By Michal Shvimer
Freshman year was a social zoo, but an ethical one. Instead of being kept in cages, we were free to roam from habitat to habitat, making friends and acquaintances with any species we pleased.
You may be thinking that what I’m describing is simply the wild. But it’s not. It’s a zoo. I know this because I was an inhabitant of it. The same animals I came into contact with last year are still living caged in somewhere in or around our stretch of Commonwealth Avenue. Although this socialization seemed rather healthy and exciting at the time, I am now facing the repercussions of my freedom, the social hangover.
As a first-year, I had a very classic approach to life in the zoo. I latched onto any friendly animal that came into my path, from the clubs I joined, to the classes I was in, to people I was stuffed in the elevator with, to people I met passing the time in dining hall lines. I was intent on meeting so many people to feel comfortable in the space I was in and to make allies who would help me do so.
After a while, the zoo felt a lot smaller. Faces and names became familiar, my circle of friends grew smaller, and contact with the miscellaneous acquaintances grew sparse. My return to campus in the fall immediately triggered the post-freshman social hangover.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to: sensitivity to people you haven’t talked to since orientation, difficulty smiling in passing, trouble asking anything besides “How was your summer?” and straining in the arm muscles from forced waving.
The social hangover is a natural reaction to freshman year. It’s your body telling you you tried too hard and that you need to pace yourself. Luckily, I have the option to do that. The start of my second year is much more relaxed than the start of my last because I have the privilege of being secure in the friendships I’ve made and familiarized with my surroundings. However, that security doesn’t curb the awkwardness of friendships I never solidified.
I have an unspoken agreement with the people whose names I have forgotten (and who have surely forgotten mine), to continue to acknowledge each other’s existence, even though we know very little about that existence. Much like the ne’er-do-well penguins in the Madagascar movies, we just smile and wave at one another until we are out of view.