On Freshman Year, On Adjusting, On a Perpetual Numbness
College is hard as fuck. And it's only made harder when it seems like everyone around you, and all your old friends from home, are having The Time Of Their Lives.
Since coming to Wesleyan, I have been perpetually numb. Of course, this makes sense to me -- numbness is a defense mechanism, it coats my sadness and allows me not to feel all the unhappiness I know I have.
I chose to live in West College, Wesleyan's "community-based living," because of its so-called "commitment to artistic expression, political activism, and multiculturalism." As someone who is big on diverse communities and art as activism, I thought WestCo would be a perfect fit for me. Yet what WestCo claims to be and what WestCo truly is are almost on two opposite ends of a spectrum, unless they really mean "whiteness" when they say "multiculturalism." By joining WestCo, I don't feel like I entered a large community, I feel like I was avalanched into a world of homogeneity and whiteness.
I've had the idea, in my short experience, that "I don't belong here." Interestingly enough, this notion is very similar to the rhetoric used in describing Asian Americans belonging in America. No matter how well we are able to assimilate, we are taught that we do not belong, because we wear a racial uniform that marks us 'Other' and renders us perpetually foreign. So I wonder how much my non-whiteness has played a role in my college experience thus far.
Of course, it's not like my high school wasn't a bubble of whiteness and privilege, but what made it different was the resources I had there. (My high school also didn't have around ten students of color in its entire community.) In high school, I was able to develop close relationships with my teachers, and I had a stable network of friends (mostly of color) who felt the way I did. But my resources are removed here -- the people that stood with me in solidarity now have their own institutions, their own wars to fight. I feel completely lost and by myself. I guess that's where the numbness comes in, providing me with a blanket of sanity.
I think this isolation is what freshmen in college are struggling with everywhere, whether or not they are people of color like I am. And that isolation is only perpetuated through social media, where Snapchat stories and Facebook photos make it seem like "everyone else is having such a great time." When I have one-on-one conversations with other college freshman, when I talk about my sadness with them, a different story emerges. It seems that so many people are struggling, that adjusting is so much harder than imagined. Unfortunately, that narrative is also met with a perceived shame.
The shame that comes with struggling is what keeps it in silence, merely perpetuating the isolation that so many college freshmen feel. In complete honesty, I have been so depressed, I never know what to tell people when they ask me how college is, and I feel ashamed for being depressed because having access to higher education is such a privilege unto itself. I need to remember that I'm just in another stage of growth and learning, and that this is all temporary. I need to remember that I am not truly alone; I need to remember to take care of myself.