Smirl Meets World: Finding your people

This week was a very special one for me, because I finally turned 18! Most people celebrate this “official” start to adulthood in their senior year of high school, but not me. As well as being what is normally referred to as a significant birthday because of my now legal ability to buy lottery tickets and Juuls, it was significant for me in a few other ways as well. This was the first birthday I’ve spent away from home. Granted, my dorm is only about 5 minutes away from my house, but the change still exists. In addition to being away from family, I was surrounded by new people I’ve only known for about 2 weeks; how do you even tell your roommates it’s your birthday without being super awkward and obvious? 

This task is especially daunting when you’ve never been very good at introducing yourself to new people or making new friends in the first place. I will admit, I am an extremely introverted person, almost to a fault. I’ve never been outgoing, and it’s usually a seemingly insurmountable feat for me to make new friends. I would spend days alone in my room reading, writing or watching Netflix, without communicating to a lot of other people if I was allowed to, without even realizing how much time I was spending alone. Yet, I have been fortunate enough to be living with people who simultaneously respect that fact and gently encourage me to spend my time with them. I had expected to spend this birthday in class and then with my parents, and my roommates would probably tell me happy birthday at some point. However, they all proved me wrong. 

I was surprised with a cake, card, and a (wildly off-key) rendition of “Happy Birthday” from all of my roommates, plus a whole other suite full of people in the same scholarship program as most of my roommates and me. I could not believe these people who had just met me had put on an entire makeshift dorm room birthday party for me. Then I realized this is what real friendship is like. It doesn’t matter to them how long they have known me. They wanted to go out of their way to make my day special, because that’s what friends do. 

So, other freshmen, I wholeheartedly encourage you to find your people while you’re here at Marshall. Extend that first invitation to your roommates or suitemates to join you at dinner or for an event. Even if you’re commuting and don’t have roommates, join a club, or find that group that makes your college experience as great as it could be. I never expected to have a group of people to spend every night with watching movies and playing board games, but I have. I know now that no matter how far away I am from my home, I have a whole new family that will always be there for me every birthday, and every non-birthday too. You all know who you are; thank you for becoming my people, I can’t wait for these next four years with you.

Rileigh Smirl can be contacted at [email protected]