Monday, February 11, 2008

Social Isolation

This is Chapter 8 in my history. Other chapters can be found by clicking the history link at the right.

As I progress in telling my story, I find it necessary to break from the chronological format that I've been following and instead start talking about broad concepts as my life began to get more complicated and less easy to break into small pieces.

I started college in September of 2000 at Western Oregon University. I had known at this point for a few years that I wanted to be an elementary teacher. I chose one of the best colleges in the nation for teaching, earned scholarships, and I was ready for a new challenge. I always had good grades growing up and learned easily, so I was not very intimidated by the world of academia. I was excited about the opportunity to challenge myself academically.

Because I lived my entire life in a small town, I knew everyone and I was fairly comfortable socially at that time. I wasn't the most popular, but I got along with the popular kids, I had a large group of friends that I trusted, and I was known for my bright and vibrant personality. This all was thrown in turmoil when I started at Western. There was only one other incoming freshman that I knew, a guy from my graduating class that I also had worked with at McDonald's. We weren't close, friendly enough to eat together in the dining hall, but nothing more. My long term crush, who was a year ahead of me, also went to WOU, but I hardly had the courage to talk to him, let alone create much of a friendship.

I thought that I would be okay at college. That I had grown from my social issues that plagued me in middle school. I quickly found though that I was very much an outcast at WOU. My dorm mates on my floor quickly bonded over shared experiences of getting trashed each weekend, skipping class, and keeping track of sexual escapades. While I didn't mind drinking with friends from back home, I didn't feel comfortable in the large party scene. I wanted to keep my scholarships and learn so I attended class. I believed in waiting until I was in love for sex, so earning points for doing it with two guys on the weekend was also out for me. I quickly earned the label of a square, nerd, and prude. It didn't help that I lived on a floor that was notorious for their escapades and I didn't quite fit in there. My roommate was okay and didn't participate in the scene of my floor either, but she was a star soccer player with a boyfriend so I spent as many nights in the room without her there than with her.

After a few weeks it became clear that I would not fit in on my floor. I tried out for the fall show, The Grapes of Wrath, and I earned a bit part after coming in second for the lead. I hoped that I could find some friends and acceptance in the theatre, which had been my home for so long. Instead, I found a group of already closely bonded friends who didn't have much room for a dorky freshman girl. I was never invited to go to cast parties, out to eat with them during breaks, and only involved in conversations if I made it a point to be involved. It was exhausting trying to be noticed. When I didn't try, I would be ignored and left to feel worse about myself. By November I was pretty sure that if I dropped off the face of the earth, no one at WOU would be the wiser. I'm still pretty sure that would have been the case.

By the spring of my freshman year, things had started to turn around a little, but the pain of that fall was still intense. I finally started to make friends from other parts of the dorms that I met in class or in the dining hall. Josh was another education major and he is still one of my good friends to this day. I also formed a friendship with his future wife Mik'ael. Jesse and George were roommates that couldn't stand each other, but I formed a friendship with both. I still talk to George, despite some rough patches, and he married one of my best friends from growing up, Jenn. I also formed a friendship with Lise, but lost track of her after time. But beyond that, I didn't have many friends at school. I would have people I was friendly with, but beyond those friends I had no one to hang out with. This trend followed me through all 4 years of school. If I had not had such strong friendships from growing up and renewed others from that time, I probably would not have made it through school and instead fallen into a deep depression. I'm fairly sure that I spent most of college depressed.

My sophomore, junior and senior years were spent living in very unhealthy roommate situations. I wasn't comfortable or happy at home or at school. My life was stress and it started to show in my health, something I will talk about later. My senior year was probably the most stressful. I had to deal with a situation that will be a chapter within itself that broke me for a long time.

I'd like to say that I became a stronger person for living through all of that. But as a social person, I think it hurt more than caused growth. I am glad that I was able to come out the other side okay, but I still am rebuilding myself. I still become anxious when I feel ignored or that people don't want me involved. I don't think that will ever change.

1 comment:

Beverly said...

Was that a hard post to write? to remember the isolation?

Your posts are so insightful, and, again, I thank you for your writing.