College Life: Freshman Friends
Perhaps it has already happened to you.
In the first week or two of school, you quickly made a group out of the first few people you met. You all hung out between classes, went to dinner together, watched some movies in the dorm, checked out the welcoming dance in the Student Union, and drank too many beers on Saturday night. You compared notes about professors and classes; complained to each other about the food, the price of textbooks, and the dorm rules; helped each other find the obscure room in the engineering department where your English class got placed, went together to the school gym for the first time, and loaned each other quarters to do laundry.
For about a month, it seemed like you had a lot in common. For maybe even a semester, you thought these folks would be your friends for life. And then? . . . Then things began to fall apart. Although absolutely fine on the surface, the relationships didn’t have any depth. It turned out that once the newness settled, you didn’t really have much in common. What happened?
What happened is something that is absolutely normal. When people are in new surroundings and feeling a bit insecure, they turn to one another for support and reassurance. At that moment in time, we’re not looking for shared values or goals or good conversation. What we’re looking for is a fellow traveler. As long as the person isn’t aggressive, shares a taste in music or beer, and doesn’t scare the neighbors, it’s enough. Basic neediness only requires that people meet basic needs. When we’re together, we’re not alone.
But as soon as people start to feel comfortable, we also start to be comfortable enough to look around. Other people may seem more interesting than those in the original group. We find out that maybe our early buddies don’t want to spend as much time studying or don’t really share an interest in football. Often we feel both excited to meet people who share more of our personal interests but guilty that we kind of want out of the first friend group.
It’s not your fault. It’s not the fault of that first group of friends. It’s a natural evolution from falling into relationships based on neediness to choosing relationships based on shared ideals and interests. If you’re really lucky, some or even all of the first friends are able and eager to go to the next level as well. But most of the time, there are at least some people who can’t or won’t get beyond superficial palling around. It’s not that those original friends are bad or that you made bad choices. It’s that you – and they – have reached a new stage in your social development.
Getting To the Next Level: How To Find Lifelong Friends
The truth is you can just get along with almost anyone if you want to. Shallow relationships are good enough if you just want to party. Talking about nothing can be fine if all you want is to talk. At some point, though, shallow will feel exactly that – shallow. You will want to find people who “get” you; who will be there for you when you are feeling less than wonderful, and who will celebrate with you when good things happen in your life. True friends rarely just fall in your lap. Finding them takes some effort. If you find your first friend group unsatisfying, here are some things to consider:
1. By all means, be kind to those who have seen you through the first stage.