Photo Credit: okandasan via flickr

Sunlight flashed through an open crack between the cheap vinyl window shades. I squeezed my eyes shut to the bright light, rolled over, and pulled my pillow over my head.

As I lay in bed in my tiny dorm room, I considered all that had happened in my first two days as a college freshman. I turned the events and people over in my mind, hoping that reexamining them from different angles might give their place in my life some level of clarity. I was fortunate that, as a member of the University of Wisconsin swim team, I seemed to have an instant group of friends. I didn’t need to enter this strange and foreign land of College alone. I had teammates, cohorts, buddies. During the past two days, we had eaten meals together, explored the campus together, and generally pretended as if we had known each other for longer than we had.

But, as I lay in bed that morning dealing with the aftermath of drinking too much cheap beer out of red solo cups the night before, I wondered about my role among these new friends. Were they simply teammates, with our camaraderie thrust upon us by the countless hours that we would spend together training in the pool? Or would real friendships develop out of mutual respect, complementary personalities, and common interests?

I longed to hear the voice of someone familiar.  I sat up and considered phoning the one person who had always been there – my younger sister. For the past 17 years, we had inhabited the same bedroom, with our lives overlapping and intertwined. I could count on her to stay up late with me rehashing high school drama, to let me borrow her clothes whenever I wanted, to keep me awake at night with incessant giggling, and to generally always have my back. With only a year and a half separating us, we shared many of the same experiences and the same friends. My highs were her highs. Her lows were my lows. We were like two sides of the same coin – different but always together.

I picked up the phone and started to dial. Halfway through the number, I stopped. I gently set the phone back on the receiver. I laid my head back down on the pillow and let out a deep, sad sigh. One tear trickled down my face. Then another. And then another. I sobbed silently for what felt like hours.

Eventually my tears stopped and my face dried. But my heart still ached. I was disoriented and confused. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been cut from my body. I lay in my new bed in my new room in my new town and I mourned the lost appendage of my youth, my home, and my family.

Eventually many authentic and lasting friendships would develop with both my swimming teammates and other friends who I met at college. But, at that time, I had never felt so alone.


Once again, I am entering this post in the online writing competition at Yeah Write.Voting begins on Wednesday at 8pm and continues through Thursday at 9 pm. I would love your vote.

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  • Oh I remember those feelings well when I went to college, it’s a hard transition into adulthood. I’m glad you made some good friends though! Sometimes being alone is the best way to learn how to be ourselves.

    • You are so right about that. Sometimes we are most alone when we are surrounding by many other people though.

    • You are so right. But we learn so much about ourselves and others during that time too. I guess you need the challenge in order to grow.

  • I remember the intensity of being along at college. I often wondered if I’d made the right decision. I didn’t feel at home for quite awhile-felt like an fake. This was very well written and transported me back to those memories.

  • Wow! Read it a few times now and it makes me tear up everytime. Definitely brings back those wonderful memories of sharing a room and so many other wonderful memories we shared. Also, brings back the hurt of those first days you were gone, knowing that from that moment on we were forever going to be changed. We would never have that special bond that comes from sharing a room. I guess that’s why even though my girls didn’t need to, I put them in a room together as soon as possible. Nothing was better than having my sister as a roommate. I miss you every day and wish so much that we lived closer. I am so very grateful for that special bond. Love you lots!

  • I’m impressed with your level of insight and thoughtfulness at such a young age. As clueless and immature as I was in college, I can’t imagine wondering if my friendships would be lasting and meaningful. I only hoped the cool girls would like me! I hope my daughters have a similar relationship with each other as you do with your sister. Lovely!

  • I really enjoyed reading your story! It totally sucked me in.
    I also have a sister that I am very close to, and I could totally relate to your relationship with yours.
    P.S. I’m glad that you did end up making great friends. 🙂

  • I work on a college campus and that first couple of weeks are so tough for first-year students. I remember feeling overwhelmed by excitement and fear at the same time. Such a difficult, but necessary transition. Excellent post!

    • Thanks. You are so right – it is a difficult but necessary transition. Doesn’t it seem like most worthwhile transitions are a little tough?

  • You did a great job of capturing the loneliness of freshman year. And, ohhhhhh, those red solo cups of Gawd Awful beer…

    • Thank you. Yes, shortly after college, I admitted that I just hate beer. I don’t need to drink this crap if I don’t want to!

    • I was only 90 minutes away and it still felt like I was on the other side of the universe! Even back then it had to do with to wanting to be part of the in-crowd (kind of like your latest post, which was spot on, btw).

  • Good old UW! I actually left all my friends who went there to move out to Colorado myself…so while different places, that lonely pit is universal.

    • Thankfully, it seems like most of us step out of that pit eventually. But it can seem so deep and dark sometimes.

    • Thanks. It seems a lot of people can relate to these lonely feelings. Funny how we don’t let anyone else know at the time!

  • This reminded me of how I cried alone in my older sister’s bedroom when she went off to college. (Not that I ever told her…maybe I will now.)

    Great job capturing that lonely feeling we can have even when surrounded by people.

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