Throughout my life, I was extremely dependent on those around me. This was not only for fun; it was my way of finding social acceptance. After two years of college, I saw the pitfalls of living life this way, so I completely changed how I interacted with those around me. Now, I have become socially independent, while maintaining positive relationships with those around me. At first, this process was extremely difficult, but after time, became much easier.
Just for background purposes, I will describe my life during middle school and high school. Going into middle school, I was the quiet kid. I didn’t have problems with anyone, and I avoided social situations where I was the center of attention. I had no interest in being friends with everyone. I had a couple very close friends, who I would consider brothers. In middle school, I became a little more social. I made new friends, who were really acquaintances; but was never very close to anyone outside of my brotherhood. I just went through the motions, just living life avoiding many others. My parents thought there was something wrong with me, because I did not have a “booming” social life. I was able to cover up my true feelings well. It appeared that I was just quiet, and a normal guy. Deep down, I felt very out of the loop. I wanted to be friends with everyone, but something was holding me back. I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends, as opposed to acquaintances. On top of this, I felt like everyone was extremely judgmental towards me. Looking back, this was not the case, but it is how I felt at the time. This is how I was through middle school.
Next thing I knew, I was in high school. I was scared, to tell the truth. Although I went to a small high school, I didn’t want to go. I was afraid of others. Once again, I was afraid everyone would judge me. I just wanted to fit in. I attended private school, so there were very specific cliques, in which I felt like I didn’t fit into. This is when I decided to change things. Near the end of my freshman year, I decided I would invade one of those cliques. I was going to get over this fear of being judged. I decided to join the football team. While this proved to be the best decision of my life, I struggled throughout.
In the beginning, I was definitely not an athletic person. I had never played organized sports before, and T.V. was the closest I had come to a weight room. The football team weightlifted year round and practice lasted from July through December. Spring practice took place for three weeks in March. I joined the team in January, so I began working out with the team. I felt so out of place, as I had no idea what I was doing. Everyone else went into the weight room and worked out, with a plan in mind. I just followed others. Eventually, I got the hang of it. When spring practice rolled around, I questioned my decision to join the team for the first time. I got all my pads and went out to the practice field. I spent more time on the ground than anything else. Not only was I physically at a disadvantage, I had no idea what I was doing. One of the lower assistant coaches took me aside and told me he would go out of his way to explain everything, because he had felt the same way when he started playing. After my workouts, I would go meet him to learn anything I could. We would meet for just a few minutes each day, but this is where I learned the ropes. Football opened up so many friendships for me. The brutal practices brought us together so much. Now that I had been accepted for sticking with it, I was even more self-conscious than before. I fit in, but I felt like I had to try to fit in. This drained me. I went through all of high school like this, unable to truly connect to anyone else. I still had that small group of extremely close friends that I relied on.
After graduation, reality set in. That summer, I had almost no social life. I realized that all of my “friends” at school were really acquaintances. I was only hanging out with a couple of my close friends, and I didn’t even speak to anyone else. I went into college with one close friend who was going to the same college as me. I went into college, and about a month into it, that friend got involved with drugs and dropped out. I never spoke to him again. This is where I completely changed my life. I was all alone, and I didn’t really get along with my roommate. I decided to switch roommates, in hopes of meeting someone awesome. I ended up meeting my best friend, and I would consider him a brother to me. Not only did he become my best friend, the two of us felt alone together, because he had traveled far from home for school. We went out together, and met so many new friends. Now, two years later, I don’t have enough time for my social life. I have to start limiting who I can hang out with. With this, I have been able to maintain good grades, which was not easy.
So, what changed so drastically? The first thing that happened is I realized that nobody cares. People care about you, not what you wear or look like. This allowed me to be myself and open up. I realized that people will accept you for who you are. Secondly, everyone has flaws. People cannot judge you for your shortcomings, because they will have shortcomings of their own. Also, you must embrace yourself. Before others will accept you, you must accept yourself. Lastly, I realized everyone in college is in the same boat. Some hide it better than others, but everyone wants to meet new people.
While college is the best time for this change, these observations could have been applied much earlier in my life. Looking back, I do not regret a thing. Those series of events shaped me into who I am today. For those who feel the same way, just step out of the comfort zone every once in a while. It is an extremely difficult step, but I have found that doing before thinking is the best way to handle this situation. For those of you in that situation, there are many others out there in the same boat. Other people have gone through this successfully, so you can too.