Anyone who knows me well knows that I am the epitome of an introvert. Lots of quiet time alone is necessary for me to be in a good headspace, and being around too many people for too long of a time leaves me exhausted for days after. But while I’ve always known this about myself, I didn’t always embrace it, or craft my life accordingly.
Here’s the thing: despite popular belief, being an introvert is not always equivalent with being shy. In fact, when I’m energized and in situations where I’m obligated to be social, I can be pretty naturally bubbly and outgoing, making a good impression on new people. Because of this, I tend to attract people that are quite extroverted. This was never more apparent to me than when I was in college. By the end of my first year, my core friend group was full of outgoing social butterflies that genuinely thrived off of human interaction and doing all of the things together. And then I chose to live with four of them.
At first, I was just overjoyed at having roommates in my first apartment who were people I already considered friends. And to be fair, I always knew my living situation would be challenging for me at times — I wasn’t totally oblivious to the fact that we had very different social needs. I was always okay with my own company, and couldn’t relate when my roommates complained of boredom and loneliness almost instantly in our group text message on the rare occasion they were home alone for a few hours. I think the moment I realized that I underestimated how different we truly were was when one of my roommates confronted me, asking why I was upset with her one evening. I was baffled and asked why she thought that I was, because I definitely wasn’t. Her response was, “Well, I just thought something must be wrong because you’ve been hiding in your bedroom all night.” At that point, it became glaringly obvious just how problematic my living situation was going to be for me.
What wasn’t so obvious at the time was how problematic it might become for my wallet. While I wish I were more of a ‘Type A” person who keeps every receipt and bank statement ever (I’m working on it), I don’t have any way to see all of the damage I did for most of my time spent in college, and I’m kind of glad I don’t. But, to paint a not-so-pretty picture, I held part-time jobs for all four years of college with decent hours and pay, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it in any of my accounts.
For me, living with, befriending, and surrounding myself with the kind of people that I did resulted in doing many things on a nearly daily basis that drained my energy and my bank account. From spending more nights going out to eat or ordering takeout than cooking, to the multiple trips a week to Target out of sheer boredom or “for just one thing!” and walking out with an entire cart full of pointless crap, was tame spending money. Not to mention the money I funneled into going to bars every weekend. Because the nightlife scene was so not my thing (but all of my friends loved it), I attempted to make myself enjoy it more by drinking way too much and buying clothes and makeup I’d never naturally choose that gave me the illusion of fitting in better, but actually made me feel more insecure. At least I had enough insight not to go on most of the weekend or spring break trips they took out of state, which were all full of shopping, drinking, and dining out.
It’s embarrassing, truly cringe-worthy, how much I threw aside my own needs and values in favor of fitting in with the wrong kind of friends for me, and I definitely paid the price for it. Every aspect of my life suffered: my health, my finances, my happiness, my grades, my work ethic. And to me, none of it was ever worth it. This isn’t a case of me having an epiphany and turning my life around; I was just making myself unhappy from the start. No part of going out every single weekend was fun to me, no part of me ever felt the need to go shopping more than once a season (if that), and no part of me enjoyed eating out constantly instead of cooking — an activity I grew up learning and genuinely loved.
Had I just become friends with people that lived their lives in a way that resonated with mine, who were perfectly happy to not spend every single day together doing multiple money-costing activities, who didn’t mind staying in on the weekends, or who shared a love for the outdoors and fitness and could have indulged in some free/healthy/outdoor activities with me, my life would have been so, so much more fulfilling.
I must emphasize that my friendships in college did not end because I faulted them for my lack of responsibility with my money, or because I think they’re bad people. I didn’t make a grand decision to cut everyone out of my life in a dramatic way. The truth is, we all naturally drifted apart because, at the end of the day, we really had nothing in common. My only regret is not having prioritized myself over friendships that never suited me, my goals, or lifestyle. Now, I am much wiser when it comes to choosing friends and setting boundaries with them — and with myself.
Even though I would love to go back and be so much more responsible with my spending, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I had scholarships, minimal loans, parents that helped me as much as they reasonably could, a couple of good part-time jobs, and savings from my adolescent years that kept me relatively afloat. Without all of these major privileges, though, I could have dug myself into a huge debt-filled hole, and for nothing more than not being able to keep my people-pleasing tendencies under control.
It’s normal to struggle with figuring out who you are, what kind of life you want to live, and who your real friends are as a young adult. But if I can offer a piece of advice: always keep your focus on what is good for you and your mental, physical, and financial wellbeing. Anything less is never worth the cost.
Taylor is an English major just weeks away from graduation. When she’s not studying or traveling as a part-time personal photographer, you can find her in her happy place — curled up in bed with her cat and writing her life away.
Image via Unsplash