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To my fellow introverts, don’t fear small talk

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Photo Illustration by Ian Green | The Daily Wildcat

Keegan Blackburn enjoys a miniature oasis. This small pond, located east of Park Avenue on Second Street, is home to some turtles, fish and palm trees, making it an ideal location for reflection and relaxation.

Dear fellow introverts,

Welcome to the university! I hope you are as excited as I was coming in. Throughout high school, I had a picturesque vision of what college would be like—the wonderful friends I’d be laughing with, the interesting classes that I’d love and the adventures I would go on. 

Of course, that warm, fuzzy feeling would underlie all of the above.

Whatever that beautiful vision of college you have is, it will probably come true. It definitely is coming true for me. However, I would like to warn you now: Before you get there, you will need to go through an extensive gauntlet of near-torture.

I am not telling you this to scare or discourage you, but merely because I had wished someone told me the truth. 

I wondered for the first few months what was wrong with me, why I was feeling discontent and why the college dream wasn’t coming true for me. I know now that it was all part of the process—growing pains, if you will.

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For some of you, you may have forgotten how hard it is to make new friends. I took friends for granted because I moved up from first grade with many of the same people. 

When college started, though, there wasn’t a single person around that I had a close relationship with.

Most introverts cherish close relationships, but they don’t usually happen randomly. To find a friend, or even acquaintances, in the ocean of 40,000 students requires dozens, hundreds of new interactions in the first few weeks. And to enter a friendship, we need to go through the well-known door of small talk. 

If one of you has found a different way to get to know someone, let me know.

Small talk can be the most tedious, annoying, boring and insincere thing I do all day. I tried to avoid it in the first few weeks, but I paid for it when I saw real friendships happening and hadn’t found anyone I could even talk to.

So, if you have trouble with small talk, I promise you are not the only one. Though it’ll feel wrong and exhausting, small talk will pay off when you meet people who become friends. When I found a few people I could call friends, college started to feel right for me.

After a day of small talk, what feels like a non-stop party on the UA Mall and crowds everywhere, sometimes we just need to sit alone for a bit. Finding quiet, though, can be tricky.

I remember going to my dorm to be alone, but there would be people in my room and in all of the study rooms. There were people everywhere, and sometimes it would be so overwhelming I’d feel like breaking down.

First of all, if you feel like that, there’s nothing wrong with you.

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Second, there are some options. The fourth and fifth floors of the library are quiet, and if you stand among the bookshelves near the back, nobody is there. 

For me, I love the turtle pond area on the corner of Park Avenue and Second Street. Over time, you will find your own places where you can relax and decompress.

Probably, though, the most overwhelming thing about the first few weeks of college is that everyone looks like they’re happy, enjoying themselves and are surrounded by friends.

 It’s so easy to look inward, ask “Why am I not happy?” and feel like you have made a bad decision about college, that you’ll never be happy again or that you’re doing something wrong. 

Talking to people later in the year, I learned that most of the happy faces were faked. Just about everyone feels unsure and homesick and lonely beginning college, whether they say so or not. 

So, there is a taste of the story that most people don’t tell: Starting college is really hard, especially for us introverts. But it gets better; just over the small-talk, the unfamiliarity and the learning curve are some of the best and most unique experiences you’ll ever have.

I hope your year, minus the first quarter or so, is wonderful!


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