Make friends, but don’t ever let your friends make you. This was the mantra I devised for myself at the end of high school. I’d no longer allow my reputation to be defined by who I knew and who knew me. The metaphor “High school is a jungle” must be taken sincerely.
The adolescent race is unconsciously driven by the survival of the fittest concept; they say that kids are mean, but that’s a euphemism. The truth is that kids are beasts and high school is the place where they’ll eat you alive if they sense enough weakness. Strength isn’t even defined by how many friends you have; it only matters who your friends are, so they better be the right ones. If not, you won’t make it out without a few bruises on your existence.
In high school, you tend to keep whatever friends you manage to get close—even if you don’t really like them—because that’s how you survive. There are only so few people to choose from, and no one wants to be alone; that’s way lame. You just find a way to deal until you’re free. College is different, though. There are thousands of people and thousands of potential friends. You don’t have to settle, and the core of your identity isn’t who you hang out with. Trust me, ain’t nobody got time for that, anyway.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In reality, making friends in college is less “Hunger Games” and more like a series of awkward moments strung together until you finally establish a sound group of people you can LOL with.
I came into college foolishly thinking I’d attract new friends like a magnet—my awesomeness does have powerful effects like that on occasion. Instead, I’ve had to participate in hundreds of meaningless introductions just to be left still standing by myself, wondering if I could maybe rent a friend for the semester.
I thought being a freshman in high school was the bane of my social life, but no, college is worse. You have to work harder to establish yourself and sift through piles of people in order to find the ones that you really connect with. Cheers to the few who already have a few friends waiting in the wings when they arrive on campus, but most of us don’t have that luxury. We’re surrounded by thousands of strangers, so it’s going to take some time to find a thunder buddy.
Here at Notre Dame, and most colleges, the foundation of friendships relies on five key questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? What dorm are you in? What’s your major? Are you excited for the football games?
The answer to this last question is especially vital for ND students. Usually people will be able to build off of these five questions, but if you’re still not feeling the vibe, just walk away and forget the name of whoever you were just talking to. You most likely already have.
Personally, my mind goes blank after Round One. Then, I rely on profuse smiling and pointing out an infamously large ND squirrel and talk about how I plan on having one as a pet in the future (I like to share my life dreams with strangers). They’ll either love my weirdness or kindly gawk at me like an idiot. Can’t take it? Deuces.
So far, all of my first meetings have been worthy of an Oscar for Most Awkward Performance, especially the ones with boys. When a person of the opposite sex introduces themselves to you, you never know if they’re looking for friendship or something more. With the cute ones, I usually hope for the latter. All I can say is, “My name is Sierra and one day, I’m going to have a pet squirrel named Cheetos,” and hope that a great friendship or romance will bloom from my honesty and lack of social know-how.
I’ve let the awkward deter me from seeking out new friendships. I’m also guilty of worrying over if I should look for friends with my cultural background or just walk up to absolutely anyone. When I look at someone now, all I see is a person that just might become my best friend one day.
There’s not a “How to Make Friends” manual; there’s only one rule we mustn’t forget: Be yourself, always. It’s the lesson we were all taught in pre-K but haven’t yet conquered. After all, we can’t plan or prepare for a friendship. Connecting with someone is a phenomenon we can’t even guess at. If it’s meant to be, it’ll just be. It’s our choice to hold on to it.