A Viewfinder of friendship — A look at college friendships, good or bad

There is not a person that I’ve met that hasn’t gotten the overused “the friends you meet in college will be the ones you have forever” speech. I’m four years into my college career and even the start of that sentence initiates and eye roll that I’m sure resembles something along the line of a stroke.

The honest truth is that the majority of the people you meet in college, even the ones you at times consider to be your closest friends, won’t actually be there forever. And more importantly, there will come a time when you won’t want them to be there forever. No one likes to tell people this. Especially not to students who are fresh out of high school and just beginning their adult lives. But we are doing young people a disservice because the actual truth is something that I consider to beautiful part of life and growing up.

I began my college career as many people do. I was eighteen, had no clue what I wanted from my life, but knew I had to be doing something. So I decided to go to school. It seemed like it was the logical path for me at the time, and in spite of having no clue what I wanted to do, as my mom put it “at the very least the friends you meet in college will be the ones you have for the rest of your life.” Shocker. (Sorry Mom but just for the record that’s a terrible reason to go to college). Even though she was mostly wrong, and frequent bouts of student loan anxiety make me constantly question my decision about higher education, there is something important to know. Take it perhaps, as a revision to the aforementioned overused cliché. The friends you make in college will be some of the most important people you meet in your entire life. Though not all will be there forever, each and every person you become close with in these years will help shape you into the person that you are supposed to become.

In my weird brain, every aspect of my life comes with some sort of childish representation. For example I like to think of the friendships I have explored in college as one of those little viewfinders that many of us used to have when we were young. Every friendship, every experience even, is another slide on one big wheel that shifts depending on what perspective we have or need in our lives. There might be multiple people on some slides, and some have only one. There are many different types of “friends” you will meet in your college adventures. I use the term friend loosely in hindsight, but still feel as though it is necessary to give credit where credit was due at the time. Everyone’s friendship viewfinder is slightly different, but what I’ve come to learn is that they all share some commonality.

Slide #1 The first day friend.           

Picture this. It’s your first day and your first class of college. You’re sitting in room with a bunch of other scared freshman that are all shaking like Chihuahuas. It’s also 8am. You all visibly hate yourselves for not listening to the neck beardy upperclassman that helped you register for classes. There are a million thoughts going through your head, all of which conclude that you will be a friendless college dropout. All of the sudden, the guy next to you says hi. Hi. So simple, and yet he doesn’t realize that he now has to be your best friend because he is the only person you “know.” He is the friend that you’ll talk to all semester in class, vaguely make plans to hang out and then never do. The class will end and you’ll part ways but every time you walk passed each other on campus, you’ll nod your heads both silently thanking each other for being there during a time when you were certain you were too awkward to interact with other humans.

Slide # 2 The manic friend who You Once thought was the answer to a lifetime of boredom.

No one is immune to this friend. This is the friend that seems like the carefree badass you’ve always wanted to be. They take risks, and they say just about everything that comes to their mind. You idolize them and commend them for living the life you’ve always dreamed of living, but never had the guts to. That is until you have to chase their naked butt down Greek Row in the middle of winter, as they scream “BUSH DID 9/11”, while you fall on several patches of ice trying to remember why you’re friends. Just remember that your ticket to crazy town doesn’t need to be one-way.

Slide #3 The Older Friend

If you ever want to feel more scared or confused about your college education and your future, befriend a grad student. These jaded little balls of fun will make you question every life choice you’ve ever made and somehow convince you to be their friend, and DD, while doing it. That being said, these friendships come with the comfort of knowing that someone else has done everything you’re doing and survived. Take their advice and learn from their mistakes.

Slide #4 The Friend Who Breaks Your Heart

Parents always warn about the inevitable heartbreaks that the future holds. I wish someone had told me that the worst heartbreak I would face would come not from a romantic relationship, but rather my best friend. It’s hard not to grow attached to the idea that friendships will last forever. What I’ve learned is that it’s possible to be close with someone from the start of college until the end, and they still may end up being a stranger to you.

Slide #5 The First Real Adult Friendship

Despite my rejection of the idea that all of the friends you have in college will be life long, I do believe it is possible to walk away with at least one who you will never let go of. You never know which slide of the viewfinder you will meet this person in. I was lucky enough to meet mine in the beginning. They haven’t been front and center in every slide, but they’ve always been there. This is the person you can call at any time. You can go weeks without talking and pick up right where you left off. It’s the person you’d lay in a dirty parking lot with at 2 am drunkenly talking about your broken hearts. They’re the ones you think of when anything good happens. You’ll tell random strangers that they’re your wife, despite the fact that their partner is standing right next to the both of you. Above all, they’ll be the friendship you compare every other potential one to, because you know this is what a forever friendship looks like.

If I had met who I am today, four years ago, I don’t think I would be able to believe it. That’s what makes this whole experience so incredible. These are just a few examples of the many friendships that I’ve had here. The crazy and amazing experiences have helped shape me into the person that I am today. Even though many of these people have come and gone, I will always recognize the important lessons that each and every person gave me.


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