Dear College Friends
Dear New Friends,
First, let me say that you are so much more than I could’ve expected from my first year of college. As a shy kid, I expected college to be a constant challenge to make connections, and you made everything so much easier. Part of that was me just embarrassing myself by constantly asking if you all wanted to get dinner or what you were doing tonight, but a lot of it was your acceptance of that. I’ve seen a few online articles written to friends from home, including one incredible one written by a great friend of mine from my hall. Few are addressed to the new friends made, so I wanted to fill that niche.
My friends from home have known me for the last 7 to 15 years of my life, and that is something hard to compete against, so I’m so thankful that was never an issue for you. I know it can sometimes be alienating to new friends to constantly be talking about “my best friend at home,” but you were understanding of the obvious attachment I had to them. My friends from home have seen me at my best and worst of my life, so there is a deeper connection we haven’t reached yet.
My best friends from home constantly talk about how happy I am at college and how they can clearly see I’m in the best place imaginable. They know how hard I’ve worked to get to Michigan and be unburdened by my past at the greatest university in the world. Taking mental health days was a common occurrence for me in high school and they knew when to ask me how I was doing and when to talk about whatever new movie with a cute boy was out to distract me. My friends saw me struggle with managing my mental health and I can never be grateful enough for the love and support they constantly gave me.
But now back to you, new friends. This is a part of me I haven’t shown that much at Michigan because I haven’t felt the need. I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been at Michigan and every day is a joy in Ann Arbor, but mental health is not just something you snap out of when you move. In fact, most people struggle more in college because it’s unfamiliar and the people you are close to are suddenly miles away. One third of students don’t return to college after freshman year, either transferring or dropping out. I love Michigan, the classes, the experience, and you guys. I didn’t want to be another statistic, and I needed some external support to do that. Thank you for loving me and supporting me without even realizing it sometimes. Thanks for not fulfilling my fear and flinching when I said I had meetings at the campus psychological services. Above all, thank you for not treating me any differently when I gave hints to my mental health struggles.
It’s 2017 and I shouldn’t have to be writing this specific letter, but I am grateful I’m able to because it has made my first year one for the books. While I have a grip on my depression and anxiety now, the support from strangers and close friends is appreciated. Although my childhood friends are still my go-to support system, it will be an incredible sign of trust as I open up to you more and I know it will form the more long lasting relationships that you hear me talking about when I mention my friends from home. Whether it’s over feta bread at 1 am or during the walk to class on a Thursday, I am happy to share myself with you and I hope you know you are always welcome to do the same with me.
While we aren’t on year 15 of our friendship, I’m willing to put in the effort in because my childhood friends have shown me I can be myself and be supported and that has given me the strength to be brave in college, including sharing the harder things. It feels random to bring up my mental processes over a deep fried tritater, but for all the work I’ve done on destigmatizing conversations about depressions and mental illnesses, I promise not to shy away.
In the words of my current musical obsession, “there’s nobody here who could make it on their own.” - Ben Rector