It was 1 a.m., and my roommate and I were brushing our teeth, getting ready for bed, as I replayed a mediocre Friday night in my head. I touched on how I had laughed and had met some nice people. I remembered how we played some video games and this cool card game that I really enjoyed. But what consumed my thoughts was a nagging feeling that had crept over me toward the end of the night, one I’ve experienced before, a murmuring voice that crescendoed until I internalized its message: “You don’t belong.”
What made this voice so frightening was that it wasn’t questioning my academic talents; it was challenging my personality and its place in the Yale community. It knew I could spend the next four years excelling but wanted to make sure I knew I was going to be spending my time a drifter, never to find that “group” I could immediately turn to to share excitement or annoyance at any given moment.
Some columnists in the News have empathized with the desire many men at Yale have for joining fraternities, considering those who don’t have a well-articulated group of friends to be among the loneliest people on campus. I am certain I am one of those men, even if I’m not tempted by the comfort the brotherhood of fraternity may bring.
I had just spent my Friday night with a group of guys brought together by another suitemate who from the very beginning had developed a strong group of friends with which he felt comfortable. I heard him and others frequently refer to them as best friends. And all I could think was, “Where are my best friends?”
Early in the fall semester of this year, my first year, I told myself that he had found his group quickly because he came into school knowing more people than I. I’d find my people. Just give it time. But the longer it took the less I believed myself. I saw friend groups everywhere: a group of girls here whose suite seemed to know every intimate detail about each other, an entryway there that always sat together in the dining hall, a group of guys who were always walking with each other. I so wanted that; why was it taking so long?
I was left wondering whether I was destined to be lonely because I didn’t have that close friend unit.
So that night, brushing my teeth in the bathroom with my roommate next to me, in a genuine moment searching for connection, I turned to him and asked, “Do you have that ‘group’?” And he turned right back to me and said, “no.” He explained that he had friends in his various extracurricular groups and classes but no single core group. And in that moment, I understood that maybe all I thought I was missing out on at Yale was in my head.
The next day, I interviewed a senior for a new project I was doing for YTV. I asked her about who she surrounds herself with and without prompting, she responded by mentioning that she clicked with individuals from different areas of her life rather than relying on one core group. Later that week, I told a new friend I had made that I was going to write about not having that “group,” and she responded by saying she too did not have a singular “group.”
The more I thought about my surroundings, the clearer it became. For every group I envied, there was an individual who wasn’t a part of it, maybe going through the same internal debate as I. Social media may highlight the groups, but the individuals are everywhere.
I still don’t have a “group,” but I work to focus on the friends who make me laugh on a daily basis. The less I critique our relationship in my head for being too surface level and just enjoy the fact that it is there, the better I feel.
So if you’re like me and finding the group hasn’t been the easiest task, always remember that you’re not out of the ordinary. You’re not a freak. You do belong. And if you need someone to talk to, my email address is down below.
Yalies are often lambasted for being oversharers when it comes to academic stress, almost glorifying it. Maybe we should be transferring some of that energy to discussing our more personal hurdles.
I’m always trying to improve myself. And I constantly see myself as looking to be the change I wish to see. But sometimes we just need to take a break and realize we’re all right as we are.
You’re doing better than you think.
Jacob Hutt is a first year in Silliman College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .