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Let loneliness be a choice

It’s only seven weeks left...49 days...three weekends until it’s four weeks left…

I calculated that exact formula constantly. Every day slowly dragged me to the day I could go home.

I spent last year – my freshman year– living in a double-turned-single because my roommate chose not to come live on campus to attend school through Zoom University and save the money. A decision I was made aware of, by the way, 10 days after arriving on campus. 

I spent nights by myself, without any in-person classes, knowing just a few people who lived up and down my hall.

I did not enjoy myself.

I woke up at the same time every day. Started a class at 10:05 every day,  Ate lunch immediately after that class from the same dining hall, every day. Spent nights rewatching The West Wing, eating the same meal from Red Zone. Every. Single. Day. 

The little time I spent with my friends felt forced; like playing a part in a massive simulation of perpetual daze. I liked them fine. I just wasn’t me.

The fact that I endured two semi-in-person classes in the Spring where I still couldn’t meet anybody because we socially distanced in the classrooms failed to improve things. I just felt isolated, like I was forced into quarantine housing even though I never got COVID.

No olive branch extended, no emails offering the likely hundreds of students in my same situation to have a roommate to make the already lonely life we endured throughout the pandemic just a smidgeon better.

They were just glad we were willing to spend the extra few thousand dollars to live isolationist-style; pretending to genuinely exist at college.

I almost made a huge mistake this year.

I became so used to that single, I told myself the only option was to get a single dorm again and live the same hyper-routined life to make it through the year A-OK. 

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The day before I received the single dorm offer, a friend planning on living in an apartment with friends called me.

A roommate dropped their slot.

I bolted.

I immediately emailed everyone I could, found out every bit of information I could scrounge up, and got myself assigned to Logan Lodge at Heritage Commons with 3 roommates.

After a year of living by myself, compensating for loneliness through routines and comfort television, I ended up in an apartment with 3 other people. A bit of a shift if you asked me.

It’s been three weeks and I can’t imagine anything better for me. 

Last year I spent days on end thinking about how to get out, ways to get away for an hour. I would take walks for hours, just to have something new happen in my day. 

I can hardly be dragged out of my new home.

Seeing a friend every morning, cooking up dinners together, watching movies, having friends over on weekend nights. I finally feel like me.

I simply wonder why I had to endure such a hard year to find this happiness.

Why was it my responsibility to know that I would be unhappy by myself? Was I supposed to fend for myself until my roommate *maybe* decided to show up?

Why didn’t anyone check-in?

I spend a lot of time pondering these questions; pondering just how many freshmen are living this same loneliness I did. I truly worried I would end up being unhappy with my time at Miami because of my living arrangements.

Nobody ever asked to see if I wanted to be moved somewhere where I could live with a person for my first moments away from my parents.

I had to figure that out for myself.

These past few weeks have instilled in me a simple but significant message; keep yourself near people who make you happy. Have uncomfortable fights with your roommate, go to lunch with a friend, talk to whoever is sitting next to you in your class; especially now that we have in-person classes.

If I spent half as much time last year as I do this year simply being in the presence of people who uplift my spirits, I would have experienced a vastly different, better freshman year.

After a year of forced isolation, it has become clear to me that it’s up to us to put all our effort into avoiding a painful college experience.

Find your people; stick with them.

@devin_ankeney

ankenedw@miamioh.edu 

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