In Defense of Discomfort

My fall break was necessary and needed, as I imagine it was for everyone else. With the stress of midterms, acclimating to a new setting, and constant socializing that comes with your first semester at college, I felt in desperate need of a break and longed for my family and home. And I wasn’t disappointed—I had a relaxing and great long weekend— but the distance from campus inevitably prompted contemplation of my experience at Tulane thus far, which is something I didn’t expect to undergo but ultimately I’m really glad that I did.  

I spent part of my break travelling to Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits music festival and to quickly visit a few old friends who attend the University of Texas. Austin and UT are both places I consider almost second homes—I’m from Houston and attended summer camp just a few miles away, so my childhood was dotted with frequent trips up to the city. I also come from a big UT family; my dad and uncles all attended the school and love to reminisce about their college days. The school is generally a popular choice for Houstonians and especially for my high school—my graduating class of around 70 people sent 22 to the school. Many live in the same places and rush the same Greek organizations, thus kind of continuing high school life into college.

As a high school senior, all of these factors generally discouraged me from attending UT. I was turned off by the fact that I knew so many people who committed, and would sometimes even judge them for not taking advantage college’s unique opportunities to start a new life and make new friends seriously. I constantly dismissed UT as a serious option when my parents brought it up, and set my sights on other schools across the country, with different environments and people. A part of me prided myself on my presumed ability to thrive in a foreign place, and when I committed to Tulane, I couldn’t wait to fulfill my desire for new experiences.

When I visited Texas this past weekend, my perspective changed completely. I was first surprised by how great it felt to see my old friends, and realized just how lonely certain parts of settling into Tulane felt. Soon after, though, that comfort was replaced with envy. I felt super jealous of the fact that my friends had each other (as well as many upperclassmen) to rely on in this transition. They had already rushed, were really familiar with the social scene, and felt right at home in Austin. It felt as if their college lives were much more developed, comfortable, and fulfilling than mine. I began to compare my experiences at Tulane to theirs at UT, and, feeling pretty inadequate, spiraled into some anxious thoughts. What if I had discounted UT too quickly? What if I really needed a familiar environment to thrive in college? Isn’t meeting new people while having a lot of close friends to rely on kind of ideal? What’s so bad about being so close to home? I’d love to see my family more often and come back on weekends just for the fun of it.  

I brought all of this up with my parents and friends, and quickly realized some things. While a completely new life chapter seemed really attractive senior year, I failed to identify the negatives that come with a change like that—homesickness, loneliness, and lack of closer relationships, to name a few—changes that everyone experience to some degree when arriving at college. Indeed, I know a few of my friends at UT even feel the same way. But just because I was blindsided by all of those feelings when arriving at Tulane doesn’t mean I’m not still “doing it”: I’m still living on my own in a new environment, making new friends, and enjoying a new city. In hindsight, it seems kind of absurd that I expected to start college and immediately thrive, because it’s only after you learn to continually exist outside of your comfort zone that you begin to grow.

So, have all my adjustment issues been miraculously solved? No, and to be honest, I’m still not sure Tulane is the right place for me. I’m still figuring it all out. But I do know that this experience, whether ultimately a failed or successful one, is crucial to doing so and has proven to me that I indeed have the strength to live out new experiences, as does everyone. I no longer “mock” the culture I know at UT; I totally see its appeal and don’t believe it reflects failure to change at all. And I’m glad to have had the experience I recently had there. It challenged me to view my discomfort not as terrible failure, but to accept it positively and as proof that I’m on the path towards the experience I truly want. It’s much easier said than done, but this newfound patience and outlook will only help me, and I’m confident that I’ll eventually get to where I want to be.  

If you’re a freshman and feeling a little overwhelmed, I hope this all speaks to you and you know that you’re really not alone. Additionally, here are two articles I found helpful and comforting with some other good tips: hereand here

 COVER PHOTO: Lily Heller

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About Lily Siegel

Lily Siegel is a History and SLAMM major from Houston. This freshman loves writing, listening to music, and yoga.

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