The online semester has been tough on all of us and I think especially so for the freshmen. Being a second-year student, I’m supposed to have found my clique of friends, so I’m supposed to be in a better position than them. But I’m not sure if I can even count the people I surround myself with as friends.
You see, we don’t meet up outside of school nor do we chat much about our personal lives. I know more about the modules they’re taking and the assignment questions they’re struggling with than what’s going on in their personal lives. And it’s not for a lack of trying. I try, or at least I like to think that I do. But they always seem so busy during the holidays or reply me with platitudes when I try to steer the conversation into deeper territory.
University is supposed to be fun and invigorating and it’s meant to help me find my lifelong group of pals. That was what I used to think coming into university and it’s something I’m still holding out for. What do you say of my plight? What should I do to find more lifelong friends and less hi-bye acquaintances?
I took some time to ponder over your letter and how to respond to your question. On the one hand, I feel the need to answer it as best as I can, especially because I believe many others, including myself, feel or have felt this way too – be they sophomores still holding on to the expectations they had entering into university, or seniors having already given up on leaving university with lifelong memories and movie-worthy adventures. Receiving a step-by-step guide to forming lifelong relationships in university would’ve saved us from many disheartening encounters and lonely gatherings.
On the other hand, I have to admit that I don’t believe such a guide exists. In fact, I don’t even think that the problem you think you’re facing is the problem that you are facing. To put it bluntly, there isn’t “something to do” to get more lifelong friends and less hi-bye ones, and don’t worry, you aren’t “supposed” to have a clique of friends by now anyway.
There definitely are ways to meet more people and strengthen your current friendships. The oft-cited wisdom states that you should join more clubs, participate in more activities, listen actively and open up more. And you should. However, in our attempts to do so, we ought to keep in mind something important: lifelong friends are not found, they are made. By definition, it’s impossible to find friendships that last a lifetime without having already lived a lifetime.
In the same way that buildings are made from blocks of marble and concrete, lifelong friendships are made from trials, tribulations, and the test of time. We could spend most of our time finding seemingly perfect blocks, but ultimately, we can only know how sturdy a structure is in retrospect – whether it can withstand earthquakes, wear and tear, etc. Similarly, lifelong friends are the last ones standing – the ones you do find by your side at the end.
I think we also tend to forget or overlook the fact that friendships are pretty weird. Sometimes, it’s hard or maybe even impossible to know why some friendships work better than others or at all (see: Leaning Tower of Pisa). Sure, we could try to explain them by listing our similarities and common interests, but at the end of the day, we don’t really understand why we haven’t murdered them (yet) after all those lame jokes.
It’s this unpredictability and baselessness that makes friendships as magical as they are, and impossible to be planned or looked for. But as flawed humans desperate for true connections and a hug on bad days, we tend to do so anyway. It’s something I’m guilty of myself, and something I think you’re doing now too. We meet new people with all these expectations in our heads, not knowing that doing so is unfair to both ourselves and them. By deeming certain friends as hi-bye ones after subjecting them to expectations they couldn’t possibly have met yet, we lose sight of what we’re really seeking and what friendships are really all about. Worse still, we may even be dismissing what would have been those very lifelong friendships. These labels are incapable of accurately describing the relationships we form at this point of our lives and, frankly, unhelpful.
What should we do then? We still feel lonely and wish to look back on our university days one day and smile fondly. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much to do other than having an open mind, being and knowing ourselves, and embracing the fact that at the end of the day, none of this can be planned. But isn’t that the point, and all the better?
So keep growing and treasure all the people you meet on the way. Let them be them and let you be you. You’ll never know who’ll end up being a friend to the end, and that’s okay. But you have to give them a shot and let them give you one as well. We should strive to accept our friends for who they are, to be a friend in the best way we know how, and whatever blossoms from there might just be one of those “lifelong” friendships borne out of authenticity.
Thanks for sharing with me; you’ve really made me think. I hope I’ve helped you think through this too.
Dear Madison is for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute or substitute medical, legal or professional advice. Always seek the advice of a professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any situation that would so require such advice.