In high school, I typically ate lunch with a great group of people. But only two of those people I would have counted as my best friends. These were the people I’d catch the latest MCU films with, but they were also the people I confided in when I was down. Namely, these were the exact type of people who you’d expect to remain friends with after graduation. I’m still good friends with one of them, but the other? We’ve slowly drifted apart and haven’t talked for months. I found myself asking this question: Why does that happen?
As you could surmise from this anecdote, I’ve been recently thinking about friendship. As my friend so rudely pointed out to me the other day, we ’24s have passed the halfway point of our senior year, and the days we have left here are dwindling.
Graduation will bring the scattering of our class across the world. I fear that scattering will inevitably lead to the degradation of close friendships that we’ve built over our four years here. It’s easy to stay friends with someone when you regularly see them on the Green or in Foco, but when you’re suddenly living a thousand miles away, friendship becomes more difficult.
To be fair, we’ve all gone through this before, and for those of us who have had to move long distances multiple times, we’ve gone through it more than once. After high school, we arrived at this isolated place where we were lucky if we knew someone by one degree of separation. In the chaos of trying to find belonging here at Dartmouth, it’s inevitable that our connections to people back home would fray. To maintain those relationships, the nature of the friendship itself has to change. If it can’t, then the friendship will end.
Even on this campus, I find that my friendships have changed. I only have to think back to those first couple weeks of freshman year, when sitting with random people wasn’t taboo, and I was constantly trying to remember names and faces. At that point, I could name around 50 people who I might have said were my friends, but I didn’t really know them yet. It’s a confusing bunch of names, majors and interests, and it takes time to sort through the mess and find those characteristics to identify with.
But before this happens, this is also the time when friendships form out of convenience: from clubs, classes and dorms. At this point, friendship is as much about experiencing this place together, whether it be studying for a midterm or going to a frat for the first time. Everything at Dartmouth is so novel that you can’t even imagine what the future holds for friendship.
In my sophomore year, rush and the D-Plan came along, changing my perception of my thought-to-be stable friendships. While some freshman year friend groups make it through these changes, there is the all too common occurrence of a friend group ending with a bang; my group ended with more of a whimper. As I became more comfortable with this campus and my place in it, I began to realize what makes a true friend and what kind of people I wanted to surround myself with. While the Dartmouth experience still played a role in my connections to other people, friendship became more about the people themselves, and that resulted in some of my friendships ending — and some of them deepening.
One of my good friends today was also my friend sophomore year, but not a “close” friend at the time. We became close when we both realized we were interested in music. While we probably spent too much time together making music during our sophomore summer, it became the catalyst for our future friendship.
As junior and senior year rolled on by, the college-specific experiences, like Homecoming or Green Key, mattered less and less to me. My friendships have become more founded on seemingly mundane activities, like working on a QSS project at Cafe@Baker, cooking dinner or watching dumb movies like Cocaine Bear at an off campus house. This foray into “adult life,” where spending time with friends centers around more wholesome activities rather than the next big rager, may be preparation for what comes ahead, but my all still feel the convenience of living right next to each other. I can walk from my dorm in Hitchcock to the houses on West Wheelock in less than five minutes. What happens when our weekly Foco dinners happen once every six months?
Luckily, I already have a model for what this new type of friendship can look like. It just so happens that one of my close friends from elementary school is also a ’24 (and has written articles for this paper that are much worse than mine). The nice thing about this friendship is that we’ve already had ten years to do the “best friends” thing; there’s only so many times that he can make fun of me for my bad dance moves or when I can remind him about his inability to run sprints. While we still hang out regularly, we only need our ceremonial Sunday morning Lou’s breakfast that occurs near the end of each term to keep the friendship flame burning, which is more than we had when I moved halfway across the country before high school. It only takes a sip of Lou’s coffee to feel as though we were back in elementary school again (hopefully with some added maturity on his part).
Will I still be talking every week with my Dartmouth friends in 10 years? I’d love to, but I’ve been through enough transitions to know that’s probably not going to happen. I’m just hopeful that I’ll be able to have those fleeting yet meaningful moments that keep my friendships alive. From experience, I know that it’s not the quantity of the interactions, but the quality of the people that allow our friendships to continue and thrive.