“I am, I am, I am.” These lovely words by Sylvia Plath have drummed through my head many times, specifically when I am trying to go to bed. Specifically when I’m feeling a little bit lonely. Now, this article is not meant to be a downer, but it is meant to explore the relationship that isn’t talked about. The relationship people have with themselves. I know that our generation is called the “me, me, me generation,” but I’m going to argue that we are more than just self-absorbed. We aren’t internally thoughtful, which masks who we actually are.
I used to think that living inside my mind was an utter waste of time. As an introvert, I tend to feel most at home in my internal world, but the idea that a person can be content being alone or surrounded by a few select people is not a socially acceptable notion…at least not in college. In college, asking for alone time is the equivalent of telling your friends to fuck off. I still believe that friendships are a huge reason that college is so great, but I sometimes feel that being surrounded by people who always seem so happy and carefree can be subtly destructive. Everyone believes that everyone else is happy, which means that no one feels comfortable having frank discussions about how they are actually feeling. Sure, people talk about how stressed out they are, but this discussion has a level of pride. There is no vulnerability behind it. Sometimes, I feel like people are wound up so tight, like jack-in-the-boxes. Just like jack-in-the-boxes, no one knows when they will explode. Just like jack-in-the-boxes, they wear forced smiles.
I have a theory that people, especially college students, feel uncomfortable “just being.” What I mean by this phrase is that people have this unrealistic expectation that life will always be full of excitement and joy. That life will always be interesting and that only “real” drama, like death, will truly make you sad. As a frustrated high school student, I thought that college would immediately solve all my problems. I didn’t realize that college is only effective at teaching people who really take the time to feel their emotions and be self-reflective. Although college is a time for enormous change, it is also a time to just sit still and think. It’s a time to let yourself feel and understand complex emotions. Taking the time to do this is so important because if you don’t understand yourself, you will go through life being perpetually unhinged…just like a jack-in-the-box.
I’m going to be honest; thinking internally isn’t something that comes naturally to a generation of people who thrive off constant, if not disingenuous, human interaction. It’s hard to let yourself feel emotions, like loneliness or sadness, when no one else admits experiencing them. So, I’m going to be honest. I feel lonely fairly often. Now, I have a great group of friends and everything is going great, but I still feel a little uncertain and uncomfortable with my new environment. I’m still having trouble “just being.” I call my parents every day and still feel homesick. I worry that I will never be content “just being,” and will forever question the validity of my emotions. I have tried so many extremes; from forcibly confronting my emotions head on to pretending they don’t exist. What I’ve realized is that emotional growth cannot be forced. It’s a long process that requires both the acceptance of where you are on your emotional journey and where you can go. Only at the end of this long journey can you define who you are. My hope is that someday people will break out of their boxes, acknowledge their emotions, and say, “I am!”