Coming To Western, Finding True Friends Was A Challenge
Written by: Olivia Piro, 4th Year MIT + Women's Studies
Photo by: Student Experience
I didn’t come to Western with anyone I knew from high school or home. I had a random roommate and went into my first year alone. This was an exciting prospect for me - going somewhere new without anyone I had been used to having in my daily life. It was a fresh start. I quickly realized that I needed to be the type of person that I wanted to attract. I understood that if I was going to be shy, reluctant, or hesitant in social settings, that I was most likely going to be left surrounded by others doing the same.
I figured this logic worked both ways, and that if I didn’t go into it being the absolute friendliest, most outgoing and positive version of myself, that I wasn’t doing myself any favours in terms of meeting or becoming friends with anybody like that. I knew what I needed to do, but like most things, it’s easier said than done. When it came time for me to move into residence and kick off my first year at Western, honestly, I was terrified. I was a nervous wreck for weeks leading up to it - just thinking about being away from home, the friends I’d had close since childhood, and every other familiar thing in my life. I found comfort in the thought that a lot of people were going to be in the boat as me. It became clear to me quite early on that I needed to decide what type of friends I was looking for - and this is where I made my first major mistake.
It’s not wrong to want to break away from every long and previously held idea about you by others, but this does make it easy to lose sight of your true self. The process of reinventing yourself and getting a fresh start to be the person you want to be is exciting and liberating, but it can also be overwhelming and may not turn out as expected. When you’re in an impressionable state, as you are when trying to impress and people-please when meeting new people in the first few weeks at university, it can be easy to turn into someone you never thought you would. There's constantly an immense amount of pressure to live up to a certain standard that’s set within the Western community. I cracked under this pressure as I attempted to establish my social identity. I found myself prioritizing the wrong type of friends - people who thrived on constantly going out and socializing. This is certainly not to say that these are bad people or even bad friends. They’re simply not the type of friends that I should’ve been looking for.
Looking back, I placed too much importance in my relationships with people who I like to call “party friends,” which are people who you can always count on to go out with, have a good time and party with. I found that there are certain people who are great party friends, but not “real friends.” I make a distinction between these two types of friendships in that real friends are people you can count on and go to with actually important things that don’t just revolve around socializing and superficial, surface-level things. For example, someone you can study with, spend a night-in with, and share genuine thoughts and feelings with. This was detrimental for me as I often found myself alone in times where I needed a true friend most. When I was burnt out from school and work, I found myself being pressured to go out. Not only that, but I also ended up prioritizing partying and going out more than my responsibilities because I was afraid of missing an opportunity to meet new people and have fun.
This was challenging because in the end I was pouring from an empty cup and I had lost sight of my initial goal of putting my best self forward. This led to an unhealthy routine and unstable patterns that ultimately set me back both personally and academically.
Feeling like I didn’t have any true friends also affected my self-identity and sense of worth as I had lost touch with my true self, my values, and my beliefs. It wasn’t fulfilling to constantly be surrounded by strangers and people who hardly knew me, and truly didn’t really care about me. At the end of the day, I felt like I had no one to lean on and I was left with the rubble of the mistakes and sacrifices I had made for the wrong people and wrong experiences.
This challenge ultimately ended up in a reality check where I was faced with a decision to make a choice about how I wanted to move forward. I could have continued as I was, constantly draining my social battery and leaving my personal needs in the dust - or I could do what I did. I recentered my focus and reminded myself of my initial goal to put my best self forward in order to attract people alike. This time though, I had different priorities and I wasn’t looking for the loudest people in the room who looked like they were having the time of their lives. Instead, I was searching for people who were focused on areas of their lives where I wanted to thrive.
I found down-to-earth people with who I could openly share my honest thoughts and feelings and who would confide in me with the same. These people were set apart from anyone else I had met at Western in that they were genuine, academically driven, career-focused, socially and culturally conscious, and also really fun.
Finding my true friends was a challenge when I first came to Western, but in time I found a great group of friends that I can share all aspects of my life with, not just the good, fun, exciting, and social aspects. Finding true friends was a challenge but surely a worthwhile and invaluable experience.
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