I’ve been worrying for days about how to portray the whole ‘freshers experience’ properly. In my eyes, I am not a proper freshman. I am boring. I hate clubbing. I abhor binge drinking. I haven’t eaten any pizza, free or otherwise, since my arrival.
I don’t even think that I’m missing home for the same reasons as everyone else. My housemates have been telling me about the jarring moments of sudden independence – things like having to buy your own salt and pepper grinders. The little details which had always been taken care of beforehand.
On the other hand, I’ve always thrived in independence. I want to step as lightly as I can throughout life, to be happy and untangled and self-sufficient. I can see my future all too clearly: I’m going to be that crazy old woman with too many dogs who lives in a cottage alone. The type that you warn your children to stay away from – even though they’ll inevitably come to my house and throw stones at my windows until I come out and scream at them, shaking a broom. They tell us to be ambitious here at Trinity, don’t they?
My fondness for isolation is exactly why I came to Dublin. I adore cities. They’re fast-paced and surging – always full of opportunity, always coasting on the cutting edge. Moreover, they’re the only place where you can feel truly alone in a crowd of people. That can be both positive and negative.
Today it was negative. I’ve been told countless times that all freshmen feel awkward and frightened as they’re pushed to socialise on these first few days, but that doesn’t change the way it feels. And it feels awful. The Provost rather delicately described the feeling as “between excitement and trepidation”. For me it felt more like “between a crushing fear of the unknown and horrible insecurity”.
The sad thing is that I’m not even using hyperbole. Today I sat for hours on the steps of Trinity’s dining hall, trying fruitlessly to muster up the courage to go join some societies, to go talk to some people. Every single thought I had on those steps was paralysing – the sheer amount of people, the trouble I have with connecting to my peers, the feeling that I’m on the brink of a whole new life that I’m not ready for.
Getting up and throwing myself into the fray was the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time. The fear was still there as I signed up to (far too many) societies, but it was joined by a small hopeful voice. You can persevere. You can be brave. Every experience you have and every emotion you feel will make you stronger and wiser. Every challenge, whether social or academic, will teach you something valuable. Just keep going.
So, if you’re near the dining hall steps over the next few days and you see a girl with fancy brogues and short dark hair and a quietly terrified expression, you should talk to her. Maybe we’ll both learn something.