The NYT reached out to me recently asking to write an article updating the public on what I’ve learned since my viral video. The link above is the piece I wrote.
Now, there’s a lot that I didn’t address in the article that I think is important to articulate. Much of my comfort in college has come from my privilege.
When I had made the video, it was for a class. I sorted all of my personal upset into the piece and created a sort of visual diary documenting my subjective experience. The intended audience was originally me alone. It was for me to understand and rationalize my emotions, my personal issues with my own transition to college. I ended up striking a chord with many people, but the video was never meant to represent every college student’s experience – it was only meant to represent mine.
I think the fact this video gave a voice to many students who felt similarly is incredible. I am so humbled that it spread so widely and I am so so so thankful for every opportunity it has brought me. But a lot of my newfound comfort at my university is because of systems that play to my advantage. I was able to focus on my social life, a privilege in its own right – and I was able to quickly adjust and thrive because so many of my identities lie in the agent groups. I have never doubted that.
I have been beyond privileged my entire life. I come from a financially stable and emotionally supportive family. Both of my parents and my grandparents went to college. I’m white, cisgender, able-bodied, able-minded, English is my first language, and I don’t need to work a job on campus. All these advantages already give me the opportunity to prioritize friendship in my college experience, to see it as a crucial part to my four years in higher learning. These privileges allow me the social confidence to approach anyone on campus, unquestioning of their personal biases. Rarely does making friends ever force me to overcome ingrained stereotypes based on my identity. I have the time and leisure to really put myself out there.
It is easy for me to find people who come from a culturally similar background when I’m on campus. I’m fully comfortable being myself in public. I don’t feel an overwhelming pressure to fit in – most likely because I already do. I have immediate social fluidity because of my privilege – all which have made my transition significantly easier.
However, the fact this video was so successful serves as an example that loneliness is universal. Unfortunately, the solutions are not so. Isolation in college affects everyone at some point, but the ability to escape it is drastically different for every student. My article is not meant to solve student loneliness, and not meant to speak for every experience. It comes from a single experience – and highlights what personal steps I took to rationalize my own discomfort- and if it helps even a single person I’m happy. This piece wasn’t meant to be a pity party or a call to arms, but if there is any message I want people to leave with is that students are valid in their loneliness – regardless of background.
Thank you so much for all your support – it really has meant the whole world to me.