Posts Tagged ‘uni life’

Love and Other Problems: Apathy Stretches its Jaws

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022


Apathy Stretches its Jaws

Starting Freshman year was both exhilarating and dizzying. Exhilarating in its freedom, in its increasingly clear skies and possibilities and opportunities; dizzying in its increasingly clear skies and possibilities and opportunities. What now? Thinking of the what now always sent a nauseating rush through my ribcage, bitter nausea and fear down my legs. The lack of being told what to do or who to talk to with expected, appropriate social niceties was more disorienting than I had ever anticipated.

So began my time sitting alone in cafeterias, dining halls and watching other people talk to each other instead. It was a really pathetic start, being honest. The people I had been grouped with during orientation didn’t stick around for too long and I never got to know them too well, so my routine when classes started, was just to come onto the campus, catch breakfast, finish assignments if there were any––or walk around like a fool if there wasn’t––, attend classes, do the work I had been assigned for the day, have dinner, go home. A tired, dull routine.

having breakfast alone in the first week of university :’

On our popular university Facebook forum, there seemed to be groups of people who shared my feelings, this abyssal loneliness, but strangely I never met people like this outside of that specific online sphere. Classes were a touch-and-go gameplay, a small ‘hi’ and then formal interactions. It was infuriating and it made me miss school, and that longing was not an emotion I had prepared, like watching the door in anticipation for someone particular to walk in, only to see a stranger. I missed my old friends and I missed the simplicity of getting to know people, I missed talking to people at all in fact.

If I recall my first semester now, the image I can produce clearly was sitting at a table for two in the cafe outside the library, cold air brushing my cheeks as I type quickly on my open laptop working for my chinese language class. I paused occasionally, eyes flitting from one corner to another, seeing other freshmen talking familiarly, always together, always in clusters. Those who did sit alone seemed to always have someone come up to them randomly to say hi. I just watched, my hand around the cold condensation on my cup of iced coffee. I guess there was a brownie next to it sometimes, but that was as interesting as it got. Thinking back now, the most interaction I had then was probably with the barista who worked at the cafe. Glenda, I remember her name. She called me Yiru, which was my chinese name, and the only part of the torturous routine I dug myself into that I looked forward to.

Evenings felt worse, I could see kids getting into cabs together to go around the city and wondered how I could make a friend that would do that with me too. I went for a walk around campus usually at that time, befriended the cats around the buildings enough that they started recognising me when I approached. It was a bit peaceful and a bit introspective, and I won’t be unthankful for it, but it got lonely. Miserable. Maybe I found interaction difficult purely around the fact I didn’t have to make this much effort in high school. People came into class, we talked regularly and became friends. I had assumed I could do the same class this time too, but at that point classes had been online for nearly two months, so I was just joining a zoom meeting and leaving again. When classes turned in person again, I think my time became easier, but these people had their own friends and lives of their own so it never felt like they wanted to stick around for longer than they should.

food i grabbed with friends on an island at NYU abu dhabi

I sat outside, on the rooftop of our academic buildings, maybe with a cat next to me occasionally, and looked up at the blank sky, stars drowned out with the light pollution of the city. It felt like walking through an isolated forest. The trees there would be tall and old I’d imagine. Sunlight flickers through them, sharp and hot. There is a word for it. Komorebi. I would hear the sounds of squirrels, birds. There is humming, chirping. Wings with their dense flapping. The sound of twigs snapping and creaky wood. Birds are fortunate, you must know. They have each other, mindless in their friendship, mindless in their sounds.

This first month felt like a failure, I remember. I wasn’t living how I thought I would be, I wasn’t doing as much as I thought I would be. How could I think of love when I struggled to meet anyone to make into a friend? Seeing others do more, meet more people made me feel like I was doing something wrong, there was something I was missing. The gnawing fear of missing out on key experiences grew into a pit. I wasn’t even an introverted person, I loved talking to people and getting to know them, so this struggle was even more baffling. But it did change––mid-semester was when my life started to pick up, and when I started looking forward to my days going to classes, but the first half of quietness and wistfulness always stuck with me.

Grab some spicy Indian cuisine at Mughali restaurant! I promise it’s good, food here has been great to eat, even better with people! Take this coupon with you and get 50% OFF from 11am-3pm, and 15% off for dinner!! I can recommend their Chicken Tikka!

By Mahrukh Shaikh

Mahrukh Shaikh is a student at New York University studying Business and Finance with a Marketing concentration. She has been writing and creating literature for years and is fond of various artistic mediums and social issues.

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