The stranger in your classroom
By an anonymous student
Dear fellow student,
I’m the person whose name you can’t recall after we’ve spent an entire year together, twice a week, in the same classroom. I’m the one in the corner of the room, minding my own business, keeping quiet.
You don’t know my name, but then again, you have never asked me and I didn’t tell you. So, who’s to blame?
We all know those people that are charismatic and fun to be around. They can make you feel special, they are cool, laid-back, fearless. Yeah well, I’m not one of those people, unfortunately.
I guess that is just not how I’m wired, and life doesn’t come with an ‘overcoming-crippling-insecurities-and-social-anxiety’ tutorial for dummies. So, even though UCG has a tight-knit community, full of social, smart, and inspiring students, I struggled to settle.
But this is no pity-post. Or maybe it is, I’m not quite sure anymore now that it is 2 a.m.
Anyways, I just want to get this out of my mind.
First of all, what the *bleep* is friendship even? Because I don’t know anymore.
I wouldn’t consider the people I only vaguely know from Facebook to be my friends. Or the girl from last week with whom I made an assignment. How about my housemates? I think they are nice, we talk about our day and cook dinner together. Is that considered friendship? Or are friends only the ones you share your deepest, darkest secrets with? For whom you’d jump into a fire, without hesitation. If the latter is the case, I’d rather not get burnt. But to say that I have 0 friends… For one, that sounds a little pathetic. Also, I don’t think it is true because I do have some people in my life that I enjoy spending time with (see, not a pity-post).
But friendship remains a vague concept that keeps gnawing at me. A way to clear things up is by assuming that friendship isn’t a black-or-white concept but is more ambiguous and can be divided into different types. This is not a revolutionary thought however, this guy named Aristotle beat me to it. He distinguished 3 types of friendship:
The first and best type is friendship of virtue. These types of friends are the I-would-jump-into-a-fire-for-you type of friends and this type of friendship only occurs between two good and selfless people.
Then there is friendship of pleasure. This is more of an I-like-you-but-don’t-need-you type of friendship. You spend time together because it’s fun, but suppose your friend broke his arm and now hanging out is not what it used to be. Then moving on to someone with two working arms is no problem. I think most students have many of these kinds of friends. These are the people you party with occasionally, you know them only on a superficial level and the conversations you have are light and entertaining. However, these are not the people you call crying when your pet hamster dies because they don’t care about Fluffy.
Lastly, Aristotle defines friendship of utility. These friends aren’t necessarily fun, but they can get you where you want to be. People that engage in such friendships are mostly old men according to Aristotle, but not exclusively of course. An example could be joining an elitist student association, infamous for their extreme hazing traditions *cough* Vindicat *cough*. The foremost reason to join might be to gain valuable connections for your future career and to get access to exclusive parties.
“Well, thank god for Aristotle, now I know how to categorise all my non-existing friends”
Making friends, how the *bleep* did that work again?!
Good question, my fellow shy person. I have no clue either. I used to think that making friends was do-able, but times were easier in kindergarten. You know, when the only thing you had to worry about was playing with your toys and making sure that that kid next to you in class didn’t drool on your drawing. Back then, kids would just randomly come up to you and say: “Wanna be fwiends?” and then the two of you were besties for life (or at least until that big argument over “insert unimportant topic”). Now it has become a little harder.
We all have developed into our own person, with specific dreams and goals and quirks. Finding someone that you click with can be quite the challenge. And then the next step. What do you do when you’ve found that person that you get along with? Props to everyone that has mastered the skill of small talk and can engage in conversations about the weather. I suck at it, and would much rather move on to something deeper, but how? Something like: “Hi, nice to meet you! Btw, do you think that what we perceive is reality or just a construct of our minds?” feels a tad bit rushed. You need at least a couple small talk interactions before you start digging in each others brain, right?
What the *bleep* do you even want?!
Lastly, I don’t know what I want most of the time. Some days I feel miserable and lonely and I dramatically ride my bike in the rain pretending to star in a sad video clip, while lip-syncing to Adele. Other days, I feel completely fine. The small conversations I have in class and with my housemates fulfil all my social needs and I feel the closest an introvert can feel to being extraverted. Trying to find a balance between these good and bad days, proves to be challenging. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what would make me happy. I have always kind of envied people that seem to have an unlimited supply of friends, but what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Some people mostly have friendships of pleasure, and they love it. Being around many people at the same time energizes them while I, on the other hand, would prefer to spend time with one or two friends that I know in and out. The kind of friendship where you don’t constantly have to be funny or loud to prove your worth, but where you can just be yourself.
Now that I’ve been running out of ballads to lip-sync to, I think it’s time to take some sort of action. That means effort from my side, but a little help doesn’t go unappreciated. So, if you are still looking for that friendship of virtue, try looking a bit further than the people you already know, and maybe walk up to that person whose name you STILL don’t know. ;)
All the best,
-The stranger in your classroom
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