Oberlin Blogs

(Not) Making Friends

August 21, 2018

Megan McLaughlin ’22

I wouldn’t say I’m great at making friends. I’m not unfriendly or scary or anything; befriending people has just never my strong suit. I was one of those kids who read a lot, alone with fictional characters and the pages of library books, instead of spending time with my peers. I wouldn’t say I was lonely so much as I was alone, and always by choice. I had friends growing up, and some I was really close with; it just always took a little while to find them.

My first week at Oberlin, I met someone who taught me the phrase “desire path” and how it seems like all of Oberlin’s paved paths were created with that concept in mind. I met someone who played the cello, who gave me a firm handshake and told me a tip for getting the best practice room in the Con. I tried out for an improv comedy group and laughed with a bunch of funny strangers until midnight.

Orientation, as well as the first week of classes, involved meeting a lot of these interesting people, who I subsequently never saw again. Before my mom left, I don’t know how many times she urged me to “Just say hi, my name is Megan, what’s yours?” Such a concept still strikes fear in my introverted heart, and, combined with saying it to real life actual strangers, it didn’t make me any best friends that first week. Or the second. Or the third.

I wasn’t worried about it. My previous experiences in school and the advice of my older friends who were already in college prepared me that it might take a while to find friends who stay around. Going into college, I told myself I had one month to make friends before I allowed myself to get upset or stressed by my inability to do so. 

However, I didn’t try very hard at making friends. I assumed that they would come with time, and, while they did, it was not expedited at all by my habits of arriving to meals right when they began so that I wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of finding a table that was not already occupied. Even though I wanted friends, being alone didn’t bother me much. I was also extremely focused that first month of college, and tried – with the exception of making friends – to do everything 110%. Consumed with throwing my entire being into school and school alone, I somewhat forgot about the one month deal I had with myself until that day arrived and I found that I still didn’t have any friends. Then I cried for about three hours straight in various locations.

Not having friends was easily my biggest struggle with adjusting to college. I liked being alone a lot of the time, but I still longed for the effortless movie-magic-type friend group that had yet to come. I was friendly with lots of people – I had studio mates, classmates, and everyone in my hall, but I was still a shy first-year, and didn’t often spend time with them outside of those spheres. Nothing clicked quite right. And of course I had my roommate; we grew closer and closer throughout the year, and are living together again this year, but we only really saw each other in the dorm. We are true friends and I adore her dearly, but ours has always been the type of friendship that thrives with just the two of us together.

I can’t quite put my finger on how I finally managed to make friends, but I believe it started with a series of random instances for which I was very grateful. Someone asking me if I had any tools that would be useful for pumpkin carving. Someone else filling me in on the rest of a wild night after I parted ways with them and a bowl of peanut M&Ms. Someone else needing assistance in cramming for a Music History test.

By the end of first semester, I was established. I had friends. Not quite as many as some other people seemed to, but I was happy with the relationships I formed. I would round my number close to a dozen dear friends, and they are all people for whom I care with my whole heart. It took time, as I knew it would, but it was a relief when I realized that these were permanent friends, and not necessarily friends of convenience.

A year ago, I was nervous and excited to be entering my first year of college. Orientation week was long, and is now a blurry muddle of events and people in my memory. Probably my most memorable orientation experience happened one of the very first nights on campus; there was a panel where the RAs answered a list of questions about being a first-year and adjusting to Oberlin; one of the questions was about how to make friends. The RAs went around and suggested their various methods, from keeping your door open all the time to hanging out in public spaces to joining student organizations, but at the end, my RA said something that really stuck with me. They said something along the lines of, “It might take a week, it might take a year, it might take three years, but you will find your people here. You might think you found them, and it doesn’t turn out right, but I promise that you will find your people.” Those words stayed with me throughout my first year, and they stay with me now.

Here I am a year later, preparing to return to campus for my sophomore year, still with no idea how to make friends. And that’s fine. I don’t have advice to give on how to make friends; that’s not what this post is. But in the meantime, be patient, and know that the world is not rooting against you. There are so many people who would love to listen and help, and lots more who are friends you haven’t met yet.

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