College life provides a unique set of experiences and emotions. You’re often halfway through an experience before realising this is something your 18-year-old self could have only dreamt of — whether it’s fancy black tie balls, or going swimming with your best mates at 6 am, or even just being able to sit with your friends for the evening and talk. College gifts us a pervasive sense of companionship; you are never too far from friends, and there’s a tangible feeling of we’re-all-in-it-together. But we soon feel the need to keep up, to do well, to not be the one left behind. We become our harshest critics; for sleeping in, for procrastinating that assignment, for not staying in the library long enough because God forbid we got tired or hungry. We push ourselves to be the best, and in these moments we forget about the love and the companionship, suddenly you feel alone, and have to figure out how exactly loneliness fits in with everything else.
Our twenties are scary; we’re confused and excited and worried and young. We’re so young. And yet it feels like this is it, like everything has to be done right now or else we’re going to be too late. Jobs, exams, internships, relationships — we’re racing against a clock that isn’t even there. Life isn’t set by the time you turn 25, and yet it feels like there are so many milestones to achieve before then, before they disappear and we spend the rest of our lives in regret. However dramatic this may be, it has a very real impact on us and our mindsets. These pressures to have a perfect life are especially intense in college, and in final year. Your plate isn’t full unless it’s overflowing. It seems like everyone else is doing it all so much better than you. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by seeing those people who are doing well in their classes, and leading a society, and doing all of their readings, and posting Instagram stories from Vico Baths once a week, and who party but never seem hungover, and going on dates, and, and , and.
“But it can be lonely. When everyone else is seemingly ahead, and there’s no one who knows exactly what you’re feeling, or there’s no friend to turn to and ask how they’re handling it all, because no one is doing what you are doing.”
We’re always told to focus on our own path, especially in final year. “Don’t compare yourself to others” we’re told, “everyone’s doing their own thing” they say. But this doesn’t always bring the comfort it is intended to. Having your own path is good, it’s good to be focused and do things differently from your friends. But it can be lonely. When everyone else is seemingly ahead, and there’s no one who knows exactly what you’re feeling, or there’s no friend to turn to and ask how they’re handling it all, because no one is doing what you are doing. Suddenly you feel strikingly alone. It’s a unique feeling, to be so surrounded at all times, to be so loved and to love so many, and yet to feel so alone.
It’s not loneliness in the typical sense, it’s not sitting in the corner of a dark room not speaking to anyone for days at a time. It’s sitting around a table with all of your friends and wondering who will stick after college ends, it’s not being able to go out because you have a meeting for a society that no one else seems to be involved in, it’s listening to everyone talk about their plans for next year and wondering where on earth you might end up. Will you be starting again, in a new city, with new friends? Should you worry about that? I mean you’ve done it before and it worked out, but you can’t help but worry about it just a little bit. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely.
“Life isn’t over once we leave College, we will find new people to love and new people to love us, we will find new career paths and new jobs, we will find new reasons to be lonely, but far more reasons to be happy.”
This feeling of loneliness is dangerous, it makes us think back to the what-if and the if-only. If only I had told them how I felt, maybe then I’d have someone to talk to now. If only I had started this reading earlier, I would be better at this class. If only I had figured out my career path earlier, I would have better chances for a job now. We torment ourselves because we’re too late, we’re behind. It’s ridiculous. I’m going to say it again but we’re so young. Life isn’t over once we leave College, we will find new people to love and new people to love us, we will find new career paths and new jobs, we will find new reasons to be lonely, but far more reasons to be happy.
I have loved my time here, I am grateful to College for all it has given me. I have wonderful friends who love me, and whom I love so much, even if they are all massive overachievers. Maybe they don’t understand all of what stresses me, but they care enough to try to. That’s what it’s all about, to be loved through loneliness is a remarkable thing. Being on your own is tough, but you will figure it out. And anyways, nobody does all of their readings, right?