One of the things that I have really appreciated about college so far that is that there truly is a culture of “you do you.” I really do not like that phrase. This is because it practically implies that we should not care about others. It says that we shouldn’t love them enough to help them become the best versions of themselves. However, I don’t have a better way to describe what I have experienced here. There are friend groups, but they aren’t cliques. You can be a part of multiple friend groups and no one thinks anything of it. One friend group usually does not come in contact with others anyways. No matter who you choose to spend your time with, people are generally very respectful of your decisions. This is how life should be lived!
This is not how I felt in high school. At my high school, there were definitely defined friend groups. All of these groups had something like a single story attached to them. Sometimes even a single word was sufficient to describe them- drugs, grades, theatre, basketball. As seniors, we were given the privilege of eating in the senior cafeteria. Groups sat in there together as if their single story was like a net, gathering them all together and not allowing them to separate. This net also kept others out- it would have been strange for someone from one group to go eat with another.
When this mentality is drilled into you whether you like it or not, you are surprised by people when you actually meet them. I was usually pleasantly surprised by people from different “single story” group when I actually got to know them. I was also a little embarrassed like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said she was when she got to Mexico and actually witnessed the people there. Defining a group of people by a single story causes us to apply this story to each person of the group as “their story.” When we actually meet them though, we find that that’s not the case. People should not be defined by a single story or a single aspect of themselves. People are so complex and unique that a single story does not begin to do them justice.
I feel like I was in the “single story group” of “smart girls.” We were the ones who others thought cared too much about school and only talked about school or other “nerdy” things. There is a kernel of truth to this, I suppose. When you looked at all of us as a whole though, we were all very different. We played different sports, or did different activities. We had different family lives and personalities and senses of humor. If someone avoided us, or we avoided others, just because of the “group” we were “in,” that was a dumb decision. There is so much to appreciate about people below the surface level.
After having graduated high school, I wish I had gotten to know other people better. I wish it had been easier to talk to people from different groups. (As a side note though, I have loved that people from my high school who are here at Virginia Tech have all been really friendly to one another. It doesn’t matter now what friend group we were in in high school.) In college, I know I want to try to broaden my horizons. There is so much to learn about people! It would benefit me to meet as many different kinds of people as possible because I am going to have to work with all types of people in the future. Life in general will be so much more interesting with a variety of people around me!