Letter #156

Content Warnings: social ostracization/isolation


Hello, friend.


This weekend, I went to three different social events alone because, despite asking multiple times, I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Even though I’ve always considered myself a pretty independent person, I’m not going to lie to you and say it felt great. And even though I’m also an introverted person who craves alone time more often than social time, I won’t say I enjoyed going to those events alone more than I would have enjoyed going with others.


The majority of my friends had a perfectly valid reason for not being able to go with me—spending time at home hours away, attending conferences, etc.—but I still couldn’t help but feel like I was going alone because no one wanted to spend time with me. I couldn’t help but remember all the times my friends hung out without me because I was too busy with homework or how other suggestions in the groupchat seemed to get so many responses while mine seemed to garner almost no reactions. I couldn’t help but feel like I was doomed to a life of solitude, all my memories so much less interesting because I would be the only one experiencing them.


I know I have no evidence to be thinking any of this, yet my human nature tells me this is total proof of having failed the social aspect of college and life. But let me say this—so that I can start to believe it and you can believe it too: just because you find yourself alone when you’re trying to be social does not mean you are a failure. Just because your friends haven’t always hung out with you when you’ve invited them to doesn’t necessarily mean they’re lost causes. Just because none of your friends can come with you to the show or movie or event doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of that experience by staying home.


If you want to go out and do something, go out and do it. Don’t let the fear of having no familiar faces there stop you. In the unlikely case that your friends didn’t accept your invitation because they don’t see much value in doing the things you enjoy, then their loss will be the fact that you went and had a wonderful time. And in the even more unlikely case that your friends aren’t accompanying you to anything because they secretly hate you and don’t want to be your friend anymore, then the way you’re going to find real friends who actually care about you and your hobbies is by going to the events that bring you joy. You will find your people by doing the things you love doing, not by sitting alone in your room because you’re so discouraged that no one responded to your invitations.


One thing I’ve been learning lately is that friendships are complicated. We change and grow so much as humans, especially during high school and college, and this is an absolutely wonderful thing. But if you’re changing and growing, your friends probably are too. This means that friendship dynamics are always in flux, even if you’ve made commitments to always be there for each other. The fact that our identity continues refining for the majority of our lives means we need grace for acting in ways that we later regret, but we also need to extend that grace to others. Bad friends are the ones who consistently shut you down and refuse to pay attention to the things you care about, but good friends might still sometimes turn you down when you wish they wouldn’t. Good friends sometimes make decisions that disappoint and sadden us, and this does not always mean they are terrible people, it just means that they are imperfect humans like the rest of us.


What I’m trying to say is that friendships are hard. They are hard to start, they are hard to grow, and they are hard to maintain. Our friends are not going to be perfect people, but we’re not perfect people either. Maybe we sometimes get so upset about having no friends to sit by at a show that we forget to ask our friends what fun things they were able to do during their trip home. Don’t be afraid to let a friendship go if it’s hurting you and meaning absolutely nothing to them, but give people grace and a little benefit of the doubt first. More than likely your friends don’t hate you, and they’re not trying to make you feel isolated if they can’t come with you to an event. But your life is too short to stay at home every time you don’t have a friend to hang out with.


Go to that concert, that play, that presentation, that movie. If your friends are there, cherish your connection with them. If you sit alone, cherish the opportunity you have to experience the world by yourself. The memories will be worth it either way.

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