Whether a college freshman or new to a city, there’s massive pressure when making friends. To make lots of them. Such expectations, however, often lead to forced “friendship” and inauthenticity. The fact of the matter is, not all of us get along. And, guess what? That’s perfectly okay!
I recently embarked upon a semester abroad and shared my first week of orientation with the incoming freshman. All the fresh-faced newcomers frantically attempted maintenance of the same air of unapproachable amicability. Desperately wanting companionship while simultaneously flaunting their badges of “too cool for you.”
Once the “freshers,” as they’re called here in the UK, finally talked with one another I could see the chains of forced friendship take hold.
You’re away from home, confused, and intimidated. Seeking company outside of these scary emotions is completely natural. We quickly settle for the company of the wrong people, only because they’re the first people. And then, later on, when we find ourselves questioning the significance of this camaraderie, we jump to the idea that its downfall must somehow lie within faults of our own.
It’s honestly somewhat humorous the speed at which we seek to assign blame. In reality, incompatibility is neither party’s “fault.”
We all are incredibly, astonishingly unique. Our pasts all hold both massive differences and stunning similarities. However the ways in which we navigate these experiences and how they shape our being causes rifts in compatibility. Neither path supersedes the other, they simply differ.
With this fact of life in mind, we mustn’t blame ourselves, or other parties involved if friendships don’t pan out. We also shouldn’t attempt forcing the outcomes we desire for no amount of time spent together can hold together a relationship destined to fall apart.
Give yourself time when thrust into new, friendless situations to find people that truly augment your life. I hold steadfast the idea of quality over quantity.
Friends aren’t trinkets destined to join others on a shelf, but invaluable treasures to cherish.
Through forcing these first-person-met friendships, we do both individuals involved a disservice through the deprivation of finding authentic companionship.
Meaningful friendship signifies something different for everyone. However, I believe common threads exist within the core of all successful relationships.
First and foremost, friendship isn’t something for us to have. Rather friendship exists to be shared between individuals. It’s not a solo enterprise but a constantly shifting entity navigated by all those involved.
Choosing company based upon convenience doesn’t subscribe to this mentality. Instead it emphasizes the idea that this person you’re feigning friendship with exists only as a cloak over your own loneliness or insecurity. A bit harsh, I know, but in order to achieve mutually fulfilling companionship, we must face such notions.
In the era of boiling the word “friends” down to the click of a button, we easily forget the potential capacity within friendship.
We’ve all heard that romantic partners should challenge our downfalls, augment our positive traits, and make us into the person we’re destined to be. Why don’t we hold our friends to this standard as well? Friendship isn’t a stage of companionship below romance, but a different realm altogether.
Friends not only should fulfill all the aforementioned duties, but also serve as a relational home base. By this I mean friendship is a choice. The people we choose as our friends stick with us, aiding and filling places within our exterior relationships. Families we are born into and fleeting romances we bear through the guiding hands of friendship.
It wasn’t until recently I realized the treasure within friendship. We hear of the spark between two lovers or nurturing bond between a mother and child. All this exists, in some degree, within friendship as well.
The first time you laugh to tears with a new person or crying into the arms of your best friend after a rough breakup, friends play every role.
Therefore, boiling down friendship simply to the first person you meet in at a new university or hometown, robs both yourself and others of the life-altering experience of true companionship. Meeting the people who can fill this now very high bar I’ve set of friendship is a whole other animal.
Meeting “Your People”
Now that you’ve realized the importance of friendship, how the heck do we meet these magical friends I’ve spoken of? Well, it’s probably not as difficult as you think.
I believe we pass, what I like to call, platonic soul-mates constantly. It’s a matter of whether or not we reach out to them, and more importantly, interact authentically.
The process I mentioned at the beginning of this piece of jumping to friendships out of convenience, is the opposite of authentic. We shift our own values and traits to align with another in order to satisfy our own desire of company.
In order to meet your people, you first must have a strong enough relationship with yourself that you can act with complete authenticity. This key factor allows you to easily identify who will and won’t augment your life. Blame need not be assigned to anyone in passing, but not sustained, companionship. You know that as much as you have personal strengths, others do as well and incompatibility is not a tragedy.
Beyond this, put yourself in situations where the chances of encountering like-minded individuals increase. This could be sports events, concerts, clubs, or anything that you’re passionate about. If you hate parties, you probably won’t find the right people for you at parties so don’t go to them (@freshman year Sarah).
Lastly, patience. It took me a good while to find the people who now I can’t imagine life without. There were points I wanted to give up, or change myself in order to make friends as easily as everyone else, but I kept on.
Keep trying, keep figuring out who you are, and who those around you are. These processes are lifelong and there’s always room for others in our spheres. No matter what part of your life you’re in today, tell your friends how much they mean to you. And keep an open mind and heart to the potential of friendship all around.
Cover image via GeekWire
Also published on Medium.