The Satellite Friend: Always in Orbit

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My mom always told me that college is when you make the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life. She must have forgotten the part about it not happening automatically. Have you ever felt like you sort of hovered outside of a friend group? Not that these friends purposely excluded you, of course, but that you just weren’t as close to them as they were to each other? If you have, take solace in this: I totally feel you.

In high school, I had a core group of about ten friends, and we did everything together. Birthday parties, picnic lunches, photo sessions before every school dance—we were practically inseparable. Even as we all went our separate ways for college, we’ve stayed in touch and still get together over breaks whenever we can.

In college, however, my experience with friendship has been a little different.

Only two other kids from my original crew also went to UMD; a few are out of state, the rest scattered around other Maryland schools. I still see these two regularly, and I’ve of course made some friends of my own by now, but I often find myself seeking their company and finding them immersed in their own groups.

Both friends from high school are STEM majors, while I’m an English major. They also lived in different dorms our freshman year and hence made different friends. While I’ve kept them close to me, whenever there’s a group activity I find myself surrounded by their friends, some of whom I’ve only met once or twice. They’re all nice people, and I’ve become friends with some of them myself, but when you only know one person in the room and their attention is equally divided amongst six others, it can feel a little awkward. Everyone’s been there, and we know it’s a little selfish, but sometimes we can’t help feeling left out when our friend’s attention isn’t on us.

My roommate also has her own set of friends. While the two of us have become super close (how could we not), and while we do have some mutual friends, she and her friends from freshman year are closer still; group dinners and movie nights are nearly weekly occurrences, and while I’m often invited, I rarely feel comfortable intruding. Since declaring my major I’ve made new friends in my English classes, but I was a little late to the party when it came to joining the major, so many of them already know each other, while I’ve met them one at a time. Two in Critical Theory, one in African-American Lit, a few at Edgar Allan Poe appreciation night—all friendly and cool, but seemingly with their own solid groups already in place.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have friends of my own, though. My one-on-one friendships are stellar, and that’s important, but most of them aren’t friends with each other. Any time I organize a group activity, I turn them into me—I pull them all together into a mixed group in which I’m the only common denominator, and that doesn’t seem fair.

I’m also not saying that I don’t like when my friends have other friends. That wouldn’t just be selfish—it would be downright creepy. It’s a confusing feeling, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

It’s not that I don’t “fit in.” I wouldn’t be in these groups in the first place if we didn’t have anything in common. And it’s not like having a lot of friends is a bad thing, either. It’s more about the water metaphor: I’d rather have a few deep friendships than a bunch of shallow ones. I’d rather be part of a tight-knit group of my own, like high school, than be a satellite, hovering around the outskirts of these groups.

Maybe I’m insecure. Maybe I only achieved the deep friendships of high school because we had all known each other for so long. Maybe I’m just not brave enough to dive headfirst into a friend group and hope for the best. I don’t want to force myself on them; I have a tendency to be overly polite, which some might misconstrue as me being distant. Maybe I just need to stop worrying. (Easier said than done.)

I don’t know what the answer is. I just signed a lease for an apartment with three of my friends for next year, and I’m sincerely hoping that we become the tight-knit group I’ve been longing for, but I think I’ll be alright even if we don’t. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if I ended up making my greatest friends in high school, as long as I continue to keep up with them.

University of Maryland junior studying English and Linguistics. Super into books, food, and Parks & Rec, Terp for life, and future crazy dog lady.

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