This summer I left Williamsburg’s swamps to intern in D.C., an experience that was affirming, positive and overall a hundred times better than stressing over coursework and extracurricular activities. Within a few days of saying goodbye to my daily commute (I definitely don’t miss the metro), I was packing my minivan to return – but this time I was moving into an apartment with five of my closest friends.
While I had basically lived with two of them since my freshman year, we had never technically shared common spaces. My other three apartment-mates I met through The Flat Hat, and I walked into this year knowing that my professional and personal lives were about to get mixed together in new, unpredictable ways.
We spent our first few days cohabitating just adjusting to the shared spaces — we organized cabinets, hung up wall art and figured out sleep schedules. We were creating a positive living experience and bonding over décor (it’s really hard for an apartment predominantly lived in by short women to hang tapestries, OK), but with the added stress of my classes and other time commitments, I was beginning to feel emotionally drained before the end of the first week.
I didn’t — and still don’t quite get — this feeling of exhaustion that has come from me navigating my interpersonal relationships these first few weeks back. College has given me my best friends. I live with five people who support me, share their food with me (thank you, Emma), and would drop anything to make sure I feel validated and loved. However, after a few months apart, hundreds of Snapchats and text messages don’t make up for months of face-to-face conversation, and there’s a lot of catching up to do.
Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love spending time with my friends, but I am often tempted to drop my homework and other responsibilities to catch up with someone I haven’t seen since May. I’ve found myself awake way later than intended because I’ve spent hours talking with one of my apartment-mates or trying to understand how a friendship’s dynamic has changed from distance. Soon, I know I’ll be settled back into my third year here with no problems and my solid group of friends, but in the meantime, I’m tired and stretched thin. While this exhaustion is just a product of college’s odd schedule — where for a few months each year, your closest friends are scattered across the country — it’s hard in the moment to take a step back and remember to always find balance.
While this exhaustion is just a product of college’s odd schedule — where for a few months each year, your closest friends are scattered across the country — it’s hard in the moment to take a step back and remember to always find balance.
I’ve found peace in reminding myself that I’m not the only one who feels like everything is all up in the air. I’ve learned to cherish the moments when I come home to one of my apartment-mates sharing a crisis moment from the day and relating to the reoccurring struggles of finding textbooks, juggling time commitments and the stress culture that is all too present at the College of William and Mary.
I don’t have a perfect solution or a set strategy for moving forward, but I’ve been working on remembering to prioritize my schoolwork, set aside time for self-care and thinking about just letting go and trusting that my interpersonal relationships will balance out in the coming weeks. I’ve found joy in this exhaustion by consciously choosing to attend friends’ performances or setting aside time for a late night Wawa run with my roommate.
I know that a few months from now, I’ll be messaging in my apartment’s GroupMe reminding people to not leave hair in the shower, and my apartment-mates will be all too sick of me begging for company on my regular trips to get Wawa water; so, for now, I’m focusing on the positives of this tumultuous time and relishing the new experiences we are all sharing together.
Email Sarah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.