Last fall, I arrived at UC Berkeley fresh-faced and starry-eyed. Poring over the plentiful crowds throughout campus, I jittered with anticipation yet felt largely prepared. A surge of confidence rushed through me as I began to crunch the numbers — with exposure to so many new people, surely I would experience a net gain in the friendship department.
My assurance was not only the product of my genius mathematical deductive skills, but also the many tales I had heard prior to coming to campus.
“You’ll meet your bridesmaids there!” said every middle-aged woman ever.
“These next four years will be the best of your life!” said every slightly balding dad ever.
Therefore, it was only natural that I expected immediate, effortless social bliss. Unfortunately, nobody informed me of the inevitable downpour of loss that accompanies mingling on such a large scale. Exposure to so many new people means that sometimes you might befriend someone and get coffee and discuss your biggest dreams and share your darkest fears, only to never see them again. I learned that the hard way.
Because of the bouts of loneliness and homesickness that college initially spurs, relationships have a tendency to develop very quickly and dramatically. Within a week of moving into my dorm, I found myself firmly enmeshed within a group of girls. We slept in each other’s rooms, exchanging Welch’s fruit snacks, stories about our moms and embarrassing confessions from our romantic histories. All was well, and I began to seriously ponder whether this was the formation of lifelong friendships.
Then I got bronchitis. Due to my raging fever and ugly cough, I wasn’t super keen on the whole hanging out thing. After about 10 days of essentially quarantining and drowning in phlegm, I emerged warily from my bed hoping to discover my friendships intact.
However, the girls with whom I had felt so connected to had simply moved on. Because the first weeks of college are so overwhelming, I didn’t blame them for leaving me behind. However, it was quite awkward sharing a dorm hall after our friend group had dissolved. I probably didn’t help much in alleviating this discomfort, as I preferred to avoid eye contact every time we encountered one another in the communal bathroom.
I gloomily began to notice that this instance of friendship demise was no outlier. One of my good pals had often invited me to his room when he was drunk and lonely. He once passionately confided that I had helped him through the darkest period of his life. He then changed dorms, however, and I never heard from him again.
Oftentimes, I have felt like I was making great progress with someone and then very suddenly, they’d fall off the face of the Earth. Shockingly, this led to me experiencing some unpleasant emotions and thinking some not so nice thoughts. What was this, some cruel form of edging?
Turns out, being trapped in a nearly constant state of befriending and then losing people caused me to scrutinize every aspect of myself. I found myself thinking — is this all because I forgot to turn my read receipts off? Is it because I stumble too often while I walk? Is it because I have a generally unlikable, frigid disposition?
In hindsight, I’ve learned that freshman year marks an extremely transitional point in one’s life. Everyone is trying to figure out where they fit, and it’s important not to take it personally if someone doesn’t quite fit with you.
Sadly, loss isn’t only exclusive to new friendships. My choice to room with a close friend from high school proved to be a sorrowful one. Our nights together morphed from movie marathons and Taylor Swift karaoke sessions into brewing resentment and painful miscommunication.
It was dreadful to watch our close bond disintegrate. I struggled with the simple fact that people change. She had brought me great solace as a remnant of my pre-college life. Severing that link initially felt daunting, but I now see it’s much better to explore an uncertain future rather than wallow in a comfortable past.
I tend to think of myself as a sentimental person. I keep mementos and photos to retain the people who have entered my life, even when an exit is long overdue. However, the storage in one’s camera roll is bound to run out eventually. It is simply not sustainable to hold onto expired relationships.
With a string of fizzled friendships and explosive fallouts behind me, I now understand that change doesn’t need to be a big scary thing — even if it is sad. My experience at UC Berkeley has taught me to loosen my grip and embrace the transience of relationships. I have so much appreciation for the individuals with whom I have clicked, even if it was only for a moment in time.