College was a bad time for me.
The first two years were especially difficult. During this time, my boyfriend became increasingly more manipulative and eventually began controlling nearly every aspect of my life. He'd also point out how all my friends were in his circle, saying they didn't really like me. They thought I was crazy, he said.
That was one of the few things he was right about. They did think I was crazy; when you befriend your boyfriend's fraternity brothers and he constantly tells them you're crazy, they will think you are absolutely out of your mind. I didn't help this assumption at all. Feeling more isolated by the minute, I started drinking heavily at parties.
I knew deep down how poorly I fit with that group, which made me want everyone in it to like me that much more. I thought drinking would help me feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that my relationship was tearing me to pieces. Drinking didn't help me figure that out, but it did cause all those negative feelings to manifest outward.
For several consecutive weekends, I got drunk and cried in the corner of my ex-boyfriend's fraternity house. I found a bit of good will at first. Some people talked to me and tried to help me feel better. Soon, though, I became that girl no one wanted at the party anymore. When I showed up, I could tell the mood had changed. Those people didn't want me at their party because they didn't want to deal with an overly emotional person.
I stopped drinking after my freshman year, but the damage had been done. Over the next three years, I realized that all the people I thought were my friends had been insulting me for being an emotional drunk.
They didn't stop when I stopped drinking. They didn't stop when I stopped going to parties. They didn't even stop when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend.
Throughout all this, I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be understood. It didn't occur to me that real friends wouldn't ignore someone who needed help because it wasn't a fun thing to do. Until my senior year, I didn't realize that real friends would have my back instead of talking about me behind it.
Luckily, I did find a group of friends my senior year where I felt I fit in. It was short-lived, but being around people who heard me out before judging me felt so freeing. Though one or two people still gave me a hard time about the way I started college, I had way more people who respected me for the person I'd become over four years.
That doesn't mean I'm completely over it. It still stings when someone who didn't know me well in college calls me a crazy drunk. I thought it would have stopped by now, but there are still people who treat my depression during that time as if it's a joke.
It's not easy to face up to that. No matter how much I've changed since then, I want to prove people wrong when I hear comments like that. "But I'm different now!" I want to say. "That isn't the real me!"
Slowly, I am realizing that people see what they want to see. I am stable and happy now, but some of my college acquaintances will always see me the way they did my freshman year. In my dark moments, I feel something akin to hatred toward those people.
But I can't hate them. They didn't understand who I was then, so I shouldn't expect them to understand who I am now. I've been trying to give them the benefit of the doubt I feel I deserve; if I'm different from the person I was my freshman year, they must be too.
If I expect others to rise above long-held assumptions, I have to be a better person too.
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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.