There’s a moment in Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” that I haven’t stopped thinking about. Our little hero Mason, in that cloud of self-satisfaction he glides through the last half of the movie in, is perusing through his high school art show. One of his teachers, a soft-featured middle-aged woman, strikes up a conversation. Mason mumbles something about how he’s excited to get out of this place and go to college.
“You kind of find your people in college, you know?” she says. I felt like someone had told me that—maybe my mom or even a teacher back in the day (like four years ago). I loved the way she said it—wistfully and encouragingly.
But what my teachers and mother didn’t tell me, is that, sure, I’d find my people in college, but I’d grow to really hate them sometimes. Not just the casual, joking expression of “Oh I hate you.” Real, unadulterated hate. You have to know someone pretty intimately to hate them and living just a few feet below or above your friends is a good way to get to know them intimately. Once in a while I look around at my friends and think, “How the f–k did I end up with these people?” (P.S. You guys are mostly cool).
During my sophomore year, our idea of a good time was pilling onto a few beds, putting in a movie, shouting over said movie and making fun of the kids heading out in crisp dress shirts and tight, rigid jeans that we spied through our window on the fifth floor. On some nights, though, I secretly wanted to be one of those guys who can comfortably inhabit a certain level of douchery, not as a comedic crutch, but because for them it just felt right.
Sometimes, I wish my friends liked regular sports—you know, like football and baseball—more than Magic the Gathering, League of Legends or Survivor. We do have a lot in common, though. We tell people we read comics. We like…movies. We’re big fans of Anna Kendrick. But basically, I wish they were more like me.
My—and everyone’s—pillar of friendship goals has always been Harry, Ron and Hermione. There’s an irony there, that the most “real” friendship in my life is a fictional one. There is elegance to the way Harry, Ron and Hermione met: on the train to school—easy as wingardium leviosa. The way their friendship was woven together through seven years is the real magic.
And if I spent my teenage years battling basilisks and three-headed dogs, I think I’d forge some strong friendships pretty quick.
But you know what Harry, Ron and Hermione did as often as they saved Hogwarts from giant snakes and creepy rat men? They fought a lot and for months at a time (or hundreds of pages).
In college (and at Hogwarts) I spent a lot of time with not a lot of people. I met some of closest friends the first few days of school freshman year. Over the first few nights, the two guys in my forced triple and I stayed up late to talk about where we were from and where we might be headed. You know, it wasn’t that different from the Hogwarts Express. We became friends with the guys across the hall. And for the most part, that’s the way it’s been for three years. There were some Cho Changs and Victor Krums who came along, but the core is the core. And as romantic as that may sound and how usually content I am with the close friends I’ve made in college, there are still plenty of times I look out the window and wonder if I might be a better—more comfortable, more successful—version of me if I’d been thrown in with other people.
College isn’t like high school where my friends and I carpooled to school, had a few classes together, sat at the same lunch table, went to practice together, came home together, did it again the next day and then scoured for a party or a good movie on the weekend. College is 24/7 most of the year. I sleep just feet from the next guy over. And if he sighs really loud for the ninth time, I might flip my desk over.
I just have to remember that for the first half of “The Deathly Hallows” Harry and Ron hated each other. And Hermione hated Ron for the second half of “The Half-Blood Prince”—and before that in “The Prisoner of Azkaban.”