already feel when other people are involved. Yeah, I’m not great at the whole “talking to other people” thing.
So today, we’re going to talk about relationships (on a side note, if you’re interested in reading more about the student experience with relationships check out the HealthyUofT Instagram page).
With no evidence to support this, apart from my own internal dialogue, I’ve always felt like I’m on a different wavelength than everybody else. Not in the “I’m special, you’re not” kind of way, but in the “they all get along so well, what am I missing?” kind of way. Even with my high school friends, most of which I’ve known since the fifth grade, I always felt like it was really difficult to “fit in”, for lack of a better term.
They were all friends with each other, and I was just there.
It’s not the best feeling, and there was nothing I could do to get it to go away. At least, not with the way my mind worked back before university.
So now I’ve introduced the initial inner conflict, let me tell you about the new one that cropped up after I left for university.
I think we can all agree that we change a whole lot when we go to university. We grow as people, in myriad different ways, and that growth will be different for everybody.
When I came to U of T, I was forced to face realities that I had been able to avoid back at home, and because of that, the way that I interact with people has changed so completely that at times, I don’t even recognize myself.
Here’s the thing, though, I mentioned earlier that I’m not from Toronto originally- I’m from Calgary, and I’m one of the only people in my friend group who left the city for school. That means, on top of my personal growth, they’ve all been hanging out with each other as if we’re still in high school… One of them even confided in me that she hasn’t made any new friends since starting university in 2015.
When I visit them, I am acutely aware of this.
The dynamic is so natural for them, they’ve all grown surrounded by each other. When I show up, I feel like that one raisin cookie on a plate of chocolate chip cookies- if you kind of squint, everything is fine, but if you look closely you can tell that I don’t belong there.
Essentially, it’s a continuation of how I felt before university. But now, it’s amplified by the fact that I have no idea how I’m supposed to act around them.
What if they don’t like the person I’ve become? What if there’s no room for a recently found voice at the table?
It’s been years, and I 100% still struggle with this. But I have learned a little over the years that’s helped me rationalize my fears.
Even if the standard advice is “just be yourself, the friends that truly matter will accept you for who you are”, I think we all can agree that that snippet of wisdom only goes so far. What I have been telling myself is that really, it’s not fair for me to assume that they won’t be able to adjust to who I am.
Even if I can’t see it, they’ve changed too. And while, in the long run, if they aren’t in the position to accept me for who I am it’s true that they may not be the friends for me, that’s not my business. There’s nothing I can do to change that- my only job is to be myself, and a good friend.
If we’re too different to click as friends, that’s something I can think about if and when it happens. But it doesn’t change the fact that there are people out there that I do click with… How else would I have changed the way that I have?
If you want to hear more about student experiences with relationships, check out the HealthyUofT Instagram, and feel free to engage in the comments if you have any tips or tricks for handling the nerves that accompany seeing friends for the first time in a while!
Happy Winter Holidays!