Editorial Notebook

You’re not actually independent

A month ago, I accidentally locked myself out of my room by closing the door with my keys still inside. What followed was a 28-hour whirlwind where I finally met my downstairs neighbors, one of whom—in a move of broke college student solidarity—MacGyvered several devices in order to pick the lock and save me from paying $75 to get it open. A valiant effort and four hours later, I had been introduced to my neighbors’ cat Martin but had yet to be reacquainted with the interior of my room. It was a similar version of this saga that I relayed to friends of mine, detailing the suffering that I endured as a result of spending the night on a couch. What I did not mention—and had not until I decided to write this article—was the breakdown I experienced a couple weeks later, an event that caused me to type up unsent messages before deciding to instead call a school-appointed therapist at 2 am.

I care deeply about those I am close to. We hang out whenever we can, even if all we do is sit and listen to music or debate whether paprika has a taste—it doesn’t. We message each other utter nonsense, such as daily fun facts. (Did you know that a single lightning bolt has enough energy to toast 100,000 slices of bread?) However, in a moment of true need, I was unable to talk to them about something that was truly important to me. In fact, the amount of times I considered calling one of them to say “hey, I haven’t been doing well,” just to tell myself it would be better if I said nothing genuinely surprised me.

I have always thought of myself as an independent person. I don’t need to swindle someone to accompany me grocery shopping or enlist another person in eating out with me. I am perfectly comfortable with my own company, no matter the situation. Moreover, I am usually the one looking after other people. Do they need a ride? How have they been doing? Would they let me know if there’s anything I can do to help? And yet, when I thought about telling my closest confidants about the struggles I was dealing with, I began to worry. Although irrational, my greatest fear was that I would inconvenience them with my troubles. Additionally—and I’m ashamed to admit this even now—I thought it would make me appear weak.

It is only with the aid of hindsight that I can offer you the wisdom that I did not have when I needed it. What good is a support system that you won’t allow to support you? You may be anxious about bothering others with your problems, but if they are your true friends, they will make room for you—troubles and all. Additionally, like you would aid a friend who came to you with a similar issue, you should feel comfortable with reciprocating this two-way street of support.

While you may be the type of person to share every embarrassing secret, what about your deepest worries? If not for your friends—who I’m sure would like to know when you are struggling—do it for you. You deserve to take a break and lean on someone once in a while. You deserve to realize—like me—that what you’ve been doing isn’t actually independence.