On the Friday night before my freshman year of college officially started, I drove up to a little, yellow house on Euclid St. where a huge group of college students were crowded in the backyard, talking above the music and playing yard games. I parked and took a breath before getting out of my car and walking by myself toward the unfamiliar faces. I gave myself a pep talk and told myself, “It’s ok if you don’t know anyone — you will by the end of the night.”
As confidently as I could, 18-year-old me walked up the driveway and was instantly met with smiling faces and was suddenly surrounded by a group of girls who were introducing themselves. Throughout the night, I ended up floating around to several circles of people and learning an overwhelming amount of names. Little did I know at the time that I met some of my closest friends and future roommates at that hangout.
So, I’m grateful that I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a chance at becoming a “social butterfly”. I talked for a long time with a girl who played lacrosse (like me) and ended up giving her a ride back to her dorm. I texted my mom to tell her I made my first new friend in college — a milestone!
That hangout (called “Backyard Bash”), where I met my closest friends, caught my attention on the campus ministry Cru’s Instagram page. I thought, “Here’s an opportunity to go make some friends and meet like minded people.” I had a few friends from my hometown that went to Boise State, but I wanted to get plugged into a new community. I discovered Cru’s welcoming environment and mission to do life and talk about God with students before I moved to Boise, which I wrote about in my story Finding Inspiration: Going Home for Break.
Where it all started
I started out high school less confident and more quiet, and had some ups and downs with friends along the way (who doesn’t?), so I wanted to start out college being the person to initiate conversations and friendships. My small town felt like a bubble that I was stuck in, which affected my well-being (even though I did have some genuine people in my life), but on campus, I discovered that there are so many different communities where I could find my people. So, I was determined to join as many events and say “yes” to as many hangouts as I could just to meet people my first semester at Boise State.
Getting involved has been the best way to help me to find my people who I have things in common with. Balancing new friendships that I’ve made in college while maintaining old friendships from my hometown is a blessing because I get to have different communities wherever I am, but it comes with challenges too.
I remember last summer, in my hometown, I had a get together with a group of friends from different circles in high school and friends from Boise that were visiting. I felt like my Boise world and my hometown world collided. In a less dramatic sense, it was fun and somewhat weird to see several of my friends who didn’t know each other interact. The beauty of it, though, was that they were all so different.
And, last year at a Cru fall retreat, I learned the importance of knowing who my safe people are. Having a person who feels safe to let in on the good and the bad in my life, a person who knows my heart well and will always be there for me to encourage me and listen to me is crucial for my well-being. The same goes for community. My home is where my communities and safe people are. I encourage you to ask yourself, “Who are my safe people and where is my community?”
Learning lessons to grow friendships
If I’ve learned anything about friendships, it’s that not everyone who enters your life is meant to stay in it. I believe people play different roles in my life to show me something, whether it’s new experiences and gained memories or characteristics and lifestyles that I should stay away from. I’ve unfortunately had many friendships fizzle out since high school, and I feel like that’s completely normal to experience as people grow up, change, and find their place. Even just in the last year, I’ve had multiple close friendships fade even after trying to put in the effort to keep the friendship afloat.
Even though it was hard to watch those people walk out of my life, I had to let them; with the comfort of knowing that there were still people standing with me who were supporting, encouraging, and loving me.
I wish I would have realized earlier that everyone’s effort might look different instead of measuring them against my effort. I may have a friend that is bad at being on time (that would be me) or at texting or making plans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re being a bad friend. What I’ve had to learn is how to decide what things I can tolerate and work with, and which things actually point toward an unhealthy friendship.
I encourage you to be okay with confrontation…easier said than done sometimes, I know. I’ve discovered that having a hard conversation and resolving a conflict can save me a lot of time and frustration. Talking it out can either help mend a friendship, or confirm that it needs to end (and that doesn’t have to be an ugly thing!). People can be afraid to have conversations about what is really bothering them because “ghosting” someone or cutting someone out of their lives seems easier, but really, it creates confusion and lack of closure.
Building relationships to last a lifetime
Proximity doesn’t determine the strength of a friendship. I’ve had friendships that I thought were going to last throughout college, but even if we live in the same place, it can prove to be a disgenuinous friendship when there’s a lack of effort and communication. And that’s okay! Sometimes things just don’t line up. When this happens, I remember my Bible study group of girls that I was a part of my senior year of high school. We didn’t all know each other super well when we started the group, but by the end of the year, we built a connection and a support system that I’d never experienced. We all go to different schools, but still reach out to each other and meet up when we’re home for breaks.
Long distance friendships take communication and dedication to last. My best friend lives in Hawaii where there’s usually a 3 to 4 hour time difference, yet I know when we’re together we’ll pick up right where we left off like no time has passed. These are the kinds of friendships that remind me what genuine friendship looks like.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve been able to take the time to practice being a genuine friend, having meaningful conversations, and setting boundaries with friends from high school, friends from college, and friends in other states (and even countries). The people who I know have my back and will love me no matter what give me the strength to walk through the not-so-good experiences with people. Looking back, I have a new appreciation for the lessons I’ve learned from the people that have come and gone in my life. I’m grateful for the friends that have brought so much joy into my life. Friends old and new.