From Robin: Lexie recently wrote about her experience exploring sea caves with friends. As I considered what I know about her group of friends (some very lovely individuals) and read the line: “I trust my friends immensely to not lead me into anything involving immense danger,” I wondered how she’d come to this place of finding her “tribe” — because having a good group around each of us is really important (and something that isn’t ultimately our job, that our kids will end up choosing for themselves). So I asked her to write more about her experience and learnings on the friend end.
BFF: Best friends forever. They’re like unicorns, or maybe more so Pygmy Three-Toed Sloths because they aren’t a myth — they exist but are incredibly rare. I learned this from the elementary school years.
Once upon a time, I had a best friend. We had those half heart necklaces that made a whole when you put them together. We would dress up identically just so people would think we were twins when we walked around. But then all of a sudden, we weren’t anymore. The friendship ended, not by any of our own doing but external conflicts that simply affected us. I went about my life as any elementary schooler would until my next best friend came along. That one lasted for at least a year, though it still ended way before the “forever” we had discussed as kids.
After that, I stuck more to groups. Allowing myself to be vulnerable with one person left me fully open to hurt when that one person left — which it began to seem like inevitably they would. Forever never ended up being as long as people said.
Sob story aside, anytime someone leaves, I’ve learned that there is a lesson and that it makes things easier for me to find better fits in the future. The people I choose nowadays, well, I’ve upped my criteria from my elementary school, middle school, and even high school days.
In college, you meet such a sheer number of people that you can afford to be a little pickier. Let’s say you meet someone the first few days of school that you don’t vibe with. That’s okay, there’s no need to force yourself to befriend them because you’ll meet plenty of other people in a matter of days that might be better fits. While I’ve heard plenty of people talk about struggling to find their “in-group” here, the problem in college is not a shortage of people to meet.
I started networking with others the moment I committed to my university; I truly think that doing so helped me find some of my closest friends prior to some other people. There was a point over the summer when I felt overwhelmed by talking to probably too many soon-to-be college students that I couldn’t keep track of the conversations I was having anymore, but I knew that when one stood out, it was someone I should pay extra attention to.
My roommate, Kat, turned out to be one of those people. We started talking over Instagram and she seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me on a deeper level. Our conversations weren’t the same ones I had been having with lots of other people. She seemed straightforward, kind, honest, and real, very much like me. So I figured it’d be worth getting to know her better (and I was right).
I am forever grateful that I have found the people I have in college. Before now, I had never found people that I could tell every single thing on my mind to, in conjunction with also living with them. When you live with someone, they have to be capable of dealing with you at your best but also at your worst, and everything in between (and ditto for them). Not everyone can handle the range.
I know my trust is in the right friends when I’m sick and they offer me anything I might ever need in order to feel better. These friends listen to my brain dumps with open ears and helpful hearts even when I keep repeating things again and again because I’m still not okay yet. In the early hours of morning, when some of us college students are still awake, they answer my “I need to talk” text immediately with a “Of course! Come up to my room!” response.
I have such a deep level of trust with them that they would never put me in a situation of harm and so I trust them when we go on adventures. Although the idea of visiting a sea cave, in which our safe entry and exit was dependent on the height of the tide, terrified me, I understood that they would not pressure me into anything I didn’t want to do and also that this was planned meticulously and safely. We act with a cautious spontaneity and I trust them, quite literally, with my life.
There have been times in my life when I’ve had to cut off a friendship that has gone toxic (it can happen, and if it does, it’s okay). I’ve come to think that while there may not be BFFs, there is much space for BFs — a best friend doesn’t have to be forever. A great friendship will last for as long as it should and then you will find other people to fill that empty space.
When it comes to friendships, be prepared that it might not last until you sit in a nursing home together, but that doesn’t mean that your good times now are any less valuable.