Finding my place in a shared space

Managing Editor Sarah Frasca reflects on her journey toward a sense of belonging, from her first day of high school to her last day of college.


My default setting is constantly feeling out of place.

I vividly remember walking into the cafeteria on my first day of high school and feeling like I just entered the iconic lunch scene in Mean Girls. I wasn’t expecting the exclusive social cliques and stereotypes I watched in movies to become my reality, but it was happening before my eyes — and I seriously struggled to fit in.

To set the scene, I’d just moved from a Catholic elementary school in Northeast Philadelphia to a suburban public high school, and I was a painfully socially awkward teenager. I stacked emo band bracelets, filled in my eyebrows with red-tinted eye shadow and often wore an ill-fitting My Chemical Romance t-shirt.

Making matters worse, the high school continued directly from a middle school where everyone already knew each other — hence the preexisting cliques — and I was one of the few new kids without a place to sit. I spent multiple lunches hiding in a bathroom stall or the library.

I took countless “sick” days and was constantly late because I never wanted to be in a place where I felt completely alone and the target of mean high schoolers: there was a time when a boy took a photo of me and posted it on Snapchat captioned, “Never seen this girl before in my life.” 

I went to bed with my mind racing, criticizing every move I made each day, unable to sleep. In my nighttime reflections, I envisioned myself as a big, blundering monster giving an off-putting vibe at all times. 

I woke up physically ill on weekdays with my anxiety manifesting as migraines, nausea and fevers. My poor attendance led to mailed letters warning my family we’d need to attend a hearing if I missed school or was late again. After that, I realized attending school was non-negotiable.

Fast forward to my senior year, I started to feel okay. I had two best friends, Emma and Marianna, who made me feel like I finally belonged. I enjoyed my classes and I was at least slightly less socially awkward. Then, of course, the “two weeks off from school” announcement hit in March 2020. 

For an introvert, the solitude of quarantine was comforting. The world was a mess and horrible tragedies ensued, but not having to interact with anyone was one relief. I thrived without socialization, but after a year of online college, in-person teaching resumed. 

The overwhelming anxiety — that same feeling from five years earlier — set in, and I was terrified to start sophomore year at Temple. I moved into an off-campus apartment, and while I’d be living with Emma, we wouldn’t have classes together and I’d have two additional roommates and an entirely new life. My anxious high school self was reemerging. 

I decided I needed to find a space I fit in to avoid reliving that painful experience. I enrolled in journalism courses, and the material made me want to attend class. My Wednesday night honors classes were my favorite, and I started casual small talk with students next to me. I didn’t magically become a confident, outgoing person, but things felt okay, like they did right before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On a high from in-class chatting, I took a step I didn’t previously have the guts to take and joined student media. I started freelancing for The Temple News opinion section under then-editor Julia Merola, who helped me strengthen and gain confidence in my writing, so much so that I applied to be the next opinion editor. 

Once in that role, the newsroom introduced me to future close friends. Molly Fiske, last year’s Assistant Opinion Editor and now Features Editor, gossiped with me, making me feel like I had a friend in journalism. I started to feel like I belonged again.

I’m now on senior staff, and having friends like Julia and Editor-in-Chief Fallon Roth helps lessen my hyper-awareness of constantly feeling out of place. Whether we’re debating the next editorial topic, frantically editing a breaking news story or sharing our love of the Barbie Fairytopia character Bibble, I’m surrounded by people who believe in my journalistic abilities, and most importantly, allow me to feel like I have a home at Temple.

As I near graduation, I feel at peace with the person I’ve become and confident in my ability to exist in shared spaces without my anxiety taking over. For the first time in my life, I’m excited for what the future holds, a personal development I owe to The Temple News.

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