I have real regrets about some of the choices I have made at Williams about how to spend my time and energy. However, I am finding that regret can be a constructive learning experience, and the lessons learned are invaluable. My hope in writing this is that my lesson can be of benefit to you as well.
This spring, circumstances required that I restructure my social life. I’ll spare the readership the unnecessary details of the situation or my reactions; suffice to say I was very depressed. In my worst moments, I felt completely unnecessary in the lives of others.
I came to realize after a process of consultation and self-exploration that it wasn’t that I didn’t have friends – it was that I didn’t spend any quality time with my friends. I had to realize that I was, in some ways, socially incompetent. I had been so focused on school and skiing that I was not in the habit of making or accepting invitations. I was used to relying instead upon my then-boyfriend and sports team to, without effort, fill in the spaces, resulting in a predictable, yet ultimately fleeting and unfulfilling social life. To survive these past few weeks, I needed to do something to put things right.
I started making invitations and accepting them, even when I was busy, or they seemed unappealing. Slowly, day by day, I started doing things despite my despondent mood. It was hard at first. Occasionally, a friend would cancel on our running date, or I would get stood up at dinner, and I would crash down again. But I can say, disregarding the still-recurring lows, that in the past two weeks I have had loads more fun than I have had in just about any other two weeks at Williams.
I am finding that Williams College and Williams students have so much to offer. On Friday, I invited a friend to drive out to Petersburg Pass to have a Grab ’n Go picnic and fly a kite. The other night, another friend and I shared a pint of Ben & Jerry’s over a movie. I have been going to talks given by visiting world experts and attended Log Lunch. I went to Good Friday services at Thompson Chapel (it was amazing!) and to The Books concert (featuring professor of art Nick Zammuto) at Bennington College last weekend. Whenever I extend an invitation, this signals to others that I am someone to invite somewhere. Accepting invitations isn’t always easy; sometimes I am busy or tired or simply not too excited about it. However, being flexible about one’s plans and having an open mind about what is “fun” is really the only way to expand one’s experience. I have not regretted a single invitation extended or accepted.
This experience has been time consuming. In addition to socializing, I have been showing more appreciation for my friends than in the past. I remember to send postcards, thank-yous, or a YouTube clip; I remember more often to get them flowers or to send them books I recommended they read. However, even though I am still catching up from being weeks behind in my classes, I don’t regret this time commitment as I might have in the past. I see it as an investment in my happiness and in the happiness of those I care about.
There are three lessons I want readers, if necessary, to take away from my experience. First, invest in your friends, across the board. And I don’t just mean your teammates, boyfriend or girlfriend, housemates or classmates, but a selection of all of them. Remember their needs as well as your own. Second, extend invitations whenever you want something to happen (you can’t always wait for excitement to come to you!) and accept invitations even when they are inconvenient. Your life will be richer for it. Third, take advantage of what Williams has to offer. We are in a beautiful area where cultural and academic opportunities abound. You are surrounded by interesting people waiting to be known. What are you waiting for?
Fiona Worcester ’09 is an art studio and psychology major from Anchorage, Alaska.