How Moving to College Redefined my Notion of Friendship

Because sometimes it takes moving across the U.S. to reevaluate yourself and your relationships with others.

Everyone says that college is a time of fun, exploration, and self-improvement. It makes sense. It’s the first time that many of us go out into the world, sometimes on the other side of the country (or globe) without our family, without our friends, and without the home that we grew up in. It’s a weird transition for sure, but today I want to focus on one aspect of my life that’s changed dynamically: friendship and its inherent value.

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Ahhh the awkward phase that no one wants to remember. I know I truly don’t want to remember (and simply have blocked it out of my life). Middle School was the time where you go through various things: figuring out what feelings are, figuring out why you’re getting taller, and figuring out what to do with yourself. I remember my friendships during the time were people that I shared classes with. They didn’t really mean much, moreso out of convenience rather than any true value. And I think at that time, it was fine. I was too overwhelmed with trying not to fail my classes, balance the extracurriculars I was thinking about doing, and dealing with that good ol’ family life. It was a time. It existed, and that’s basically all I have to say about middle school.

Entering high school was a legitimate struggle for me. I switched schools to my local high school instead of going to the one that was slightly further. It was that awkward transition period where you didn’t know anyone, was too scared to talk to new people, and just got through classes. During my Freshman year, it took a toll on my self-esteem. At that point, I relied on external validation in my life to keep me going. However, I got bullied to some extent and generally had a poor self-image. It took me a while to realize that the people I called “friends” during my Freshman year were actively contributing to that and I shouldn’t have hung out with them if that was the case.

Lesson #1 (This one’s pretty obvious but): People who actively hurt you aren’t worth spending the time on. Life is too short to spend time with people who aren’t willing to invest time, effort, and respect into the friendship.

During my Sophomore year, I ended up becoming friends with a different group of people who I started hanging out after one of them randomly texted me about going to the movies. Not only was this weird (I didn’t really go to the movies and I didn’t really hang out with friends outside of school), but it was the first case in which someone I know reached out to me, rather then me pestering someone else. It felt nice, that someone else cared enough to reach out to me. From then on, I hung out with this new group of friends. It was weird that I had a group of friends to hang out with constantly for lunch, go to dinner, or watch movies with. I didn’t really understand what this meant, but I felt somewhat connected and somewhat involved. This was the first couple of times that I stayed up to 3am talking to someone about calculus problems, problems about social situations and navigating high school, and getting through the week. I never knew that having board game night on the weekends was a thing, and that I could sleepover at friend’s houses. It was a different experience for me, and I was so thankful to be able to experience it.

Lesson #2: People will reach out to you if they want to hang out with you. I say this a lot but relationships are a two way street. Get friends who care about you.

Last short story from high school: This same group of friends ended up changing and forming in different ways. People came and went. The groups were constantly in flux. It was a natural progression of course. Like myself, other people did some self-reflection, reevaluated what they wanted in life, and realized that the group they were with wasn’t a good fit. Maybe it was a couple of the people, maybe it was the entire dynamic, or maybe they just didn’t vibe.

During my senior year, one of the girls that I was pretty close with throughout sophomore year and halfway through junior year put a strain on our friendship. It became toxic on both sides. She constantly felt the need to flex her intelligence and superiority. Everything I said was met with either a rebuttal or a “oh I did this today”. Eventually, the conversations themselves didn’t feel meaningful, didn’t really add worth. She didn’t care about my friends, and was mad whenever I would hang out with them. And then, it was gone…

I think its better for both of us, but it made me think about what kind of friend I wanted to be, and what kind of person I aspired to be. From this, I realized, that being a friend means you should be supportive, caring, and understanding. Your wins are everyone’s wins, and you shouldn’t be envious that someone else is thriving. That being said, friends should also check in with each other, care about each other’s well being, and ensure that everything is going alright.

I guess this is probably where I should’ve started this article but oh well. I need to improve my organization haha. But I digress.

College has honestly been one of the most trying, transformative, difficult times in my life. The highs are super high, and the lows hit hard. I’ve hung out with friends on the weekend, taken a trip up to Vermont, and also lived in the CIT through the entire week. Classes take up less time, extracurriculars take up more time, and work takes up an absurd amount of time. But in it all, the thing I learned the most is that it’s always important to make time for your friends.

I stand by the statement that no matter how busy someone is, if they prioritize their time correctly, you’ll always be able to have some time to spend with your friends. It’s just about how highly you value that time. And in college, I realized much I value the time spent with friends. Yes, I say I’m an introvert and I need that space to myself, but having friends that celebrate life, get lunch, and hang out with you is one of the greatest things being a human has. So embrace it.

Lesson #3: Make time for your friends. Check in on them, get lunch with them, and make sure they’re getting sun/water (basically they’re a plant)

The last thing I learned in college is how much I value friendships that have depth to them. Yes getting meals and hanging out/studying is important, but I think it’s equally if not more important to be open about problems, experiences, or life in general. This inherently ties back to my idea about having supporting friends, because in order for friends to support you, they need to know what you’re about, what you want to do in life, your biggest fears (so that maybe they can help you overcome them), and your biggest dreams (so that maybe they can help you achieve them). Taking the time to understand your friends deeply is important. So have that 3am conversation about why you’re struggling through classes, or why you’re scared for the future, or why that interaction last week made you happy. We’re all humans. We should share and treasure ourselves, our feelings, but also others that we care about. It’s a basic human necessity. So let’s spread it.

If you’re reading this, that means you made it to the end of this long, weird, and poorly organized article about friends. It’s because I’ve been going through an interesting development my Sophomore year and wanted to document it somewhere briefly. If you enjoyed it, give me some claps or a follow, it would mean a lot.

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