The struggle to connect with old friends skyrockets when you go to college. You’ve flown across the country–maybe the world–or you stayed at home and your friends all flew away from you. Who knows if you’re ever going to see any of them again.
Real world alert: You will lose some of them. High school can’t last forever, nor should it. Think how awful that would be. Still, it’s hard watching your once closest-confidants fade out of your life, with stunted conversation, unanswered texts and terrifyingly different Facebook pics.
If you are returning home for break you probably have to face–I mean, “reunite with”–all those high school friends. Perhaps you’ll return to gloriously crushing hugs in a warmly lit coffee shop. Or maybe it will turn out to be a nervous “hey?…hey!” in a gloomy bar. It can be traumatic. You used to be so close. You knew everything about them, but now you can’t quite remember if the major is psychology or cognitive science or computer science. Don’t panic. Remember that college gives you the privilege of forcing you into new experiences, and new experiences force you to grow.
So, you now have two options with old friends:
1. Struggle through the first meeting and then declare, “This was fun, see you when I see you (as in not-until-reunion-four-years-from-now)!”
2. Re-befriend them. Learn who they are now. Neither of you are the same people you once were, so just keep asking questions until you get to know the 2.0 version of them. If you discover that the 2.0 version speaks of more crazy actions than you can accept, fear not. You can always revert to option one. Otherwise, keep going. You’ve got this. Something to keep in mind: You’ve changed as well. It might not feel that way but even a few college classes and a new random roommate will seriously change the way you view life and then the way you act. When re-befriending, the high school friend needs to be ready to accept your changes.
Upshot? You can make new friends in college. Around this time of the year that statement can feel real shaky. You thought that person from orientation was cool but it turns out he was just what I like to call a “desperation friend,” or someone you turn to because you just don’t want to appear alone. Usually, those desperation friends will vanish before those friends of convenience you met in class with whom you share the “major in finance or die trying” character trait. It turns out one night of rooming together or that time you waited in the burger line together isn’t actually enough to base a friendship on.
But who cares about them? Not you. Letting go of those desperation friends means you’re developing actual standards and settling in for real. Note well: Some desperation friends can become very real friends. Generally though, be open to setting each other free, and reaching out to the people with whom you really want to share your college experience.
I promise this is possible. If people as quiet as myself–and the quiet friends I’ve made by senior year–can befriend one another then anyone can. There’s the sad math that most people will leave school after four years and therefore be possibly oceans from one another, but magical things such as phones and Facebook exist nowadays. Even postcards still exist. And you never know, maybe you’ll somehow end up in the same city for some crazy job opportunity.
So even if it’s February, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who seems up your alley. Let’s look at new friends as a positive possibility instead of a social risk. If nothing else, you can share your favorite College Magazine articles with them. You know, to bond over. A win-win…win, even for the third party involved.