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Ask Jono: How Do I Get a Life?

Ask Jono: How Do I Get a Life?

Dear Jono,

Over the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that in reality I have had no life compared to everybody else. I was the epitome of nerddom in that I did every extracurricular activity and worked excruciating amounts on them and did well. For an example not only did I go to nationals in speech and debate, and trivia competitions, I won the state piano competition a couple times, but also outside of academics I ran track and cross-country. As I have transitioned to college it appears that I have an endless amount of free time as I am not doing all this random extracurricular stuff. So do you have any suggestions on what to do and gaining a life so I'm not so weird and bored? On a side note but extraneous note, do you have any suggestions on how to not be creepy and passing notes to random people in the middle of lectures so at least I can talk to people?

First of all, I would totally not describe you as having had no life. "No life" usually means something like this. (That's not mine, I swear!) You haven't spent thirteen thousand hours fighting internet orcs; you've been doing a lot of respectable and worthwhile stuff. You just apparently haven't had a great social life, which is a much more fixable problem.

I was lucky in this regard, because when I went to college, I managed to get a room with my best friend from high school, in a suite intended for upperclassmen, with goofball suitemates from six different countries. Meanwhile, my friends at other schools wound up in rooms that were exactly the size of two people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with roommates who were like "ARGH, I LOVE BLOOD." I had a built-in group of friends, or at least people who were not creepy and who would tolerate me. Which leads to my first suggestion:

1.) Don't be picky.
I'm not sure if this is something you're guilty of, but I realize now that I did it a lot. If I didn't immediately hit if off with someone, I wouldn't make any effort to converse or be friendly; I would just stand there and mentally play video games until the other person had gone away. This is not a good way to be a human being in society. My point is that you shouldn't only be looking for kindred spirit BFFs here; if there's anybody with you're on speaking terms with (or, I guess, note-passing terms), seize any chance to hang out or get food or whatever. Even if they're just vague acquaintances, maybe you'll click better with their friends, and at least you'll be doing something social. The obvious caveat here is that you shouldn't hang out with literally anybody; if you meet some dudes and they're like "We're gonna go beat each other with golf clubs in this underground parking lot!" you're not obligated to go. Otherwise, fling your nerdy self headfirst into every social situation you can.

2.) Use any excuse to interact.
You're in the ballpark with your note-passing, but (as you already suspect) you are playing the sport the wrong way. What you want is the give-and-take of conversation, which leads to bonding, which leads to hanging out and having places to go on the weekend and so forth. As it is, you're just sort of beaning the shortstop in the back of the head and then running away. But you have the right idea; class breaks (or immediately after class, or any situation where you're often near the same people) is a perfect excuse to meet people and get to know them. I once had a poetry professor who liked to teach her own poems, including one about her dead cat, right alongside the giants of American poetry. I made two friends just by making eye contact during her reading of "I Am Sad That My Cat Died" and then hanging around after class to discuss the thing that had just happened. Which brings me to:

3.) Just say words out of your word-hole.
Maybe you're thinking, "But Jono, my professors never do anything memorable, and all of their cats are alive!" Well, there are still countless ways to start conversations with strangers in college, maybe more so than anywhere in the rest of life. You can grab any random person in one of your classes and talk about the homework, the professor, dorms, food, campus events, and a dozen other things. Later in life, there's a good chance that if you grab a random person, he'll be like, "Hello, I live on a barge and am sixty years old! Also there is a warrant for my arrest." You owe it to yourself to try to be outgoing as much as possible while you're still in a college setting; use all of that common ground, and just strike up conversations about whatever.

Once you're on speaking terms with people (that is, they'd say hello to you instead of just eyeing you warily), ask to tag along with them to get lunch; try to get introduced to their friends. Ask if anyone is doing anything this weekend. Even my intensely nerdy college always had some event going on (granted, these events were things like "Super Kawaii Giant Robot Film Festival," but still). Having a social life is just doing things—any things—with other people. I know this is hard to believe when you feel like a lonely dork, but most people would rather hang out with you than sit there alone (at least once you know each other, and assuming you're not doing anything to freak them out). Deep in our caveman brains, there's an impulse that says "Stick with the group, because what if wooly mammoths??" We like making more friends and knowing more people. All you have to do is show an interest in people and be a nice dude, and they'll generally respond in kind.

Topics: Life
Tags: friendships, college, friends, advice, ask jono

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