You take a deep breath as you knock on the door. Of course they don’t give you the right keys to your dorm room. Christ, this would happen to you. A tall blonde girl opens the door, revealing two other ridiculously tall girls—one brunette, one with curly hair—sitting at the kitchen counter. You recognize the blonde and the brunette as The Basketball Players, the curly-haired one as The Volleyball Player, as you so creatively dubbed them from the little information you were able to get from the suite group chat. You wave hi, introduce yourself, and make your way to your room, wondering how well your fresh-off-the-plane look translated into their first impression of you. Luckily, you’re too tired to care, and you really only have to live with them, not necessarily be friends with them. You have friends back home, and you have friends on your team. What more do you need? You’re in college for your future, not to make friends. You unpack and begin setting up your first ever dorm room.
Later that day, you go to a comedy show with your roommate and her friends, and it’s made clear you probably won’t be friends with them either, but you appreciate them making you feel welcome. You leave early to meet your parents for dinner but get lost going to a place that you eventually learn is only five minutes from your dorm. Idiot. You’ll never be able to get around this city— what are you going to do when your family leaves?
Here’s what you do the day they leave: you meet a boy who flirts with you on your walk to practice. He’s cute, so you flirt back. The next night, after going to a gay club, you return and you two start kissing in his room, and you only get one hour of sleep, making you ridiculously tired for your game the following morning. Newly independent though, you’re happy with this first experience of adulthood and decide you like this boy. That night, you don’t eat anything and don’t chase your shots, and when you see him at the party you don’t leave his side, relentlessly pursuing him until he gives in. He calls an Uber for the both of you, where you say you simply want to go to sleep when you get back to the dorms. Yet when you go back to his room, he immediately starts kissing you, but you don’t care— this means he likes you too, right? It’s not until the next morning, when you can soberly go over the previous night and realize he really couldn’t care less about you, and yet you still stubbornly think he’s interested. Weeks later, when the tables turn, and he won’t leave you alone at a party, and you two hook up in the common room, and then he later acts as if he never knew you, you realize how deluded you were, how completely naive.
The next parties are no better. One night you get so drunk that you can’t even make it to the party. The next you and some friends drunkenly play “What Are the Odds?” and you all realize there are no boundaries in college, especially when you later find out there’s a video of you entangled with a boy from the baseball team. The rest of the parties pass in similar fashion. You meet new people, and the school is so small you constantly run into them at the dining hall, which is both a good and bad thing. You begin to resent your newfound independence, since all that it’s taught you is the extent of your faulty decision making. God, you can’t even be an adult without being embarrassing. Just stop trying. To make matters worse, you can’t vocalize any of this as your best friend there is too invested in herself and her problems and achievements and popularity to really care about yours, but you listen to her because that’s what a good friend does. You can’t talk to your friends from home, who are also having a hard time adjusting to college life—why burden them further?
Meanwhile, half your classes are boring general eds, and you’re really only looking forward to the classes that have to do with your major. One class, sociology, especially interests you and you put the most effort into that class and begin to apply what you’ve learned in real life. You can’t help but (foolishly) feel like a real sociologist and begin to reevaluate the relationships you have, both from college and back home. You feel suffocated. You’ve made friends, and they’re great, but they’re always around, and you’re beginning to drown in the censorships you’ve placed on yourself to prevent unwanted judgements. Your friends from home are also amazing, and you’ve known them for so long, but you are beginning to realize how exhausting it can be to be friends with people with such different interests. This is all starting to take a toll, and you just want to be alone. You begin going to the library more often than you need to and lose yourself in your homework and start reading a lot more. Luckily, it’s November, soccer just ended, you have more time on your hands, and you’re going home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks. Volleyball Girl also ended her season, and you two begin going to the gym together. By this point, you’ve seen each other at parties and have been living together for a few months, so you might as well get to know each other. Eventually, your acquaintance is not only limited to the gym, and since The Basketball Girls are now beginning their season, you two start spending increasingly more time together. Sometimes, Basketball Girl #1 joins you guys, and they’re closer to each other for sure, but you still feel included and, for one of the first times at college, actually listened to. At first, you guys only hang out in your suite, but that quickly turns into dining hall outings, and pretty soon you’re all going to the local bar where they accept any ID and having memorable evenings until you are all practically inseparable. Still, it’s not until you all leave for Winter Break that you realize that you haven’t spent as much time with your other friends, and that your suitemates have become your best friends. Maybe college isn’t so bad after all.
You are broke. Your Christmas money is running out fast, and you need a job, but everywhere you apply turns you down. You were really confident about that one job at H&M, so much so that you began to tell everyone you had it before the second interview, but, to your friends’ (poorly hidden) amusement, you didn’t get it. After a few days of envying your friends for being able to eat out and get new clothes, you hear of an opportunity at a pet store where you would be able to walk dogs and run doggy daycare. This is the perfect job for you—it’s cathartic and will give you a chance to explore the city more (to your dismay, you still use Apple Maps to get anywhere, and you’re always lost). Also, dogs. Luckily, you do well in the interview with the owner, and she informs you that you can begin the next day. You don’t listen to what she says after because you can’t hear over the chaching! ringing in your ears.
The next day, you begin your training, where you don’t really do much, but you’re still getting paid so who cares? You quickly get the hang of it and soon enough you’re working twenty hour weeks—twenty hours of straight walking. You learn the layout of the city like the back of your hand, and soon you think of it as your city. This helps you become more confident with yourself and more comfortable with exploring new areas of the city until you’re walking to museums or going to the movies by yourself and enjoying your own company. Being alone has woken something inside of you, some confidence you didn’t know you had, so that when you go home for spring break, despite being happy seeing your family, you quickly grow tired of their constant presence and the suburbs, so far from any source of entertainment, feel like they’re suffocating you. Even though you’re there for a mere six days, you ache for the freedom the city offers you, and once you’re back, you feel a weight being lifted off your chest. You finally feel like an adult, despite still being financially dependent on your parents.
The rest of the semester passes in a similar fashion: you grow more and more independent and comfortable with your own company and make and keep friends, because you want to be friends with them rather than because you’re merely lonely and frustrated. You haven’t spoken to your friends from home in a while, and, while you miss them, you find this doesn’t bother you as much as it should have. This mindset deeply contrasts with the “Best friends forever!” mentality that prevailed upon senior year, and you can hear your dad’s scoff—“You won’t be friends with them forever”—ringing in your ears. You briefly wonder what will happen during summer, but you don’t focus on it for too long, as summer means you won’t see your suitemates for three and a half months. To compensate for this, you all spend the last month trying to make memories to support you through the summer without them—parties (where you don’t make a fool of yourself!); late nights watching movies, doing homework and discussing books; and even a brief New York trip that resulted in you all being stranded in Tribeca. But still, this isn’t enough to prolong the inevitable and soon enough you are saying goodbye in front of your respective Ubers, teary-eyed.
It’s odd how you have only known these people for a brief amount of time, but they’ve become such important parts of your life, and you’ve come to think of this formerly strange and foreign city as a place of solace, where you were able to navigate and conquer newfound independence. You’re glad for this past year, which, despite the trials and missteps, helped you figure out the kind of person you want to be. And while you’re nowhere near the adult you’re aspiring to become, you feel one step closer to finding your way to her.
Modesty Sanchez is going into her sophomore year at Emerson College in Boston, where she is studying Writing, Literature, and Publishing, with a focus on Publishing and a minor in Sociology. She is from Long Beach, California, and she enjoys Mexican food and playing with her dog.