You Don’t Win Friends with Salad

Written by Blair Duncan.

My first week of Uni was a whirlwind of disorderly campus tours, being forced reluctantly into social situations, and meeting people (or anxiously trying to in a non-forced situation). In my first “Welcome” lecture, my note-taking was interrupted by a callous announcement: “Now, spend the next five minutes getting to know the person next to you.” I spent the next 300 seconds in shoulder-to-shoulder silence, watching very few people around me attempt to engage in conversation. I imagined the lecturer smirking as communal discomfort overlaid the room, but seated in the back row I couldn’t be sure. Escaping all remaining welcome lectures, I weaved solitarily through the NapiSanned tents that lined the grolly and gum-stained concrete of Mutant Way, bumping elbows and deliberately sidestepping stalls that didn’t dole out free stuff. As I clutched my overflowing bundle of notebooks, pens, Mi Goreng and other goodies, one thought plagued my mind: What if I’m that person who meets no one and makes no friends in the first week?

Immediately I started to look directly at people, pleading for the “Hi, nice to meet you!” from a nice stranger. I just knew that first unnerving hello would create a great friendship. Coffee before class would turn into movies and dinner dates and drunken nights out. Soon enough we’d be best friends forever. In our forties we’d look back and laugh “all this from that first nervous hello!” But, back to the real world, I only received awkward side-glances from people all too pleased to escape my presence. As I continued along, I suddenly met someone else’s stare for more than just the ‘appropriate second.’ Black pupils ogled back at me. I gulped. This is it. My eyes did the quick once-over; thongs, acid-wash jeans, Mickey Mouse silhouette on a T-shirt. Not bad. Wiping the sheen of sweat from my palms, I prepared to exhale my “hello.” Only… wait… hadn’t I seen that shirt before? On myself?? This morning??? We both realised instantaneously, and like clockwork came the mutual ignore-and-move-on as if nothing had ever happened. So it’s settled, I am that person who makes no friends in the first week of Uni.

In the schoolyard, you’re thrown into a classroom of thirty or so kids and it’s out of them that you’re compelled to form your connections with. Phrases like ‘similar interests’ and ‘like-minded’ hardly come into play. It’s all, “you have English in 2A? I have English in 2A! Wanna come over on the weekend?” Done. Friend attained. It never seemed like it then, but friends were easier to make whilst at school. Now, at University, I’m a speck in an ocean of people. I don’t even know where to begin.

And, of course, there’s added complications: I have to actually search for a person that is like me? How do I even? I change my mind constantly. I can barely commit to an outfit. How can I know if someone is like me when I don’t even know what I’m like? And then there’s baggage, that is, when people have other friends. And if you’re like me and have moved from a distant planet (rural New South Wales) to a city where no one knows you, how do you compete for a place in an already existing friend circle? Unless your mum is arranging your play-dates, friend making is problematic from the very beginning.

It’s okay, I consoled myself while impulsively grabbing another handful of pens from the Officeworks stall. Don’t even worry about it. This way you’ll have more time to study. Ugh! Just what I needed to hear: Sure, I may always be up to date with my readings and not ever have to scratch out an essay the night before, but if I’m after a fun night out with a bunch of mates, I’ll be sorely disappointed. Great. Just great.

Right. That’s it. I had to take a leap of faith. I ditch the pens, and take my first step into unknown territory.


Visit Blair on her blog: Words by B Duncan

Blair is also on Twitter @answermydream

Blair’s work appears in the Freedom of Expression, O’week, and Untitled editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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