I’ve never really been a joiner. I don’t like people all that much and I’m an introvert, but even someone as maladjusted as me has realized that just keeping my head down to get through the day isn’t enough.
Life isn’t just about keeping to yourself and getting your work done, at least not if you want to keep your sanity. Looking back, it was always the years in which I had no extracurricular activity that my academic performance suffered the most.
Senior year of high school, fresh off an exchange year abroad and at the height of contempt for my hometown and the students at my school, I withdrew from the very few things I had done outside of regular courses. My AP English teacher, an unpleasant woman to be sure, was surprised when some of my fellow students called me smart. My performance that semester had been so far below my standard that she pulled me aside to ask me why they thought I was smart, either out of concern for my mental decline or my classmates’ mental health, I’m still not quite sure which.
When I arrived at Tulane University the following fall, my grades were OK, but in the springtime, when all of my friends joined sororities, acappella groups or the student-run emergency medical services program, I stayed in my room and my grades dropped like a stone. When I transferred to Santa Rosa Junior College the next semester, I got a job at a restaurant and, a semester later, a position on the newspaper staff. My personal relationships and grades were healthier than they’d been in years.
Which brings me to my arrival at SF State, the school at which I have made the least attempt to make friends or engage with the school beyond a superficial level. When I arrived at Tulane, I made friends through the honors program and the dorms. I had no such luxury at SF State, since I commuted from Sonoma and wasn’t part of any similar programs, and arriving so late in my academic career made me feel like I’d missed the friendship boat sailing out of Well-Adjusted Harbor. Again, my grades suffered significantly.
And now, here I am, writing to you from a brand new semester at SF State. Just another self-misdiagnosed misanthrope joining in for the sake of my sanity. I’m back on a newspaper staff, and the rush of endorphins I feel when my editor-in-chief and I spend a few hours hashing out the logistics of the next issue is just about my favorite high. It’s something that challenges me mentally, but I do it because I love it, not for a grade or a credit.
You, my fellow Gators, don’t have to join a sorority or an a cappella group, run around campus handing out flyers or do anything particularly social at all. Finding something enjoyable and stimulating can be as simple as you want it to be.
We are all wired differently. I need the structure, conflict, social interaction and intellectual pursuits of a newspaper, but what worked for me might not work for you. Trust me, I used to feel the same way, like I didn’t need anyone or anything. The important thing is to find something that makes you happy.