Welcome back to the strange alternate universe that is Williamsburg, Virginia — look how vibrant and new the old colonial brick feels! Before moving forward into a fresh semester, major reflection is needed on the chaotic blur of emotion that was last term. Never before have I been so affected by the relationships I gained and lost as I have been in the past few months. Although the new year can be seen as a wonderful opportunity to break ourselves out of the dangerous habits we fell into last year, learning from what exactly caused those dangerous habits is even more crucial, especially as we begin again.
It is expected that once you arrive on campus to start a new semester, you meet all sorts of new people that end up filling your days. The relationships you form during college are intense, since your independence and trust in others becomes especially complicated. College is a community, after all, and it is your responsibility to build the community and watch it grow and prosper. And so, as the beginning of the semester moves on, our relationships with others should only improve … right?
I too would like to tell myself that I have an outstanding friendship with every single person in the William and Mary community (for there are some very wonderful people here). Though college is a bubble, it still holds intense elements of reality, and the reality of relationships is that not everyone is going to stick around with you.
As we get older, we start to realize the power of investing ourselves in other people. The connections we hope to gain from others also come with a dangerous price. The moment we lose a relationship we tried so hard to gain is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, we begin to lose faith in connecting with others, fearing that the end result will be as drastic as cut-off communication. And then you are stuck in your room by yourself again eating noodles and watching “America’s Next Top Model.”
Whether the habit of cutting yourself off from people to protect yourself from rejection is a habit you fell into last semester or last week, the effect is traumatizing. Putting all of your efforts into one or two individuals is not so helpful when one of those people stops receiving. What is perhaps harder than losing the individual is remembering that they sometimes can never be regained. I am personally guilty of thinking that people change and bounce back and that, given enough time, things will go back to normal. But it is at those moments that I have to pinch myself and remember to move on. Does that make the feeling of abandonment better? Well, no, that is something only time can do.
But it does help with the realization that not everyone deserves your intense devotion — save that for yourself. But while you focus on yourself this semester, that does not mean that others are second rate. Everything you do to better yourself always affects the lives of others, who are just trying to practice the same self-care. And in such a strange, tight-knit community that college can be, the extra inch of self-confidence and support for yourself strongly changes the atmosphere of those around you.
Instead of relying on others as a source of your happiness this semester, hold yourself accountable more, for the intense love you give others is a sign that you are capable of hosting that same amount of emotion for yourself. And though it is a new semester, learning how to begin again is sometimes not as easy as taking a month break and returning with a new course catalog.
But this is a great opportunity to push yourself to open up, regardless of whether it is worth it or not. Take the chance and then judge, and remember there is no perfect outline for how relationships (no matter how small or intense) function. Closure is not a guarantee. But with so many people to know, both in this university and beyond, how else are you going to learn about yourself and the world if not through others’ perspectives?
Also, it is crucial to remember all of the people that do stay with you on campus. The ones who open your eyes when you are incapable of waking up. Remember the feeling of joy greeting them back as you are thrown into yet another few months of chaos. Prepare yourself to blindly follow wherever your mind takes you this semester and proceed with caution and love.
Ellie Moonan is a Confusion Corner columnist who wants to foster new relationships.