By Mac Pomeroy
Imagine going from sitting alone in a quiet garden to suddenly being scooped up by an invisible hand and dropped smack-dab in a foreign war zone. Around you is complete chaos. People speaking some sort of unknown language, rushing around, yet, seeming like they are used to this day to day while you are just trying to survive.
While not as dangerous as that would be, that was my first feeling entering college. Entering college as a freshman is stressful for anyone, but for me, it was intense. For my last two years of high school, I hadn’t really attended school at all. Instead, due to health issues, I had been homeschooled.
Let me just say that homeschool and a brick-and-mortar school are two extremely different things. I never liked high school, but I wasn’t happy to leave it either. Sure, it was hell just like it is for everyone, except it was hell for a different reason. Entering my first high school, it wasn’t the students that bullied me, but instead the adults.
All my life, I have had hypotonic cerebral palsy. This means my muscles are very weak and loose. I struggle a lot to try to use my body to perform most tasks in everyday life, such as reaching up to wash my hair or to carry my bag from class to class. Due to my condition, I often ran late to my classes since my muscles can’t move very fast. Instead of being understanding of this, I would arrive to class and get a detention.
After this cycle repeating countless times and having to serve some absolutely needless detentions with a conduct grade so low that it was looking like I set the teacher’s desk on fire, my parents and I decided enough was enough. We found an online school and enrolled me in it.
The first thing you notice when switching to online schooling is how alone you are. Essentially, I only really talked regularly to my parents, my sister and my two cats. No longer was I in the busy halls with stereotypical jocks and nerds and everything else. Instead I was in my bedroom with a 25 pound Maine coon and my laptop.
That may be heaven to some, but for me, it was terrible. Being alone all the time worsened my depression, and I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t want to do my work, and often I did not. I am not even sure how in the world I graduated. Somehow, I got through the two years, and then came time for college.
First day of college, I slicked back my curly pixie cut, put on a floral sundress, and headed to school. I immediately regretted it. I felt like an ant in a swarm, especially since I am only 5 feet tall, and some of these people look like their moms fed them steroids and nails for breakfast every morning. I knew that coming back to school would be strange after all this time, but no one ever told me how strange.
At first, I was happy to be around people again, but it quickly grew to be too much. The thing about being alone for two years is that, well, you kind of forget how to not be alone. People are a lot stranger than you remember them being, and a lot more complicated. Saying “hi” is somehow as shocking as you slapping them in the face, and they take it as a personal offense if you just say nothing, even if you don’t have a reason to talk. Either people got a lot more easily offended and complicated over the last two years, or I was never good with people to begin with. It seems to be a combination of the two. Either way, I just wasn’t sure how to make or keep friends.
It all seemed like some weird animalistic ritual. There was some kind of call or dance needed to interact with others that I just didn’t know. Now, don’t get me wrong, I made friends. A childhood friend who I hadn’t seen, someone who understood my issues without me needing to discuss it, and someone who just stood out in a way that I thought was courageous. These friends help me a lot. Honestly, without them, I think I would have turned into an absolute social recluse.
Using the experience I gained from these friendships, I made some more friends. However, because of my lack of social skills, and my experience in isolation, I also no longer give of the appearance of being my age.
How do I even explain this? People walk up to me, and just start asking questions a freshman wouldn’t have really known the answer to. Thankfully, I have a sister at this school, and my father graduated from here, so I know a bit about this university. Usually, I can answer the question, and the person will move on. When I can’t, and I have to explain I only just got here not long ago myself, typically this gets the same response every time: “You didn’t seem like a freshman.” Now, I have no idea what that means.
When I picture a freshman, I see someone scared shitless, crying in a corner, wondering where their mother is. That was also me on the first day of classes. So, for people to say I didn’t act like a freshman, I can only credit it to being so socially unaware, it seemed like I was mature.
Well, that was all at the beginning, but what about now?
Well, I have gotten better, but I still can’t say that I have totally adjusted to life after being alone. In those two years, I changed so much as a person, and I cannot go back. I went through dozens of feelings and phases, including confusion, acceptance, anger, sorrow, and rebellion.
Honestly, I feel badly that my parents had to deal with it. During those two years, I was a teenage nightmare. I have since matured and changed, but one thing remains: I am more confident in who I am.
Yes, I still get anxious. Yes, I still struggle to communicate with others. Yes, I still don’t know what I am doing. But, I know who I am. I know what my goals are, and why I am here. I am confident in my abilities, and I don’t care what others think of me. From what I wear (yes, even the corset) to what I do, I am fully confident that I am doing it right. I may not be the person I was a few years ago, or even the same person who started college, but I like this version of me. I am confident that I will figure this whole college thing out.