January 31, 2023

PLOWE | An Introvert’s Guide to Belonging

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As a senior, I am unfazed by the early semester excitement. Soon, the culture at our school will shift, and we will once again feel the debilitating collective tides of stress, anxiety and depression. I’m writing this piece to get ahead of the storm, to catch you in your tracks and tell you: Hi, you matter, regardless of your grades, career and social status. 

As I watch swarms of sorority girls process around North Campus and frat guys lumber around in awkward pairs across West Campus, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Chances are, they won’t find what they’re looking for. The feeling of belonging, acceptance and oneness with others must start with a deep knowledge and love for oneself. But hey, if you’re a super self-aware first year rushing Greek life, good for you. 

I was not always a cynical scholar, stashing myself away in A.D. White Library and drinking nothing but black tea to keep my heart pumping. Yes, I was once a partygoer, a something-smoker and a bit of a snob. When I came back from my gap year after the height of the pandemic, however, I found that I could not stand parties. Even groups of people over three individuals (myself included) overwhelmed me.

If you’re feeling left out from all the attractive fun of party culture (like someone spiking your drink!) I am here to inform you that life outside of group conformity is sweet and satisfying. 

The following information is a guide for becoming a deeply interconnected recluse, or, just a guide to living with more freedom. I don’t care who you are — this is for you. If you follow these invitations, you will absolutely make a few close friends. 

Invitation 1: Be friends with yourself. Whatever hangups you have about who you are, whether you matter, what you offer to this world — deal with them. If it’s with your mom, a therapist, your dog or your one friend (we all have that one friend), it’s time to work through your shit. There is no possible way that you will form deep and meaningful connections with other people, platonic or romantic, before you form a meaningful relationship with yourself. This step is a lifelong process, however, and all that matters now is that you take steps to self-examine and self love. Take pride in whatever it is that you do. Getting anything done in this odd world is a victory. 

Invitation 2: Take pride in your environment. Your personal space is an extension of your body. How do you treat your room, your possessions? What is your relationship to food, water, coffee? How do you find joy and delight in the space around you? Are you able to take time to simply appreciate the beauty and abundance of our collective environment, too? Sitting in appreciation for everything accessible to you will simply make you more content and attract good energy. 

Invitation 3: Don’t be afraid of your feelings. When you commit to taking an introspective route in life, really big feelings are sure to come up, and hard. Many of us have experienced trauma, from painful life-altering events to general life circumstances which make us feel different from the rest of the crowd. While it’s best to discuss these with a professional, a great first step is writing, drawing, or expressing yourself surrounding your emotions or memories. You do not need to fear the process of feeling, and can go as slow as you feel comfortable. 

Invitation 4: Reach out to new friends even if it’s awkward. Yeah, it sucks not having a friend group or disliking your current friend group. Ask for your classmate’s phone number, join a club, go on a coffee date with someone in your PE class — even email the writer of an article you liked or had questions about in The Cornell Daily Sun! No one is going to hand you a friendship, unfortunately. 

Invitation 5: Understand that community takes time, and can often look different than what you expect. Your best friend might have graduated, or goes to a different university. That does not mean that they are somehow less connected to you. Long distance friendship is hard, but try to remember that love does not disappear. If you’re feeling alone right now, try to think of the individuals who support you when you’re in need and remember that they are your community, too. Community does not appear out of the blue. It takes time and love to come together. 

Emma Plowe is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. With Gratitude runs every other Tuesday this semester.