Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to find a younger Anusha, shake her vigorously by the shoulders, alert her of the numerous mistakes she is yet to make, and advise her to do otherwise. But at the same time, I wonder what I would have lost had I decided to play it safe, to follow the well-meaning advice of my elders, to refuse to make those same missteps. Therefore, I have decided that rather than curse my past blunders that I must celebrate and accept them for the constructive experiences that they were and are (that is, until scientists build a working time machine).
Now that I’ve said all of this, you’d probably like a more concrete example of something I’ve done with far-reaching consequences. Something that has fundamentally altered my perception of the world and the people that populate it. Well, here it is:
I was a young and impressionable freshman at a prominent public institution. And as many freshmen do on the first day, I desperately clung to the people I met in fear of drowning in a new and unfamiliar undergraduate ocean. It was nearly absurd how hard I would try to relate to people that I veritably had very little in common with. My painfully awkward conversations would usually go something like this:
Person A: Hi there!
Me: Hello! Do you like coffee or tea better? I personally love coffee, I don’t know how I’d ever live without-”
Person A: I actually hate coffee.
Me: Oh! Hey, I do too! It’s so overrated. Haha what kind of losers like coffee?
Alas, it was a strange and desperate time. But eventually, after several of such painfully awkward and stilted conversations, I struck gold! I found someone who lived on my floor and was kind, intelligent, and funny! It was amazing! I had found (dare I say it) my first college best-friend. If only it would stay that way. Cue dramatic music.
Throughout my first year of college we’d do everything together- we went to our first (and last) party, we did study sessions even if we weren’t in the same classes, we’d spend hours talking about how our days went, hell, we even had tea parties.
It was a magical time. Because of this, I dreamt of the day when we too could one day become roommates the following school year like all of the other brilliant college-best-friends! For you see- I was currently living with someone else with whom I had very little in common – and let’s just say that we had very different life styles and also perceptions of what was okay to do in the room in the other’s presence. At this point, you may be curious about what I am referring to, but I don’t think I can handle reliving the experience and will leave it to your astute imagination.
But this new friend of mine. She was different. We were friends. We enjoyed spending time together and we would be amazing roommates the following year. And as it so often happens with things that are too good to be true…it was.
When we finally became roommates the next year, something had changed between us. I’m not quite sure why or how it happened, but now that we shared the same living space, she no longer wanted to hang out as much. But why? Didn’t we initially decide to become roommates because we liked hanging out with each other? I thought in uncomfortable protest. Gradually, we began to speak less and less to each other and ultimately only saw each other when we had both returned to the room. I’d like to say that I took this sudden change like a champ, brushing it off my shoulder like a few stray breadcrumbs. But I didn’t. Truthfully, it really hurt.
Noticing how our once vivacious and nonsensical conversations had suddenly become indifferent and clipped exchanges, I felt my stomach turn on itself. While I tried talking to her about it, the words came out uncertain and unconvincing. How exactly do you address the fact that your once college-best-friend has become a distant acquaintance in a matter of a few months? Ultimately, our discussions led to no satisfying resolution, and feeling as if I had been punched in the stomach, I resolved to distance myself from this person and move on. I realized that I needed to expand my social circle so that the loss of our friendship would hurt less. I purposefully texted my roommate less frequently, further destroying the vestiges of our previous relationship.
Although it was difficult, I found myself reaching out more to the people in my clubs and classes. I was making new friends, trying new things, and feeling better about myself than I did before.
In retrospect, I’d like to say the end of our friendship was not exclusively either of our faults – I definitely played a role in extending the distance between us once I felt that things had changed. I think it was just a strange and unfortunate situation, and that possibly if I had invested more time and effort in bettering the circumstances, it could have ended differently. And although this was a difficult experience for me, I feel that I’ve learned a lot from it- specifically to never ever have roommates! I’m only (partially) kidding about that, but I guess I learned that not everyone is as they seem when you first meet and befriend them and that your friends will not necessarily make exceptional roommates. I’ve also learned how to forgive myself and others and ultimately come out for the better.
With regards to my roommate situation, while it can be frightening to make mistakes and lose a comrade, I believe that we have to keep trying to make connections outside of ourselves in spite of the risk of failure and rejection. We have to become more comfortable with taking risks and change.