If you didn’t know – identity crisis is when you feel insecure and don’t know who you really are as a person and where you fit in within a group. Being in a new environment heightens this and suddenly not knowing where you stand within a group of people can cause mixed feelings – one being identity crisis. Although this is known to happen in adolescence, I finally experienced it a month ago. I guess it is something I’ve always unconsciously struggled with, but never really acknowledged until now.
Moving to a new city was both exciting and scary. I couldn’t wait to break away from home and gain my freedom but when it actually came to moving in, I begged my family not to leave me. Gradually I started to settle in, form friendships with my flatmates and get used to the area.
I’d been dreading my first day of university simply because I wasn’t sure how to start the process of making friends. In secondary school it seems so simple and easy because everyone is alike: you’re from the same area, you have similar backgrounds and you’re even put into classes with people who are similar to you, enabling you to make new friends through each other.
University wasn’t like this for me. Yes everyone is in the same boat being ‘the new student’, but some people had met before the term started and formed bonds already so they had their friendship groups sorted. The rest of us mingled and tried to figure out one another and see who we clicked with best – which for me was a long process.
As the weeks went on I repeatedly told myself ‘I’ve only just started and it’s fine not to have a solid friendship group yet. It would be weird if I found best friends straight away, right?’ I would find myself sitting with a variety of people and seemed to have a few friends dotted around the class.
Then it hit me. Walking into my class, I realised that everyone had a group of people that they identified and sat with except me. Every group that I sat with didn't feel quite right. All of them were lovely, but not ‘my type of people’. I started to question myself. Who are ‘my type of people’? Am I being picky? Is it my personality that people aren't clicking with? Or is everyone too different for me?
I then went on to start dreading every class session, knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy it simply because I didn’t feel like any table particularly wanted my presence. I was unsure of my purpose within the group, what people thought of me and whether I would actually ever make friends. My friends from back home all had found people that they got on well with, so why couldn’t I?
Eventually, I started to ignore these thoughts; I focused on my work, and randomly sat on a table with three girls who were good friends. They were funny, interested in our course and didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. I was confused. What was the catch? Well there wasn’t one. I focused so much on finding a group of people to relate to when I just needed to focus on myself and let the friendships naturally happen instead of trying to force them. That was about two months into university! Even though it took long to make friends, I’m not embarrassed. Imagine if I had worked my way into one of the friendship groups earlier. I would probably be miserable, ignored and lonely.
They tell you when you go to university it'll be easy for you to make friends, but in reality, if you get nervous about talking to new people (like me) it’s not. Yes I did feel alone for a while but eventually I found a group that I felt accepted by. And if you’re one of those people in the first term of university who hasn't found any solid friends yet don’t worry, you’re not the only one. If you made friends within the first week great. If you didn’t, also great. I would have much rather found people I relate to the most in the last month of term than hang out with ones that I didn’t feel like myself around in the first week.
This reflection period has changed me. In a good way though. I'm not going to use the cliché ‘I’ve found myself’, but I do now feel a sense of belonging and have an idea of what my identity is. I switched up my hair and style and not because I was forced to, but because I had always wanted to but felt scared to before. Being at university gives you the chance to experiment, find out the people who bring out the best in you and discover who you are as a person.
Going to an arts school can be intimidating and you may sometimes feel like you don’t belong because of the masses of creativity and fashionable students. But you’ve been chosen for a reason. You do belong here and it’s only a matter of time until your peers see that too. Focus on yourself, and it’ll only be a matter of time until you find out who the person you’re truly supposed to be is.