By myself, as usual.
I spot an available Mac in the Mac lab in IB.
I slide into a chair and fire up the computer, tea in hand, iPhone tangled in wires, earphones rested in ears.
I click on Microsoft Word.
I see the girl to my right lean towards me and whisper:
“Can you watch my bag?”
What do I say?
- *tight head nod, still staring at screen*
- *look over and smile* Of course!
Ten points if you guessed the second one.
Ah, the day-to-day struggle of a UTM student. Watching other people’s things, participating in class, taking public transit, being a group member—a series of social interactions. I don’t know about you, but as the years have passed and I’ve developed into an average third-year UTMer, I have become less and less inclined to interact with people even though my day is full of potential interactions.
Imagine yourself as a first-year student. You just got out of high school, super-involved, super-excited. You hop off the bus; you thank the bus driver. You walk into lecture; you smile at the prof and your peers. You take a seat; you try and make conversation with the people next to you. Someone asks you to watch their bag; you smile and say okay and wonder if your new best friend just asked you to watch their things. The possibilities! The people! Life!
Naiveté. Yes, I am blaming university for my decreasing social skills and general life excitement.
Personally, as the years have passed, I prefer to stick my earphones in my ears, keep my head down and text through the hallways, and grunt as opposed to talk. Often, I find that I don’t want to say things anymore, don’t want to meet people anymore. Is something wrong with me, or do the years of solo studying, music-listening, texting, reduced social events, and oversized classes have an isolating impact on the average UTMer?
I’m going to guess the latter. Haven’t you seen the posts on Spotted? You know, the ones about being sad and not having made any friends at UTM.
Let’s think back to my impromptu list of social interactions that we all have in an average day, and some more: passing your bus driver, sitting beside people in lecture, being a group member, buying food, coffee, or a book from a cashier. These interactions are what we make of them, and, personally, I haven’t made much.
I’m not going to advise you to join a club. I’m not even going to advise you to do a 180 and magically keep your head up in the hallways and smile at everyone.
I think that it’s more important to make the few social interactions that you are presented with worthwhile. Think of them as practicing your social skills in the little time you get to be social on campus, for the real world.
You know, the place with jobs and lives we all work for in our time here.
Can we make a pact to work on our social skills together? University should not be the land of retreating into our shells—these are supposed to be some of the best years of our lives.
So, the next time we get off the bus, let’s thank the bus driver. Let’s say “hi” to our cashiers, let’s put our hand up once in lecture, let’s smile at two people a day, let’s create quality small talk, let’s make eye contact with people we talk to, even the people who ask us to watch their things.
Together, we can get our social skills back, UTMers! This is not the end of our personalities.