IN AN ATTEMPT to uphold at least a week’s worth of my New Year’s resolution to be several degrees less repulsive, I cleaned my room today. While contemplating borrowing my dad’s WeedWacker for the debris, I found a nearly year-old Statistics notebook. Before adding it to the recycling pile, I paged through for the inevitable furtive journal entries that, without fail, pepper every math-class notebook of mine since the days of pre-algebra. Sure enough, I found this:
“I’ve got more than a few qualms about graduating university, leaving this lovely four (knock on wood!) year limbo of a cocktail that tastes like carefree teenage years spiked with a shot or two of adulthood. I’m not even going to start on the potential pros and cons of grad school because that’s boring, or the perils of finding a job, because the lamentations of a humanities major who spends her summers perfecting the elusive milk/butter ratio of Kraft-shaped mac n’ cheese instead of pursuing resume builders are about as sympathetic as a cliff diver whining about the impact. What nobody seems to talk about, though, and what freaks me out in a major way is what happens to friendship post-college”
I wish, ten months and one anti-climatic diploma later, I had an answer. College friendships are unique in their overlap. Living, working, partying, and growing up in such close vicinity inevitably leads to an environment of total, disarming openness. Our friendships aren’t so much perfect circles of union as they are Venn diagrams — our opinions, moods, and limbs overlap so often they can start to feel interchangeable. Which isn’t to say that college friends are carbon copies of one other. But our differences are exaggerated in a way that is comforting and affirming. What happens, though, to our personalities when they aren’t defined and filtered through the lens of our friend group? Without my buddies around to tease me about being “the one with her head in the clouds,” my spaciness loses its charm and I’m forced to confront the fact that I’m actually kind of a mess. Sure, constantly losing your wallet and keys is an affirmation of your special brand of quirkiness… when you do it in the company of your friends. Without witnesses, it’s kind of pathetic. And there’s no one to eat raw cookie dough with while you cancel your credit cards.
And the adult friendships we’re supposed to be forming seem so sterile. How can a bond forged over work or kids possibly compete with the intimacy that grows from scoping out an unoccupied dorm bathroom together to drunk-puke? Or watching Sunday morning TLC reruns with unwashed hair in your pajamas? How can I in good faith offer intimacy to someone unfamiliar with my hangover face or heard-through-the-wall sex noises? Do post-college adults compare those kinds of things or do romantic relationships, careers and grown-up responsibilities take precedence in the real world? Maybe that’s it — one moment you’re thinking nothing of cuddling up in sheets stained by your friend’s night-before shenanigans, and the next thing you know you are avoiding each other’s bedrooms, chatting in each other’s kitchens, laughing politely, and keeping your shoes and pants on.
And what about crushes? Are they still collaborative missions? Let’s be frank — without your friends to strategize and scheme with (and christen the objects of your infatuation as Biology Lab Boy or Sexy Barista), staking out hotties feels less like carefree fun and more like something that might get you slammed with a restraining order. Awful first dates are no longer great stories full of cringe-worthy details to tell the girls waiting at home for you to steal their make-up remover; they’re omens that you’ll most likely end up dying alone. And what of exes? At the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, is closure ever really attainable if you don’t have your best friend by your side to drive to his house at 3 AM and put tampons under his windshield? Which isn’t to say graduating from college is the definitive end of all that. But it can feel like it.
It can also feel like the dawning of a new era: one filled with people scattering, preoccupation, nine-to-fives, and no nonsense. Or rather, less nonsense. I’m writing this from my friend’s apartment in the city — she’s one of the few who stayed close by. She lives with her boyfriend and they had a Christmas tree trimmed with precious childhood ornaments this year, which seems staggeringly adult-like for a girl who regularly Snapchats me pictures of her poops. I have to get up early for work tomorrow, so I’m going to turn in early tonight. But not before we watch some bad TV, talk some shit, assure each other we’ll figure stuff out, and drink some boxed wine.
Because some things will never change. Thankfully.