Oberlin Blogs

A Letter to My Freshman Self

May 29, 2023

Aishwarya Krishnaswamy ’23

Dear Freshman Aishwarya!! 

Oh my god, love, now that I’m on the other side of the journey it is very seducing to think… ‘If only I knew what I know now’. The various peaks and valleys at Oberlin have taught me to accept that everything happens for a reason and things are are working out ‘for’ me. However, I know that I’m going to be in other situations that send me back to ‘start’. I also know that many more years of freshman Obies are baking in the making. So this letter is for me and all of you ;) 

Freshman year some of my biggest concerns were: 

  1. I don’t have any friends *with tears, big fat tears* Little did she know friendship & loneliness were going to be the biggest portals of learning for future Aishwarya.
  2. Am I boring? *please tell me I am not boring* the constant battle between belonging while being my authentic self who didn’t like night life as much as people made it seem I should. 
  3. What is balance? How can I balance being a good student and experiencing a holistic college life? 
  4. How can I push out of my comfort zone and be discerning of my panic zone? 

Ahh, friendships… ooo as much as I want to say that after freshman year, you will find your three besties who you will finally live in an off-campus housing senior year with and then move with after college etc. etc.. that is not your life, lovie!! Frankly not a lot of people find their core buddies freshman year either. My friendships have evolved every semester and people have come and gone. Yes, there have been a few friends I have known since freshman year, and even within those friendships, our closeness has varied over time. If only I could walk up to you in Kahn and whisper to you that ‘community’ is the biggest gift from Oberlin you are going to walk away with; you may not believe me but it's true! Undoubtedly, friendships did not come easy to me. Freshman year, not only was I trying to create my own tribe, I was finding my footing in a new country and culture. It took time, patience and not forcing friendships to form a community that I dearly love today. 

The more anxiety I created around not having friends, the lonelier I felt and my friendship status remained unchanged. I constantly felt like I was doing everything right, going to all the clubs I possibly could, going to events, being friendly and open. However, even when I did click with people I didn’t feel like we were a ‘group’ or they didn’t prioritise me for fun trips and close friend things. On the contrary, I didn’t like the feeling of exclusively hanging out with the same group of people all the time. I didn’t like the idea of forming a clique and isolating myself within a smaller cosmos like I had all through school and high school. I wanted something different; I loved my flexibility and indulging in different activities and perspectives. At the risk of sounding bad, I have to admit I felt bored hanging out with the same people all the time. 

As I furthered into my own healing journey, I understood how codepency showed up in my relationships. With time, life and therapy I started to enjoy my own company. I started contemplating the difference between ‘being alone’, solitude, loneliness. As bell hooks says, “Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” The more I went out by myself, I became available to new people and opportunites. My studying abroad was one of the most ‘alone’ times  and sometime lonely times I spent besides the pandemic summer. I spent a lot of time exploring Europe by myself. I was sick of wanting to be friends with people who weren’t looking for new friends. I was done forcing myself into friendships with people I had nothing in common with or didn’t vibe with at all. I finally chose to go on a solo trip to Germany via train by myself for a week. It was intimidating, liberating and a solid confidence booster. I met cool solo travellers along the way. When I was by myself, I enjoyed staring at the sunsets, sipping on my lattes, reading in parks, going to museums and actually figuring out what I like to do, how I like to travel and what kind of company I am. (A good one, if I can say so myself!)   

It took me all the way until senior year of college to recognize that friends were my chosen family so I better choose wisely who I choose to spend my energy and time with. After coming back to Oberlin, I went through some sad but necessary friend breakups. In the past, I would not have had the confidence to let go of friendships that were shifting in the fear of ‘being alone’. This time around, I not only ended friendships but also consciously ‘watered new seeds’. I started investing into the random friendships that I didn’t get a chance to nurture due to proximity or circumstance. I hosted a little pot-luck with all the people I didn’t know that well but wanted to get to know. At the Gazebo in Tappan Square a group of eight of us who never knew each other (very rare in little Oberlin) had a great chill time with one another. 

Another crucial learning in my friendship journey through college was being open to friendships from all ages and phases of life. A core part of my community and friendships include my bosses/supervisors, staff members, random strangers at cafes. My friendships include people who are much older than me, some younger than me, people in different time zones and what not. I have come to realise the important adulting lesson, not to rely on one person to meet all your needs. All of my friends feed my soul in different ways and bring out a different light in me. With some I have multiple points of connection and with others I only have a few specific ones. Looking back I am so grateful for all the friendships that worked out and all those that didn’t because they taught me what was important to me in friendships and freed up space for more aligned connections.  Looking back, it is no surprise that cultivating friendships with others and myself is one of the most crucial lessons I’ve learned during the last four years. 

I didn’t realise the friendships point would be such a biggie but as you now know it truly is a biggie in my life. So for the sake of length I am going to end my letter right here. I might make a part 2 to address how to belong while being authentic and the other points. 

With immense love, compassion and honesty, 
Future Aishwarya! 

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