We talk about the rat race: the fiercely competitive struggle for success, the unrelenting battle we rage against our peers to come out on top. But what remains unmentioned is the implicit yet equally intense social race that breaks out the moment we cross the gates into higher education.
The race to hunt down the pack who will provide us with comfort and security, who will save us from the piranhas of social alienation and vulnerability which await those who have failed to reach their safe retreat and are left behind to fend for themselves.
A frenzy, a week of fierce and violent socialization during which friendship groups are formed and promises of loyalty and adhesion are made. And suddenly, in the very first week, emerge these islands of sanctuary within the vast and menacing sea of unfamiliarity that surrounds this year’s new catch of freshers.
The term ‘good friend’ is thrown around as if it were a lifeline. There are, of course, those few who truly find their kindred souls within the first fifteen minutes of being at college, but for many, declaring a new ‘squad’ is a promise of safety.
With one word they’ve locked down and secured themselves a spot within this group of peers, people who five days ago were strangers, but who will nevertheless, be their solid support as they take on this new beginning. But why this urgency to find refuge – are we truly drowning when we arrive?
Sure, it feels like it. We’re suddenly thrown into this foreign world, where no person, no road and no moment in our routine is recognizable. Piled on relentlessly one after the other, the unfamiliar aspects of this new life engulf us until we feel as though we can no longer breathe.
And because all we can hear is the noise of the craze that runs rampant around us, all we can see is the sight of our peers fighting furiously to stay afloat, we believe that we’re on the brink of going under.
But if we just remembered to breathe, if we momentarily retreated from the commotion that surrounds us and gained perspective of our situation, we’d see that we’re not drowning at all. We’d realize that this chaos is being affected not by danger, but simply, and solely, by fear.
Fear of being alone, fear of being judged, fear of the unknown. Upon this realization, friendship and companionship are no longer a necessity for survival. They are not something we form tactically in a desperate attempt to endure through the turbulent and uncertain future that awaits us.
Rather, a relationship formed on the grounds of genuine and authentic affection, something we seek from our own desire for connection. And so it follows, that there is no urgency to find friends.
We’re told that university is the time we’ll find ‘friends for a lifetime’, ‘friends who’ll be with us forever’ – as though the connections we form during this time will be it for life.
That after we don our graduation caps and bid farewell to our time in education, the time for bonding and building relationships will be closed off forever.
But life isn’t compartmentalized into these precise, clearly definable phases; these are the barriers we ourselves impose onto our timelines in an attempt to digest and comprehend our experience.
But in reality, time forever ticks on, consistently, constantly and without a pause. When we look back, the rigid distinctions we once enforced have blurred, leaving behind a continuous reel of moments which bleed seamlessly and perfectly into one another.
There is no ultimatum, no be all and end in our journey to making ‘good’ friends – the time to do so will continue on after university, just as it did before, and keep on ticking throughout or lives. Who knows how old we will be when we find our next soul mate?
People enter your life continually throughout life, as you enter new phases of existence. Some will come and go, and some will stay forever. Remember the many faces who you were so close to at school? How many of them are you still so familiar with now?
It seems to happen to most of us: a gradual drifting from friends gone by, and new friends entering your life spontaneously.
Although it is hard to imagine in Fresher’s Week, with three long years of hard work and revelry before us, University friendships will be the same. Some of the people you are close to now will be your companions for life; others will drift away with time. And that’s completely fine.
People come and go and that’s just the nature of it all. Some people make their best friend for life during Freshers week,whilst some people might not meet their platonic soul mate until much later in life.
In light of this, I propose a different approach to making friends. One where we let friendships happen organically, naturally. Where friendship is something that we don’t desperately seek or exhaustively work for.
One which perhaps develops through laughter, through the glance between strangers who have shared a moment of joy. Maybe one which comes from a common interest, through the rush of excitement when you realize that that peculiar, unique passion you thought only you harbor also stirs the heart of another.
Or maybe one that just develops as a result of time, the unexpected one that emerges simply from passive existence next to another, when you wake up one day and realize you know this stranger like your own brother.
So whether you find your best friend the moment you sit down for your first meal in hall or whether your best friend comes into your life through the door of that bookshop you work in parttime after retirement, there’s only one that that really matters: that it’s real