The day I moved into Smith Hall at Florida State University, I was wearing a pink dress with yellow daisies. My brown hair was straightened, my bangs perfectly clipped to one side and my nails were (appropriately) bitten down from anxiety. I remember thinking I should’ve gotten my eyebrows done that day, perhaps to divert attention from the fact that what seemed like a perfect first-day-of-college outfit now looked like a second-grader’s outfit.
I stared at the walls of my dorm room. It was so humid that they dripped like the edge of a waterfall. I felt impossibly small and conceivably friendless. The perky daisies on my dress now seemed too happy for such a daunting occasion. I took a deep breath and left my dorm room to explore campus.
It wasn’t until week three that I made a friend. I remember I woke up with the back of my neck damp against my pillow. Did I shower last night and forget, or was the humidity really that bad? I didn’t want to think about the latter, so I pulled on my slippers and grabbed the nearest Easy Mac container from the shelf. I trudged to the kitchen, and that’s when I met Ana.*
The microwave in the kitchen wasn’t working, so Ana offered to let me use hers instead. In her room, she bluntly turned to me and said, “I have no friends yet.”
“Me neither,” I said. “It’s very hard to get to know people here.”
She laughed and said, “Can we be friends?” Suddenly I thought about my pink daisy dress I wore on that first day and how appropriate it was for this situation. We were in second grade, asking to be each other’s friend as if it were a simple exchange on a playground.
The first night we hung out, we watched seven episodes of Friends in one sitting. The second night, we made a new friend, Bri. An impromptu trip to Publix led to buying three boxes of Halloween cookies (the Pillsbury sugar cookies with the pumpkins on them, of course) and we ate almost all of them in one sitting. I invited my twin sister to join us and by day three we were all inseparable.
I felt particularly close to Ana, mostly because she was my neighbor in Smith Hall and because she was my first real friend at FSU. She was a hospitality management major and told us she would plan all of our weddings. She called us her “soul sisters,” the ones who saved her from her friendless college life.
When we all decided to join Lady Spirithunters, an organization dedicated to face painting war stripes at football games and supporting FSU sports teams, things started to change. Ana was distracted—she left after 30 minutes of hanging out, constantly cancelled plans and rarely shared personal information anymore.
I once asked her if everything was okay and she responded, “I know I’ve been so weird, it’s not you I swear, I know I’ve been acting crazy,” and left it at that. But it continued. Once, on a trip to a local country club, she feigned a headache and returned home. It was an hour later that we saw (on Facebook, no less) the pictures of her hanging out with her Lady Spirithunters family.
We were shocked and confused. We didn’t care if she hung out with other people, but why would she lie? Trying not to take it too personally, I gave her space. I made other friends at this point and decided that if Ana wanted our friendship to last, she would reciprocate my efforts. Worst of all, I felt like a second grader again. I am a freshman in college, I thought. This shouldn’t be happening. What’s wrong with me?
Finally, after months of continued eccentricities and growing silence between us, I sent the dreaded text of confrontation. “I’m a little upset, Ana. I thought we were friends, and you don’t seem like you want to be. Is everything okay?”
Ana responded, “I don’t see the big deal. If I see you on campus, I’ll say Hi. Why can’t you just accept that we’ve drifted?” I guess I’ll never know the exact reason Ana stopped being my friend, but I do know why I was so affected by it. One second I was her soul sister and the next—nothing. She was my first real college breakup.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s not a real break up. Or maybe I got annoying, right? The fact of the matter is this—I didn’t do anything. Ana just found other people. Ana’s inattention to our friendship wasn’t rooted in anything but her successful and final acclamation to Florida State. Even though our friendship meant a lot to me, it was a gateway to more fulfilling friendships for her.
At first I was hurt by this realization, but then I realized it was OK. There are thousands of students who roam this campus. Hundreds will cross your path, and a few will become your friends. If you’re incredibly lucky, those friends will stick with you throughout the rest of your life, but many of them will pass through for a moment. Ana’s friendship taught me how shockingly easy it is to leave those friends behind. The fact of the matter is, when you find someone you want to stick around, you do something about it. Here’s to finding those friends.
*Names changed for privacy.