Freshmen orientation is a prime opportunity to make mistakes: entering the wrong buildings, tripping over the wobbly Deece step, occupying the hallways because you’re scared of the TH’s and even forgetting the names of those in your fellow group. Every grace period must end, however, and as we (the freshmen) enter our second week of classes, we are met with the same uncertainties of our first week, but this time without the safety net of having every person’s name in your student fellow group’s GroupMe.
While the majority of the awkwardness has subsided (hopefully; if not, stay strong), particular moments of discomfort still remain, especially when it comes to remembering names. Somehow, it becomes creepy to retain basic details such as a person’s hometown and interests so long as you are unable to remember their name. Trust me, calling someone “Southington” after just meeting them is honestly just weird and if you think it isn’t, you’re wrong. (If “Southington” is reading this, I am so sorry.) I am not suggesting that one’s credibility is wholly dependent on the ability to recall a meaningless moniker, simply because no name is meaningless. Moreover, every name has a story: something cultural, something historical, something personal. Often, inquiring about this will almost directly result in a trip to behindthename.com, but I am asking you to fabricate a polite smirk as your friend, “wisdom,” lights up from her description. While it may not mean much to you, be kind to Sophia— you’re in no position to turn down friends, and you’re never in a position to be a jerk.
Names are important; they’re the doorway to developing our own identities and differentiating ourselves. A name is a first impression and paves the way for further conversation. We share it with others to make a connection, and in doing so, we imply that our connection will go beyond a single, isolated meeting. We open ourselves up to those around us, allowing them into a part of our life. We are able to connect with others by forming a common ground and starting a conversation. In this sense, freshman orientation is a part of our everyday life; we must open ourselves up to opportunity in order to try new things and meet new people. While a blatant depiction of interest can be perceived as uncomfortable due to the vulnerability involved, stop fake texting for ten seconds—you don’t even look cool. For a moment, you are a freshman: approachable, judgment-free and excited. Abandon the cop-out, “I’m so bad with names” along with your apathy. These are appealing because they are easy and uninvolved, but detrimental to a friendship for those same reasons. Strong barriers can be hard to break down, but often the first step isn’t plunging full-force into a conversation, it’s letting someone else in.
Ignoring the surface-level interpretation of the mantra “first impressions are important” allows us to delve into the implications of why first impressions are important. We care about how others perceive us. We care that people care about us. While my sweeping statements can be easily disproved, my goal in bringing them forth is to urge you to pay less attention to how you are perceived and more attention to how you involve yourself in the ever-stressful small talk with new people.