During my high school senior year, I was looking for a sense of belonging.
I was searching through the hallways or, frankly, anywhere I could find it.
Finding that belonging has never been easy for me. Those lonely lunch hours led me to going home for lunch a lot, my main comfort zone.
I’ve had anxiety for some time. The source for it has been my fear of judgment, a need of acceptance and lack of confidence. Another source of my anxiety was my inability of feeling like I could be myself in a group of people where I felt uncomfortable with one person. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
Alas, anxiety is a part life.
I wasn’t able to truly pinpoint these feelings until October 2012 when I saw the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, adapted from a novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky. It was a film that changed my life.
The film dealt with a wallflower, an introvert, who found friendship during his teenage years. The narrative showed there’s no shame in being yourself, and that none of us are alone. Its content was deeply resonant at that point in my life, and I felt like I was taking the journey with the characters. I laughed and cried, and had a lump in my throat throughout.
Even like one’s basic anxiety medication, The Perks of Being a Wallflower didn’t make me invincible. I still had my fair share of problems and took a year off after high school until my anxiety had weakened and my heart wouldn’t beat like a speeding drum, like it did on the first day of college.
The film brought me a better understanding of myself. It helped me feel more visible. It, and my program, has drawn me out of my gradually expanding comfort zone. It’s helped show me that I really can do anything I aspire to do.
Since this current level of the journalism program has less than 35 students, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the same person if it were a larger program. Our tight-knit community brought me confidence, and it help me to find a group of like-minded people.
When I met with a friend from high school, I asked him if he noticed anything different about me, expecting no deep answer. “You laugh more,” he said.
I can attribute that to finding a sense of belonging. I am no longer that vulnerable boy walking down a hallway looking for a friend.