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Oct 25 2017
by Lily Cao

What I Learned from my First Friendships in College

By Lily Cao - Oct 25 2017
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I’m a positive person.

I love laughing at literally anything and find the silver lining even when I feel overwhelmed by school work and activities. So why did I find myself holed up inside a room just crying near the end of my second month in college? In reflection, I had lost sight of who I was by trying to force friendships with people I barely knew.

It all started as I started my first year of college. I was a bright-eyed, optimistic incoming freshman who was sure I was going to meet my friends for life in the next few years. I was eager to meet new intellectuals and forge connections that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. As a result, my eagerness encouraged me to go out of my way to make other people like me. I wouldn’t deny any invites from my new friends to go out even though I had loads of work due the next day, and I’d always help if one of them had questions about an assignment. I spent the effort and time that could’ve been used on easing my own transition into college on making sure my new friends were comfortable. Back then, I didn’t see these actions as sacrifices because I thought others would do the same if I was ever feeling alone or helpless. It wasn’t until a music festival trip that I realized I was rushing to have my friends figured out when it had only been a few weeks into college.

It was midterm recess meaning I had four days to relax after a stressful few weeks of exams. Everyone around me was pumped for the Austin City Limits (ACL) music festival, and I couldn’t help but be swept into the wave of excitement for the lineup of artists. One of my college friends invited me to go with her and three other people, and I didn’t hesitate in agreeing. These four friends were among the people that I thought I had gotten the closest to over the first two months of freshman year.

On the day of the music festival, I met up with one of my best friends from high school. As a group of six people, we made a schedule with the artists we wanted to see along with the venues and times of their performances. Once the concerts began though, my four friends from college kept breaking off unannounced, and I wouldn’t be able to find them until I made the effort to contact them and meet up again. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but as I began to get separated from them repeatedly, I began to question whether I was doing something wrong. Why didn’t they really care about spending time with me? Did they think that I just wanted some alone time with my close friend from back home? In an attempt to clarify my intentions, I texted them that it’d be a good time seeing the concerts as a whole group. After all, if I didn’t plan on bonding with them, I wouldn’t have come with them to ACL in the first place.

By the time they responded, it was nearing the time for the last concert of the day featuring The Killers. They told me where they were, and once again, I made the effort to find them. As I approached them, I was feeling frustrated, irritated and tired but also relieved. I thought I would finally be able to spend some time with them while watching an amazing band perform yet I was wrong again. They told me that they were going to start heading back to where we were staying, and that I could stay if I wanted to. That’s when I lost it. I felt the tears welling up in my eyes, and I told them that I had been trying to find them all day apart from seeing the concerts. In an attempt to justify themselves, they said that they weren't aware of how often we were apart. It was then that I decided to let them be, and I walked into the crowd moving towards the stage where The Killers were performing. A part of me hoped that even one of them would come after me, but that never happened.

The next twelve hours consisted of me crying and facetiming all of my closest friends to rant about what happened. They were so comforting and spending time with them, even through video call, made me realize that I know a lot of people who care about me. They believe that I am worth their time, and they empathize with my struggles despite being hundreds of miles away. After coming down from the roller coaster of emotions I had found myself on, I reflected on what makes these friends so different from the friends I have in college. I realized there was really only one difference. 

In the time I have known them, I realized I’ve only been a college student for barely two months. I’ve only known my new friends for even less than that amount of time. I had the next four years to form profound relationships with other people. The process of forming friendships is a gradual one that I can’t force or speed up, no matter how hard I try. Meanwhile, I just need to focus on doing things that make me happy instead of other people.

My advice to any fellow freshman out there is to take college step-by-step and to refrain from forcing fast friendships. The unbreakable and most meaningful relationships develop over time so just let everything fall into place naturally.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Lily Cao - Rice University

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