All Articles Tagged "college friends"
My college friendships were like a tapestry of personal connections. Each person who comprised my inner circle was like a thread woven into the fold mostly by happenstance, but our relationships were held together by a wealth of opportunities to cultivate them in the years leading to our early and mid-twenties.
During undergrad, we all lived within ten minutes of one another (if not in the same apartment complex) and most nights, no one in our group could afford to do more than pass a $3.00 bottle of Boone’s Farm around and talk about our lives. Our group discussions on relationships and the state of black America became fodder for late-night legend, but even more than that, we nursed each other through flus, flat tires, middle-of-the-night moves, robberies, crazy roommates, and through “do-you-think-he’ll-call?” one night stands. We had each other to lean on for broken hearts and empty pockets. Our parents didn’t worry because my friends and I were never too far away to look out for one another.
And then one person graduated, then another and another. One moved to a new city, then another, then another. One got engaged, then got married, then another and another. Soon, our close-knit companionship was no longer close in proximity, and the simple idea of bringing over a bottle of Moscato required advance planning and declaring to a Southwest Airlines rep that an alcoholic beverage was in our checked baggage. The makings of my college friendships were the stuff of Hollywood trope; our gatherings could have easily doubled as a scene from “The Best Man,” complete with a Kendall, a Harper, a Lance, a Mia and the requisite electric slide to Cameo’s “Candy” at every in-circle wedding. But as we grew, our priorities shifted to our careers, our burgeoning families, and our personal goals.
“You mean, I gotta make friends again?” I asked during a recent cross-country call with one of the threads in my co-ed tapestry. We’d both moved to big cities alone, seeking new adventures and strong connections.
“At this point in our lives, I think we just gotta get used to making acquaintances.”
In an essay for The New York Times, writer Alex Williams discusses the difficulties of making friends as an adult. While the piece mainly addresses those in their 30s and 40s, much of Williams’ assertions apply to those seeking connections at any time of their adult lives, when life situations can shift with the swift appearance of a degree, divorce papers, a baby, a marriage, a time-consuming career, or a move to a new city. Williams writes:
[P]lenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early twenties is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.
It appears that the nature of my close friendships (and others like it) is substantiated by sociological research. Per the New York Times article:
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other…This is what so many people meet their lifelong friends in college.
Upon a recent move to a new city, I’ve become more acutely aware of the effort required to create and maintain meaningful connections with those I meet while I’m out and about. Different than in college, where I lived, worked and played with like-minded peers, the concept of turning K.O.F.’s into B.F.F.’s (or even somewhere in between, because I realize that every friendship doesn’t have to be ride-or-die) is hampered by work and family schedules and even more rigorous standards for choosing the company I keep. The essay touts that as we get older, we’re more selective about those with whom we choose to spend our time. The level of self-awareness that comes with getting grown impedes on our tolerance levels for, as the piece states, “manipulators, drama queens [and] egomaniacs.”
I realize that my sentiments on the subject don’t vary too much for others in this situation. Like those who are seeking new connections after severing old ties, those who need friends who understand the nuances of parenthood, and those seeking a venting partner for drinks after work, preferably someone who is not a colleague. (Of work relationships, the article notes that workplace competition often leads to folks hiding their vulnerabilities and quirks from co-workers. “Work friendships often take on a transactional feel; it is difficult to say where networking ends and real friendship begins.”)
There are those who simply need someone to call if they’re stuck on the side of the highway with the hood of their car propped up or if they need someone with whom to spend six hours waiting in the emergency room. Even across the distance, all I want is a bottle of Boone’s and a good laugh with fun company.
Despite the factors that encumber the physical and emotional closeness of friendships, research has determined that friendship is necessary for a person’s overall sense of well-being and can even contribute to having a longer life. So more than wanting these connections, we need these connections. But why is it so difficult to make them as adults?
How do we create and maintain close-knit friendships across a variety of life’s phases? Should we ever have to settle for K.O.F.’s?
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