As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our struggles in the constant quest to appear perfect. Embracing our truths can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials and tribulations of being one’s authentic self at BC.
Jane Barry, LSOE ’14
Coming to college, I was too confident in my independence. I thought I would find a group of friends like at home, get over involved and re-enter the cruise control I had in high school, filling my life up with millions of fun and interesting distractions so I couldn’t feel the emptiness and confusion. I was good at this and honestly had a good amount of fun doing it too. I played a few sports, hung out with my family, went to church, joined every club, and was Vice President of my class. College would be the same, right? Lots of distractions?
When I got to Boston College, I thought Monday through Friday, I would be involved and distracted like I was in high school. Then, I’d have the wild college experience on the weekends and coast though my four years. As you can imagine, this wasn’t true. I got homesick, lonely and very confused. I was suppressing lots of emotion, sleeping very little, had no appetite and I wouldn’t let myself admit to why.
I had amazing, fun, silly, dynamic friends who constantly made me laugh, but when they would leave the room or go to bed I would feel empty. I didn’t know how to fill the void I had so easily covered up in high school. Why was it harder to pretend and distract myself at a place with so many distractions and so much to offer?
Thanks to a good experience with an Appalachia group, second semester of freshman year and sophomore year were feeling more like the cruise control I had in high school. Yet, while I loved my friends and loved the experiences I had, I still could feel the emptiness. When people would talk about romantic interests or love, I felt like an outsider. Sure, I had little flings or interests with people, but I had never felt the way people described when they talked about theirs. I wanted to be like my friends: find a guy and pursue it. So every nice, semi-tall guy was suddenly my newest crush. I would complain that no guys liked me, but that was never really the issue.
I then decided to study abroad in Parma, Italy: the ultimate distraction. I traveled, drank lots of wine, ate lots of pasta and rode my bike around the cobblestone streets. I even thought I might be falling in love with the goofiest guy. It was like a movie. The Lizzie McGuire Movie to be exact. The goofy guy was, on paper, perfect for me. He made me laugh, we loved spending time together, but something was missing for me, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t let my self put my finger on why. I clung to the idea that we would stay together, but it didn’t work out that way.
I returned to a hard junior spring. A lot of the anxieties and fears came rushing back when I got back to BC. Despite my resurfaced anxieties, I lead a beautiful Appalachia trip that brought me amazing friendships. But I knew that the ideas of being your authentic self that I preached to my participants on Appa made me a hypocrite.
At the end of this past summer, my facades and tendency to distract myself finally ended when I lead my fifth Appalachia Trip to Weirwood, VA. This trip did a lot for me. It affirmed my desire to be a teacher. It showed me that a group of 9 strangers can become a family overnight and more than anything I learned what it truly feels like to fall in love.
There was a girl from that Appa trip who instantly became my best friend. It began with knowing I was drawn to her and spending all my time with her. I was blowing off my schoolwork and my friends. I was clearly falling head over heels, but still pretending. Pretending these feelings were just friendship. It got to be too much, and I started to realize that I felt so strongly and the idea of us as something more than friends felt so right that I couldn’t distract these feelings away.
I fought the way I felt about her within myself for a long time. I told myself, “No, we just spend too much time together,” or “No, that feeling of wanting to kiss her is normal, you just love her like a friend.” I knew the way I really felt about her within the first week of knowing her, but wouldn’t let myself embrace those feelings and never would have imagined she felt the same way.
After a prolonged 3-month “friendship,” that girl and I admitted that we had feelings for each other. This began the best 6 months of my life (so far). It took a lot of courage for both of us to take the risk of having feelings not being reciprocated. We were best friends, and she had become such a support system for me. It was terrifying to risk losing that friendship for something more. But it was worth going off my cruise control path. Being vulnerable and open was so freeing and made me only fall more for her and feel more and more authentically myself. I was done pretending, done filling myself with distractions and trying to be something I am not. Love is the most transcendent and filling experience and has shown me that feeling selfless and selfish at the same time is somehow possible.
It was hard to understand how this crazy, unconventional change in my life could feel like a natural transition. It’s because love is the simplest answer to the hardest question. I was nervous to tell my roommates, but I really don’t know why. I thought everyone would be shocked, but these people who had always been my rocks and my support system were not surprised at all that this friendship had been leading to something more. “It was the way you two acted and looked at each other,” one of them said. They jumped on the bed and cried and laughed with me that night till almost 4 am. They loved me no matter what. They loved who I was, no matter who I love.
I wish I had realized earlier that I was surrounded by a community of support and acceptance from the moment I stepped on to this campus. I am so blessed with the best friends, roommates, and mentors all around me who make me feel comfortable being 100% me. And what I have learned over my past 4-year roller coaster at Boston College is that the best thing to believe in is love.