Alone Under the Stars
Senior Compass Series
Content warning: This article discusses depression and suicide. Please refer to the end of the article for resources on campus.
I always do my best thinking under the night sky. So, when asked to ponder my greatest failure at Georgetown University, I lay down on a bench in the Southwest Quad and turned my gaze toward the stars.
As I peered skyward, the vast endlessness of space reminded me that Earth is relatively insignificant to the rest of the universe. These thoughts, as they often do, evoked in me a visceral urge to cry. Perhaps this is because I, too, felt insignificant.
I have yet to shake this feeling. Making friends has always been difficult for me, and my social experiences at Georgetown have only amplified this insecurity. My greatest failure at Georgetown has been my inability to build long-lasting friendships, despite my increased efforts to be social.
I got involved with activities that would put me in touch with new people. I went to parties I did not want to go to. I tried to initiate plans, even when I was not comfortable doing so. None of
these attempts, however, resulted in any sort of long-term friendship. There are certainly familiar faces at Georgetown, but I do not foresee myself staying in touch with people I have met here after I graduate next month.
There was one moment during my time here when I did not feel like I had failed at making friends.
Last year, I met a fellow transfer student on my floor, and we got along right away. I shared big pieces of myself with her, and she did the same in return. Throughout the fall semester, we explored Washington, D.C., together, studied together and had the kind of conversations that extend to the late hours of the morning. I was never her best friend on the floor, but we were close nonetheless. For once, someone would consistently invite me to events.
In the spring, however, she joined a selective club on campus and became less available. When she was free, we both made an effort to continue our friendship. Still, we saw each other less and less as her new club’s obligations and social activities became more frequent. By March, we barely saw each other at all.
Once, in April, she messaged me to ask how I was doing. Dips in mental health had been a regular occurrence in my life by this point, and I was doing badly. I answered honestly and told her I was suicidal again. She responded by saying that she would be crushed if I left her life. I know she was being sincere, but it did not feel that way at the time. I basically had already left her life, and our friendship never recovered.
In the last weeks of the year, we only spoke when we happened to bump into each other in the halls. Now that we live on opposite sides of campus, we hardly speak at all. How quickly we became strangers again was incredible.
Realizing that the person with whom I was closest did not see me the same way was difficult. This understanding came with a disappointing truth: Spending time with me was not – and has never been – anyone’s top priority.
It would be naive and narcissistic to hope I would be crucially important to every student on campus. But I hoped that, by the time I graduated from Georgetown, I would be that important to at least one person.
If there is some foolproof method for making long-lasting friends during your undergraduate years, I certainly have not found it. I do, however, know that a friendship may not withstand your ever-changing, tumultuous time at college, no matter how close you get to someone. Additionally, expressing care for another person may not be enough to keep the relationship you share intact. To make a friendship last, you have to show your dedication to somebody else through action.
My inability to make long-lasting friends during my undergraduate career will lead to many more nights of pondering under the night sky. Maybe someday there will be a peer in my life who makes me feel significant, even when my sights are on the stars. But, until then, I will have to continue tackling life on my own.
To access mental health resources, reach out to Counseling and Psychiatric Services at 202-687-6985, or for after-hours emergencies, call 202-444-7243 and ask to speak to the on-call clinician. You can also reach out to Health Education Services at 202-687-8949. Both of these resources are confidential.
Brittany Rios is a senior in the College.