Organized groups scare me. There’s something about a collective body of individuals sharing aggressive laughter, inside jokes, accumulated hours together and common experiences that paralyzes me.
Unsurprisingly, I spent most of my time in high school wandering campus alone or quietly stacking newspapers by myself in the back of the classroom. I’ve never had a solid friend group or a “squad,” if you will. My phone rarely blew up with messages from group texts making weekend plans. I never experienced sitting around a table, chuckling with a ton of friends into the late hours of the night. Rather, I sought out individuals I naturally clicked with and formed tight bonds with them. Still, I wasn’t their only companion and they often chose to spend their time with their previously established, close-knit circles.
Even now, I don’t know if I have a group at USC that I can confidently deem “my people.” There’s often talk about the Trojan Family, whatever that means. I can’t quite say if I’ve had my fair share of experiences within this so-called web that bleeds cardinal and gold. I’m involved in various activities, have a campus job and talk to people in my major, but I don’t remember the last time I went to a club meeting or sat in a circle and answered a “what’s your favorite ice cream flavor” icebreaker question. Too often, I’ve approached a meeting room and hesitated, my hand hovering over the doorknob in fear of the potential social rejection waiting for me within the walls.
“To join a group, you have to get people to like you,” I’ve told myself. I often joke that I’m an acquired taste and it is difficult for me to break through the stiff formalities that come with meeting new people. I often give up before I even begin out of fear of being the newcomer and being subjected to scrutiny.
Perhantps the bottom line is that I’m afraid of community. I have a deep desire to operate independently despite my need for a solid support system. I fail to realize that groups are essentially made up of individuals just like me. Instead, I often see them as a scary collective otherwise impenetrable to someone like me. It’s hard enough to connect on an individual level with new people, but to open myself up to a group of already-settled people is even more frightening.
And yet, I also recognize that community is important to combat loneliness, something I feel frequently. Loneliness in the sense that everyone is out and experiencing life together while I’m at home playing the same sad music on repeat. Not a crippling dependency but a feeling of being valued and cared for. That you are more than a passing wave outside the dining halls or a head nod in lecture, or a handshake during a LinkedIn speed networking session. It’s the indescribable feeling of having a mass of supporters to pick you up and cheer you on. We are naturally wired to need others. It’s an innate fact of life and a key to happiness I’ve tried to disregard for years, thinking I could survive alone. As much as organized groups freak me out, there’s no denying that I want to be a part of one because I need to connect with people on a deeper level.
I haven’t found my group yet, and it’s a process of putting myself out there to do so. Of course, I will experience rejection, and I can’t expect to get along with everyone. However, there are plenty of campus clubs that seem friendly and fun and are tailored to all sorts of interests. It’s college — there’s a wealth of opportunities at our fingertips. There’s no rush, though, even if it feels like everyone is becoming a part of something. I haven’t found my community yet within the Trojan Family, but I hope I can utilize my time here at USC well enough to find my place somewhere.
If you’ve kept up with my column you might have noticed that a lot of these life lessons I pick up end in similar fashion. I come to many epiphanies, but it’s just a matter of taking that next step. So here it is: In recognizing that I need a group of people whom I can support and vice versa, I’m making slow strides to achieving the end goal of having one of my own.
Bonnie Wong is a sophomore majoring in journalism. Her column, “Plan B,” runs every other Thursday.