My first day at my new high school, I was terrified. I pulled at my long pleated skirt and ill fitting sweater and thought about how best to wear my hair so the girls at my school would like me. Maybe they would think I was weird in my oversized, blatantly new uniform. The possibility of a friendless existence was my ultimate form of purgatory.
Fast forward 6 years. Fast forward to friends in college who I couldn’t live without. Fast forward to calling them at 3 am and ordering pizza when we get home from a night out. Fast forward to memories worth remembering.
In high school, the ultimate goal seemed to be to climb as high up the social strata as possible. Claw your way through the muck towards a goal that seemed to be forever moving away from you. It seemed not to matter if you were happy, as long as you had something everyone wanted; popularity.
I struggled with this sentiment a lot during high school. I tried to remake myself in the image of what I deemed as ‘cool’. I spent hours trying to be how I thought the ideal teenage girl should be, forever chasing a mold I simply would never fit.
By the time I got to college, I had swallowed that bitter pill. I knew I would never be the star athlete. I knew I would never be the effortlessly bohemian princess who had no cares in the world and wore printed pants or oversized clothes which always look perfectly disheveled. I knew I would never be the star of a public speaking or case competition team. I knew what I wasn’t, so I was able to start figuring out who I was.
Part 1: Why College Friendships are Important
“College is a time of transition” says every guidebook ever written about navigating the tense time between teenage years and adulthood. We straddle the line between being old enough to have to do mundane things like pay taxes and go to laundromats, but too young to be taken seriously in jobs that are dominated by the 30+ set.
In this tense time of transition, a strong group of friends is necessary, if not, imperative. I spent a lot of time alone my freshman year of college, but being okay with being alone didn’t mean I didn’t also need a strong group of women to hold me up when I needed them.
I have spent countless hours on the phone sobbing to my friends across campus. I told one of my closest friends how I felt my fundraising event planning was at a stalemate, and that I was frustrated by not getting any help. She said she would be there, and dropped what she was doing to come help me.
Another day, I sat in the library stewing over the never-ending list of emails I had to reply to. I texted a friend saying I was about ready to pull my hair out from the stress. She found me in the library and presented me with a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies, and said “I know you are having a rough day, so I got these for you.” This simple $4 box of cookies is a gesture I won’t ever forget.
It’s also why college friendships are so important. In a time of so much uncertainty, you need those support systems in place. Yes, it sounds cliche. But yes, it’s true.
Part 2: Finding my Tribe
I never, growing up, pictured myself joining a sorority. I can see people reading this and rolling their eyes like “not another sorority love story”, and I’m sorry if you feel that way, but that’s what it is.
I met my roommate, and 3 of my closest friends my freshman year, from such diverse majors and hometowns, I probably never would have met them otherwise. Now, I don’t know how I would navigate anything without them.
I’m not going to say finding people who you truly connect with is easy, because it’s not. It takes time. It’s like growing a plant; It takes watering, and constant effort and care, and eventually will be strong enough to stand on it’s own. I despise that I just used that analogy, but I digress.
Keep trying, and having real conversations with people. Some of the best ways to bond irreversibly happen when you stay up all night talking about everything thats going through your mind.
Part 3: Being Thankful
Not a single day goes by that I don’t stop and think about how lucky I am to now have the friends I do. They support me. They protect me. They don’t instigate drama, and they don’t fight with me. If we are upset about something, we tell each other. It’s a cycle of being a support net, and being the person falling into it.
I’ve been the girl who ate lunch in the bathroom. I’ve been the girl who left school sobbing to be picked up. I’ve been the girl who cried herself to sleep. I’ve been the girl who felt like the weight of the loneliness could crush her (yes, that was melodramatic.) I have been all of these things, but I am now, gratefully, happy, loved and supported.
To my wonderful friends, this is for you. Thank you for being you, and letting me be me.