I am alone in my dorm room. It’s 8:00 on a Friday night. There is a movie showing downstairs, and an array of board games on the dining table, and from the laughter I can hear, it sounds like a lot of fun.
And yet, here I am. It’s silent; in one of the rare occasions I’m not playing music. There are dirty and/or unfolded clothes in places there shouldn’t be, and I need to remember to take the trash out tonight or first thing in the morning. I haven’t showered yet (also something I need to do), and my face is covered in a thin layer of paint that used to look like fireworks because I was the Fourth of July today.
I’m not tired, and I don’t want this to turn into a contemplation of how hard my life is or a story about how exhausted I am.
That is not what this is about.
This is about what it means to know that one week ago I was in Normandy, France, with 75 other people my age, having just taken the last shower we would get for three days, watching Saving Private Ryan before going to the beach where it took place and being floored that this beautiful beach could have been stained crimson not 71 years ago. That Sunday, I would be in Paris. I would hear what it sounds like when a priest prays during mass in the Notre Dame cathedral. I would get lost on several separate occasions in the Louvre. I would walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées arm-in-arm with six friends. I would feel like I was freezing to death on top of the Eiffel Tower, but also take a lot of pictures.
This is about making friends. Self-preservation, this little game I play of trying to protect myself from discomfort, is not a way to live. I am teaching myself to be around people, and not wait for them to come to me. Coming out of my shell a little bit. Being quicker to talk, quicker to laugh, quicker to say that I think you’re awesome. Your name is your favorite word, so you bet I’m going to use it. I will try to figure out your love language and use it well. I’m going to be better at not expecting to click immediately, but understanding that friendship requires effort and being the quiet kid in the back is not effort. My fear of failure and rejection (honestly, that’s what it is, I can’t call it shyness) is not an excuse not to try. Sitting anxiously and yearning for that community doesn’t make it happen. Here’s to sitting with people over packed lunches and laughing about something stupid.
This is about not banking my worth on the people around me. It’s about knowing there is more to me than the bad days. This is about knowing that you win some and you lose some, even when you haven’t showered for days in a row and you’ve got stale makeup crusting on your face and you’re running through the city of lights with your friends, or maybe it’s a Wednesday and getting up that morning was really hard. There’s no difference.
It’s about good conversations with people who’ve known you for a really long time, who remind you who and whose you are and that they love you. It’s also about great conversations with people you’ve known for about a month.
It’s about nothing and everything and being happy and sad and exhausted and also really energetic all at the same time. Frankly, it’s about real life. Real life is messy. It’s not cut-and-dry. There’s always complexities and things you wish weren’t there that are and things that aren’t you wish were. It’s gritty and annoying and frustrating.
I guess that is my point. That sometimes you can be overwhelmed by the normalcy. The ins and the outs, the homework and the hallways. Cool things happen (you guys. I went to France. eeeek!) and then that seems like too much. I wish I could condense this neatly into a cute little sentence. I wish I could tell you the secret to the happy medium in life, that there’s a cure for the messiness and the tiredness and the not-knowingness. But there’s not, and that’s a good thing. Because life can be weird, and the weirdness is the best part of it all. Because it’s really cool to think that I took a precalculus test 32 hours after being on top of the Eiffel Tower.