“Why did you bother going to Duke if you’re going to get an English degree?”
One of the first people I met at Duke, a fellow freshman, asked me this. I told them that English had been my favorite subject in high school, so I wanted to pursue a degree where I could improve my rhetoric. (Until I discovered Public Policy, which led me down another, unexpected path.)
So many of my fellow students were pre-med, pre-law, pre-tech or pre-academia. And since I was none-of-the-above, I was at a loss for what direction to go in. I decided to take classes I was interested in rather than what would be best on my resume. And for this, people looked down on me.
I don’t know if this choice was something I regretted—some of the classes I took for fun wound up being the most meaningful.
But anyway. What I mean to say is, that while I was at Duke, I was painfully aware that I didn’t belong to any of the many cliques there. I didn’t really have a friend group I could consistently count on. I fell in and out of various friendships, and never really felt like I had a “pack” to rely on.
People’s idea of fun didn’t match mine. Drinking, partying, going out til you got blackout drunk — that didn’t appeal to me. My idea of a great night was one of playing board games, reading books, or watching movies.
Duke was full of the work hard, play harder mentality, but their play was not what I thought was fun.
I tried so hard to conform to fit the image of a successful Duke student, but I came up short every time.
I was there for six years until I finally found a few close friends to invite for my “wine nights,” where we’d share stories and chat over cheese, crackers, and wine. I tried to be classy, I guess. The wine did loosen our tongues, and the conversations ran deep. To this day, some of those nights are among my fondest memories of college.
And in the end, I still didn’t find a place where I belonged.
This sense has followed me for so long, I’m starting to wonder if there’s something wrong with me.
I’ve tried to create social situations where people can kick back, relax, and talk together.