Sometimes I worry that I’m a quitter. When I was 16, I went to the Gaeltacht for the first time. It was just 3 weeks long, I spoke decent Irish, and I went with friends. Somehow, my friends all took to it, and I just didn’t. It wasn’t so much that I was home-sick, I’d been away from home plenty before, but I just really strongly didn’t want to be there. And when my parents came to visit at the weekend, I went home with them. I quit.

I got my first choice in the CAO. I’d surprised myself with the number of points I got, and I actually managed to get a small scholarship from the college. I joined so many clubs and societies. I got on really well with my roommates. I joined NiteLine, and met a really cool bunch of people. And then, one weekend in February, I stayed up in college over the weekend instead of going home. Campus is a wasteland on weekends. Everyone goes home. There was not a single person I could ask to go for a coffee with me. And, I started to think, even if it was mid-week and everyone was on campus, who would I ask for coffee? Yeah, I had people I ate lunch with, and people I chatted to in class, but how many real friends had I made? None of the people I was hanging out with felt like my people. There was nothing wrong with them, but I just didn’t feel like myself around them. I felt awkward. I held myself back. I’d always had a solid group of friends at home, at school and at summer camp, except for that one summer I tried the Gaeltacht. But if I hadn’t made friends in six months at college, that must say something about me, I thought.

From there on, I sorta spiralled. This was further complicated by the fact that my course was not what I’d thought it would be. I loved the things I thought I’d hate, and hated the things I thought I’d love. So, I guess, I wasn’t what I thought I would be. I’d spent the first month or so going to every class under the sun, because I was so indecisive. And after all of my research into courses, and hard work for the Leaving Cert, and time spent trying out different classes at the start of the year, it seemed that I’d chosen wrong. I didn’t like my course. And I didn’t have friends. Again, I wasn’t so much home-sick, as I just didn’t want to be there. I went to talk to a lecturer about the fact that I hated one of my subjects, and unexpectedly loved another one. But I wouldn’t be able to study the one I loved after first year, with the way my course was structured. We chatted and I mentioned that there was another course in a different college, that seemed to perfectly combine the subjects I’d discovered I loved. Surprisingly, he agreed that I’d probably be happier there. In fact, his daughter was studying that course.

I reapplied to the CAO, and spent months agonising over whether or not to accept the offer for the other course. It would cost so much money. I would have to publicly admit and explain my failure in my original course. And what if I dropped out of the other course in the end too? Maybe this should be an inspiring story about how I toughed it out and made it work. It’s not. I quit. I dropped out and I started again. I left it until the day of the deadline, and I actually accepted the offer while I was in the NiteLine office.

When I came to college the second time, I was nervous. I was worried that it would just be the same as the last time. But I was also determined. I knew that I had chosen the subjects I loved, and I knew that I would not quit this time, no matter what. I started conversations with strangers before lectures, knowing that they were just as lonely and anxious as I had been in my first week. When I got a good vibe off someone, I invited them for lunch. If I asked, the worst they could say was no. If I didn’t ask, we might both end up eating our lunches on our own. I’m in my final year now. I made friends. I love my course. I studied abroad. I learned my strengths, as well as my weaknesses. I don’t really know what the moral of my story is yet. Even though things turned out so well for me, sometimes I still worry that dropping out means I’m a quitter. Maybe the moral is that quitting takes guts too? Probably, it’s that if you get good vibes from someone, don’t be too shy to ask them for lunch.