Rusty Nail Syndrome: My Own Personal Sequel To The Famed “Stanford Duck Syndrome”

It goes to be said that I miss my friends. A. LOT. One of my best friends and I used to say that we could reach other’s minds. We could complete each other’s sentences and say the exact same thing at the exact same time. It’s a truly astonishing phenomenon that not even 2500 miles of distance has been able to break so far. However, the fact remains that I’m still 2500 miles away, at Stanford. But get this, here I can do something just as good — I can read people’s faces!

Yeah, whenever I first meet someone, I can tell, by the glazed look in their eye and their impatient desire to talk to someone else, that I’m not interesting enough. Thus I define Rusty Nail Syndrome: The condition where you feel you’re the least interesting option in the room, socially speaking.

My first week at Stanford has been quite interesting. Sometimes I think I’m adjusting better than I expected. I’m super on top of my work which is new to me, my roommate is super nice and very cool, and I’ve gotten to know some of the people on my floor to a reasonable point. But then most of the time, I feel like I’m alone all of the time. I don’t have anyone to go eat with at meals, despite trying my best to not be too shy. Stanford claims to have this amazing process where they pair us with our perfect roommate, and even though I love my roommate, I feel like she got the short end of the stick. It’s hard to explain how I arrived at the conclusion that I’m just not interesting enough, but concluding my third day of classes, I’ve observed that whenever a large group forms as everyone introduces themselves, a natural barrier forms around me and everyone else. The conversation almost seems to naturally flow away from me no matter what the size of the group was. In groups of three, I’m easily the third wheel and left to the side, as the two remaining people quickly become fast friends. In groups of seven, ten, or even fifteen, I’m forgotten input wise and every contribution I offer to any conversation is spoken over or ignored. There are few times in my life where I’ve had to make new friends entirely from scratch. The closest experience I had to this was last summer at a high school summer research experience academy, but that was only 8 people, and I only had to mentally prepare to include myself as part of that 8. We were all very close and it naturally got easier. I don’t get that luxury here at Stanford. I’m on the periphery of what I describe as two major classifications of students that I’ve seen here. On the one hand, you have what many would describe as the stereotypical “nerd” (no shame, this is Nerd Nation after all), and on the other hand, you have people who are so effortlessly able to socialize while also getting involved with sex and alcohol like they’ve been experienced with it for years (they may well be tbh) but they also somehow managed to do that and their schoolwork as well. I don’t fit the first role very well, but I’m also just not interested in the latter. Increasingly, I feel as if my personality and identity aren’t very welcome here at Stanford. I can feel a stigma against people like me who choose to abstain from sex and stay sober among some of the people I’ve met at first that seemed really cool, which makes this adjustment harder. I’m agnostic (even though I never talk about it so if you know me outside of this blogosphere, surprise, I’ve been agnostic since the 5th grade), so it’s not like I have some religious exemption to it all, and I don’t even look negatively towards people who choose to engage in sex and drink alcohol. I made my decision based on an understanding of my own maturity, health, and history. Is it time to turn away from a decision I made to myself? I’m not even sure what feels right and where I fit in, but there seems to be no community where I feel like I did with my old friends. Even when I think I’m connecting with other people, they bring up their friends from back home and I’m constantly reminded that I can never compare. At the same time, I long for my old friends who ridiculed me playfully and who I could talk about anything with, my old friends who understood the decisions I made regarding sex and alcohol because they largely felt the same way. Being stripped away from my echo chamber of a social circle hasn’t proven easy, and it’s definitely not something that I expected to be so hard in the first place. I thought there would be so many more people like me here at Stanford, but, for the first time in my life, I’ve actually felt like a minority — which is astonishing because I was one of a handful of black students in my high school, and one of a small few in my AP and honors classes. I just yearn to find friendship like I did before. The kind of snarky friendship that was built on an understanding for academic achievement, but also pure fun that was born just from being around each other. The kind of friendship where I didn’t have to question my personal life choices in order to fit in better. The kind of friendship where I could read their minds and not their faces. The kind of friendship where I didn’t feel like a placeholder for someone before they found people they’re more interested in.

I really miss my old friends. I just can’t fit in here.


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