What I Learned from Leaving My Hometown
July 31, 2017
By Jonathan Mannato
I grew up in a good ol’ town called Niskayuna. It’s just north of Albany by about forty minutes. It was known for its suburban PTO moms, lacrosse players, and wealth. I lived in a predominately white town so it was a little bubble. Not really a lot of culture and filled with sub-textual ignorance. I ended up finding my crew through Drama Club and the Music Department at my high school. We had one of the best music programs in the nation and our Drama Club was where I found my calling to pursue a life in Theatre.
When I decided I was going to Purchase I was so excited and so ready to work and learn! I was ready to be away from home and ready to gain independence. Little did I know I was about to embark on a crazy emotional and mental journey.
“Starting over” is stressful and illuminating. You can’t believe you’ve actually reached this point in your life and you’re scared, nervous, excited, and you have so many emotions racing through you.
College is very similar to high school in that you might go through a couple of friend groups until you really find who you connect with. Except the difference in high school is that you’ve known most of those people for eight years, if you’ve stayed in the same school district for a while. In college, you are all in the same boat meeting each other for the first time, making and losing friends, and learning about yourself. College is what you make of it. I already knew this, but was I doing it? The biggest thing I learned was the difference between knowing something and truly understanding something.
You hear friends and family giving their advice and telling you what it’s going to be like. What their experience was like. “It’s the best four years of your life!” “Make sure to stay focused on studies. Remember why you’re there.” “It goes so fast, so don’t be afraid to do anything!” “Just don’t fail, okay?” This was a typical day during the last few months before I headed off to Purchase College. I was polite and listened but I basically already knew all of this stuff. However, you will never truly understand something until you have experienced it yourself.
When move-in day finally came, my parents and family left and I was finally alone. That’s when it really started to hit me. I was starting college and I was on my own. I was so used to a strict and structured high school setting that I was afraid to break rules or even walk around by myself. Do I need a pass to walk through the halls? Is an administrator going to yell at me for something ridiculous and unreasonable? Then I realized, no one cares! It’s college and you can do whatever you want (as long as you are not hurting yourself or others and abiding by college rules and regulations). I could walk around at night, I might have had one class and the rest of the day free, I could hang out with friends, eat whenever and whatever, audition for things, create a show, anything! I literally had the world at my finger tips.
As the school year was starting to move along I started to feel lonely. I came from having really strong connections in high school and starting from scratch was not the easiest. Even though I had people around me, some of my friendships felt shallow and it was scary. I wasn’t understanding that these things take time and that you need to live in the moment for these connections to flourish. I also wasn’t understanding that I did have friends, I just wasn’t letting myself get vulnerable.
Sometimes I would be alone and bored. If I had already finished my work or I didn’t have a rehearsal that day, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. This was another big thing I learned. Independence. Independence is not just being able to live on your own, it’s how you keep yourself occupied when you might be getting cabin fever. Unfortunately, I did not learn how to do this until recently. Don’t just sit in your room and watch Netflix. As easy as that may be, there is a whole world out there. Even if you have nothing to do, or no one to meet, just go exploring! Especially at Purchase, you might find yourself in unexpected places or having some really unique experiences spontaneously.
Overall, the biggest lesson to take is that you are never alone. Everyone around you is going through the same exact things that you are. It’s just a matter of looking up from a screen and finding your people. People need people, so don’t push them out. If there are people that end up hurting you, or not valuing your friendship, then they are not the people for you. Just find a connection, because it will help a lot. Or honestly just find a dog to pet, that also works just as well (and you’ll find there are a lot of faculty and staff who have dogs across campus!) Once you find your people, they will be around for a long time.