Hiya friends. It’s been a week filled with lots of good things (nacho night at Kiera‘s house, visiting family, arranging Skype dates with dear old pals in Blighty, etc etc) and a large volume of things I have to do when I would rather be curled up with a cup of tea watching How To Get Away With Murder (I’ve not seen the new season so no spoilers please!).
October looks like it’s turning into nostalgia month. Something about third year has made me reflect a lot on my university experience so far. After being fairly ambivalent about my degree last year, suddenly I’m gripped in the halfway-point fear, and I want to learn all the things and take all the opportunities. Today, though, I want to share some stories and thoughts on the friendships that live and die during the years you spend in uni.
At the close of my secondary school years, I felt ready to leave. I was desperate for a new adventure. I had a lot of friends across various social groups and ages (some rather more positive presences than others, as I would later discover). I don’t remember feeling too worried about moving on; I was just sentimental about the years we had spent together.
The funny thing is, if you had told me five years ago which of my friends would still be in my life, I would have been shocked. Many of the people I thought were “forever” turned out not to be, and the ones I thought weren’t that into being my pal have stuck around for years. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
Good friends make you feel good about yourself. It should have been obvious, really, but I spent a lot of time in my teens placing value in people who didn’t place value in me. Friends who don’t encourage, support, empathise with and care for you are, quite simply, not worth it. Same goes for any relationship.
True friends stick around. Sometimes life gets busy, and keeping in touch with everyone just isn’t manageable. I can’t tell you how many friendships I would have lost if the other person hadn’t made the effort to chase me down. You just can’t misplace the good ones- they probably won’t let you. They write letters, they demand Skype dates, they send you snapchats from parties to say that they’re missing you. They message you out of the blue and they never quite disappear from view, no matter how far away they are.
God Bless The Internet…But not just for Google and Netflix. As mentioned above, it’s a lifesaving tool for long-distance friendships. It can be difficult to carve time out of busy schedules to Skype with your far-flung pals, but low-maintenance contact such as snapchat or commenting on a post can remind them that you’re still thinking of them. Plus, it’s a lot more casual for those of us who aren’t always up for one-on-one conversations.
When the going gets tough, they show up. I always believe that you see people’s true colours when disaster hits. It’s a test of character. It proves who is a fair-weather friend, and who will show up during the storm. My friend Christine is definitely the latter. When I got taken to hospital in London back in first year, my girl left work after a long shift, hopped on the tube and travelled from the outer boroughs to my hospital bed in Central. We see each other once every few years, if we’re lucky, but have been friends since we were 13. In my hazy, feverish state, her familiar sarcastic presence and bobble hat were such a comfort. She drew me a picture and hid in my room until long after visiting hours, where we remembered the days when we’d get coffee together every morning before school and drive to McDonald’s in her car during free periods.Age is just a number. I have friends who are in their forties, even in their sixties, and I have friends in their teens. So when people asked me if I regretted taking a year out and transferring to a country where university starts a little earlier, I didn’t understand what they were getting at. So what that I’m 22? There’s no law that I can only get along with other 20-somethings. One of the greatest gifts university has given me is the opportunity to appreciate people for who they are, and not how old they are. Imagine if we only spent time with people of our own age group? The world would be a very boring, limited place.
Time and distance ain’t no thing. Some friendships are very self-sustaining, and thank all the gods for that. There are friendships that require very little maintenance, that pick up wherever they left off like no time or distance could ever change it. A lot of my friends and I haven’t seen each other in years, but whenever we talk, we tell each other that we love each other. We laugh obnoxiously loudly. We fill in the blanks since we last spoke. These kinds of friendships are my favourite, because they feel the most permanent.
People leave and that’s okay. It happens. Life happens. We all change. I’ve found that a lot of friendships are circumstancial: maybe you work all the same shifts, or your boyfriend is their cousin, or you have mutual friends. Maybe they’re looking for a drinking buddy, but you’re looking for a study partner. Or vice versa. These friendships aren’t necessarily built to last, but that doesn’t mean that they have no value. Some of the short-term friendships I’ve had have changed my life the most, and are the ones I’m most grateful for. We’re taught to place so much emphasis on forever, but the world and all its inhabitants are in a constant state of flux; there’s no sense in being upset that things change.
All is not lost. My first ever heartbreak was not when I was dumped via Whatsapp by my first long-term boyfriend. It was long before that, at the end of a best-friendship that had felt more like sisterhood. I thought, and sometimes still think, that maybe there will never be another friendship like that for me again. And that’s okay too. Because years on, we still keep in touch. We arrange to meet up the next time we happen to be in the same country. We send our love to each other’s families. The parameters of our friendship changed, but it didn’t end completely. Sometimes, that’s the healthiest thing that can happen. Boundaries can be adjusted in order to save a friendship’s longevity. I’ve seen it happen to so many friendships, mine and other people’s, and for the most part, it’s a good thing. And then there are the friends that don’t come back. Also okay. Some of the most influential friendships I’ve ever had are one’s that I don’t miss and don’t particularly want back. It’s possible to honour people for the positives they gave you, but simultaneously know that they’re not a person you need in your life anymore. And likewise, you’re not necessarily the person they need anymore either.
Making friends in your 20s/when chronically ill can be really hard. But it’s not impossible. I started this year thinking I would be sad and lonely and friendless forever. It’s funny, but whenever I start thinking that I’ll be friendless, the universe will introduce me to the lovely girl in the residence laundry room, or the fellow eAmbassador that I’d never spoken to before. I’m learning that taking small opportunities can lead to big things: offering to grab a drink post-work with a colleague can lead to all kinds of strange experiences, like accidentally crashing a stranger’s Tinder date, or hijacking an amateur softball team’s trophy.
Life is full of surprises. I spend my life convinced that everyone thinks I’m a loser. I’m constantly worrying that I’ve offended someone, said the wrong thing, or come across as socially inept. I’ve shown up to campus with tangled hair and no makeup and no painkillers so many times that I figured that I was some kind of scruffy Glendonite pariah. So imagine my surprise when Kiera admitted that she always thought I was “this cool British chick who writes really well and always wears black and looks really put together”. Imagine my shock that she felt like just as much of a mess as I do (she’s definitely not). I’m learning that maybe the people we admire in the halls all feel as uncool as we do. Maybe the people we see online are using just as many sneaky edits as we are. Maybe we should all just be pals.