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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Making friends sucks. But then, it doesn't.

ethanandsamuelatthefair.jpeg
City & State assistant editors Ethan E. Horton (left) and Samuel Long sit in a cable car at the North Carolina State Fair on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022.

When I got to UNC in August 2020, I had just spent five months isolated from the outside world. After March 2020, when Wake County Public Schools shut down, my world was never the same.

I was already an introvert and coming to a place with more than double the number of students than my entire hometown was intimidating. But then, it got even worse.

I was planning to live in Granville Towers my first year — yes, I know, bad choice — but my building was undergoing major renovations. So, they stuck us in hotels near campus. I was lucky enough to be put in the Carolina Inn.

Very quickly, though, I realized that living in the Carolina Inn with no roommate and the only people I knew on campus living more than a mile away was not ideal. Day after day, remote class after remote class, I sat out in the hallway of the Carolina Inn waiting for someone to stroll by and strike up a conversation with me.

Remember, I'm an introvert. I was desperate for actual human connection.

Nobody ever did walk by. Nobody ever struck up a conversation. In fact, two weeks after moving in, we were all sent back home because COVID-19 clusters began popping up everywhere.

Back at home, I had the people I knew and loved already. I wasn't pushed to make new friends. I had my gym buddy, Jackson. I had my girlfriend, Bella. It was all okay — given the circumstances.

Then, August 2021 rolled around, and I moved into an actual dorm. I was terrified. I had no clue who I was rooming with — I didn't meet a single new soul the first go around, let alone people to live with — and I had no clue what to do.

But then, I heard a couple of knocks on my door. "Who's that?" I thought. "Why would they want to talk to me?"

It was just my new suitemate. While he and I didn't stay in contact for long — he moved out of the suite because of some weird rearranging thing — having a new, friendly face around was nice. We went to Mediterranean Deli, we watched soccer, we learned how to cook. Finally, after a year, I had a friend.

I made others through class — making fun of my Spanish professor with my classmates — and through my already-established connections, like Bella's new suitemates.

August 2022 rolls around. It's my third year at UNC and I'm starting a new big-time position at The Daily Tar Heel. As I'm walking up the steps toward the office, my legs are shaking. My social anxiety is hitting new heights. "What are they going to think of me? I don't know any of these people, and they don't know me. How am I going to make friends?"

And then I got to know them. And they got to know me. I got over the mental hump. 

I made friends. I'm even living with one of those friends that I made here when August 2023 rolls around.

Let's be very clear — making friends sucks. It does. You have to be vulnerable. You have to be nice. You have to give a little to get a little. I've never been a big fan of any of that. 

Do you know what I am a big fan of, though? The Cook Out runs, screaming along to one of the cabinet battles from Hamilton. The Lenoir lunch dates. The chair spins. The trash-talking in group chats. The Linda's trivia nights. The roof adventures.

Believe me, I know making friends is difficult. Social anxiety weighs you down sometimes. But having people to rely on and people to talk to really does outweigh the bad.

Making friends sucks. But then, it doesn't.

@ethanehorton1

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.