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In my first week of University, I had real trouble making friends. Not because I didn’t want to but because I had put such a big guard up because I was nervous, that I wasn’t letting anyone or anything in. I would walk into sessions with my arms crossed, head down and sit as far away from anyone as I could. I would only speak when it was really necessary and when the class finished I would leave immediately.

Then as I approached the second week, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have any friends!! Was I that unlikeable? Was this going to be my life for the next three years?

To me, it felt like everyone else just slipped into their friendship groups, it was almost effortless for them. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. As the week dragged on and still billy no-mates, I didn’t know what to do or how to get out of this lonely hole.

At the end of the second week and approaching the end of freshers, I plucked up some courage and decided to go down to the union bar. As I was standing waiting for my drink to be poured, a tall woman took the space next to me.

I instantly recognised her - she was one of the people on my course and a complete social butterfly. For her, it seemed that talking to people she didn’t know was effortless.

Unbeknownst to me yet, this woman was about to give me one of the biggest life lessons I needed to learn and she would become one of my most cherished and closest friends.

“You’re on the acting course aren’t you?” she asks.

“Yeah, we’re in the same class actually.” I reply.

“You should hang out with us, we all want to know who you are!”

Surprised, I say, “Really?”

“Yeah, come on over and sit with us, we all want to meet you.”

So we made our way through the sweaty crowd and sticky floors to the group, where I finally let my guard down and made some friends.

If it wasn’t for this interaction, this guiding hand, who knows whether I would have plucked up the courage to have been vulnerable enough to interact with others and create true friendships? Needless to say, my time training would have been completely different and not just from a friendship point of view but also from an artistic point of view.

Because not only was this a lesson in opening yourself up to creating connections and friendships, it also taught me that if I can’t open up in my everyday interactions, how am I going to bear my soul to an audience? How am I going to become vulnerable enough to give my emotions and my authentic self to my art?

I will forever be grateful for this interaction and whilst I’m not always as vulnerable as I should or could be, I am aware of when I am and when I’m not. To me, that is the most important part because out of awareness comes change and out of change comes true growth.

So, the next time you’re in a room full of people and see someone with their arms crossed, head down and alone, remember - it’s probably not because they don’t want to be there or want create new connections. For whatever reason, they have their guard up and aren’t allowing themselves to be vulnerable to new connections. Try to approach this person, interact with them and show the same kindness my friend had for me.

You never know ... you may just change someones life.

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