The funny thing about friendship

The road to maturity often complicates students’ social lives.

Courtney Johnson

On my very first day of college, I met one of my best friends. We introduced ourselves to each other in chemistry class, decided that we were chemistry partners “for life” and the rest is history. We’ve lived together, cried together and had some really fun experiences since. When I first arrived at school, I was skeptical about all that I had heard about college ‘being the time that I would make the friends that will last a lifetime and make memories that I’ll look back on and want to live all over again.’ Part of this was because I had a great high school experience. I had wonderful friends in high school, I was active in the community and I earned good grades. So, for me, moving away from home for the first time and having to make new friends all over again was not something that I necessarily wanted to do.

I soon learned, however, that college was the chance of a lifetime. It became the time to reinvent myself, to branch out, to come into my own and really figure out who I am and what I want to do and put into the world. And it is the friends that I have picked up along the way that have helped me to do just this.

 Something that has been important for me to understand these past four years is that the friendships I had in high school were different from those I now have in college — and while all hold a special role in my life, they are different because my friends from college and I have transitioned from childhood to adulthood together. The span of four years is a long time for any one person to have the capacity to mature. Just think about the amount of awkward changes that happened between freshman and senior year of high school. The same theory applies to college. When the typical freshman begins college at about 18 years old, they are just on the brink of adulthood; they have not yet had the opportunity to see what independence will do for them in college.

Now that I am wrapping up my college career, I have transferred schools, changed majors, had a couple part-time jobs, lived on and off campus and have had friends who have been there to support me every step of the way. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because, in all of that time, many of my friends have remained constant — even after transferring schools. Part of the reason we have remained so close in college is because we all understand that a successful friendship with a friend is no different from having a successful relationship. Both take work, honesty, respect and a lot of communication.

When I lived in an apartment in Dinkytown with my friends, it was all fun and games until feelings started to get hurt. We experienced rifts in our friendships that I would rather not experience again. Living with friends is challenging because you get to know each other on a completely different level than before. With five girls living in a three-bedroom apartment and one bathroom, I guess we were asking for competitiveness, hostility and passive-aggressive behaviors. In retrospect, though, that year of my life is when my friends became my family. After our lease ended I truly realized how much fun we had had and how our relationships were solidified. We learned how to work through our differences and supported each other, helped study for exams, prepare for important job interviews and counseled one another through challenging circumstances.

Something else that I have learned these past four years is that some friendships will end. This was hard for me to come to terms with, but I eventually realized how I benefited from it. The first semester of college is famous for freshman scurrying around, latching onto whoever lives on their dorm floor or who they usually sit near in a lecture. Everybody is desperate to make friends, and familiar faces are a form of solace. As semesters come and go, some people grow closer together, and other friendships are put on the back burner because they might have a superficial quality to them. These relationships eventually don’t make it past being ‘catch-up’ friendships with a coffee or lunch date every couple of weeks or so.

Growing apart from a friend doesn’t mean that the relationship wasn’t a meaningful one or that the person didn’t have a significant role in your life; it just means that you are growing in separate directions, experiencing different things and that your lives are moving at different rates.

 On the verge of graduation, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the friends that I have made from the very beginning. I now understand and have seen firsthand how friends and people change. Now my friends and I are all getting ready to embark on another new adventure: our lives after college.

While transitioning between college and post-college life, I have noticed that more and more, people are starting to get busier. This results in a limited amount of time to be spent with each other. Once friends become involved in their career and long-term goals, they start to get married, move to other cities and the opportunity for face-to-face interaction becomes very limited. This results in people beginning to prioritize their friendships.

I do not know what will happen in the months and years to come when it comes to my relationships with my friends. I certainly hope that we will remain as close as we are now, if not closer. Now that I am on the brink of true adulthood, the need to have my friends as a support group is crucial. I know that we are not done figuring out what we want to put into the world and change is inevitable for the rest of our lives. I can only hope that we have developed the capacity to grow and change with each other and to continue making the memories that will “last a lifetime.”