My relatives had long warned me that it was natural to fall out with high school friends in college. Entering Pomona College last August, however, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case for me. Fresh from the lingering memories of high school adventures, I was confident in the strength of my friendships, which I believed would last forever.
But in adjusting to the busy schedules of orientation, of new college friends, and of college life, it was easy to become distracted from returning a text from my ex-boyfriend or a call from my mom. Slowly, as school started across the nation, my friends, too, turned toward their new starts.
I remember returning home for the first time for Thanksgiving and meeting up with a few of my closest friends, and how jarring the reunion felt.
It seemed to me that we were coming back as separate and distant people, trying to fit together in a puzzle that has outgrown its edges. It was strange how we were each other’s focal points for so long, but now were only a side.
I started to feel out of place. Pomona wasn’t home to me yet, and all I had to ground me at college was faith in my old friends, and those ties, too, seemed to be slipping away.
When I complained to my mom, she told me, “You need to learn how to be alone.” (I hung up. Because what kind of advice is it to resign yourself to your situation?)
But, now, as second semester has progressed and I become more comfortable with my surroundings, I find myself grudgingly admitting she may be right.
Becoming an adult is oftentimes accompanied by the loss of the familiar. Through leaving home and charging ahead with my future, I realized I am the only constant in my life. I realized the importance of being able to rely on myself for my own happiness and feeling secure enough in my own self-worth without the need to constantly surround myself with others to feel validated.
I value my friendships deeply and hold them close, but in the end, I learned I cannot depend on others to have faith in myself.
Simultaneously, I realized that just because my friendships have changed, it doesn’t mean I have lost my friends. Perhaps we may never return to the same dynamics as we did in high school, but being friends means supporting each other in our adventures of self-discovery and exploration.
After all, I have changed, too. It’s unrealistic to expect things to remain the same. (In fact, the value of reminiscence seems to lie partly in the fact that the good old days are now in the past and unattainable.) A part of growing up means being okay with the fact that things can, and will, evolve. The crux of my friends’ identities stay constant, and I have to force myself to remember the same kind of blind conviction I had coming into college.
More importantly, college has shown me the commitment necessary to maintain friendships. Keeping in touch can be hard, and it’s easy for me to forget, or lose the time, to respond and do my part.
It is true that with some of my friends, I can go months on end without speaking to them and reunite to find nothing has changed. For the majority, however, friendship is a continuous time commitment. It means setting aside a chunk of time to FaceTime or chat — similar to any other assignment from class — and sometimes making the decision to prioritize or choose between academics and personal relationships.
After all, college can symbolize a new start. But with the right balance, it doesn’t have to mean discarding all connections past.