Coming into college, I convinced myself that making friends would be a breeze. After all, with 2,000 other freshmen entering the Northwestern Class of 2018, how hard could it be to find a dope squad of eight or 10 people to rely on? I soon found out while I wasn’t wrong, I wasn’t exactly right either.
Picture this: a week-long orientation spent learning a crazy dance with 2,000 other people in a park, going to hypnotists and dance shows and getting free swag. That’s right. I experienced seven 14-hour days with a group of 11 other freshmen and with an upperclassman peer advisor. You’d think these people could serve as my lifelong buddies, right? You can’t just spend 112 hours with someone and not connect to them. Well, I found out that I couldn’t, and I didn’t. While I still keep in touch with one person from that group, I never talk to any other person I met at orientation. This was the first time I realized spending a lot of time with nice people doesn’t equate to friendships. This wasn’t high school anymore. The convenience of being stuck with the same people for extended amounts of time didn’t mean much.
During the first few weeks of school, I tried to be friends with everyone. I met up with people from the Class of 2018 Facebook group who also liked Teen Wolf and even went to a Tyler Oakley show with two other girls. I made a good friend here or there, but when the harsh winter set in, I only stayed in contact with friends within a five-minute walking radius, which eliminated about half of the people I assumed would be my close friends for life. Most of the good friends I did have didn’t know the other friends I had around campus. I didn’t have a reliable group of friends like in high school, and I couldn’t stand to combine different friend groups in one setting. A naturally extroverted person like me just wanted to hang out in a large group at the end of the day and laugh too loud in a restaurant over macaroni and cheese. I felt so much pressure hanging out with just one person at a time. If the conversation got awkward or died, that was it.
I began micromanaging my interactions with these people I hesitantly called friends. I made sure I showed up to the dining hall immediately after them, so I wouldn’t wait by myself but could still maximize my time trying to make best friends with everyone I met. I desperately looked for connections between my friends, hoping that they would take the same class together so they could hesitantly call each other friends too. I felt like my life was a living Facebook feed. I looked around and everyone seemed so happy and content with their friend groups. I told myself that just because someone was laughing at someone else’s joke, it didn’t mean they were bosom buddies. As I grew closer to my friends, I had that nagging sensation in my head that something wasn’t right, or that I was doing something wrong that everyone else did so naturally.
You may have heard the saying that you don’t find love; it comes to you. Well, if I could tell my freshman self one thing, I would tell Miss 19-Year-Old Meghan that the same thing applies to friendships. Over time, a few of my friends who were psych majors worked in the same lab and became friendly enough with one another. This became the point where I could invite them all to movies or restaurants without anyone feeling awkward. I also noticed that people in general tended to get more confident toward sophomore year and mingled with other people’s friends without feeling out of place. By this time I also became more involved in my church on campus and got close to a set of roommates. One of them even had a new boyfriend, so I wasn’t the only new person in the mix. The four of us became a perfectly balanced #squad. Even though some of us have known each other longer than others, I never had to be anything more than myself to prove my worth to these people. Eventually, I found my place at my school, and going into junior year, I may have even finally achieved my own version of #squadgoals.