Many of us believe we will find like-minded kindred spirits when we enter college. We are told we will find a newer, more diverse set of people to bond with over the course of four years with similar niche interests and all kinds of bizarre hairstyles. Some of us even aspire to be entirely engulfed in the micro-chasm of college, spending whole days within Trinity’s walls, prioritising society activities and coursemates over other spaces in our lives. This narrative, while sweet in some ways, is ultimately a source of both unhappiness and elitism, often resulting in the neglect of other relationships in favour of opulent prinks for miscellaneous society balls. After many disgusting side platters in Lost Lane, three pairs of sore heels, several bottles of Revero Rosé, and hours of bathroom small talk, I realised something: I love college, but I don’t need to restrict myself to it.
“To say “you meet your true friends for life in college,” is to assume that you will not meet them elsewhere or that there is some inherent quality only obtained in college.”
I don’t mean to sound cynical — but college isn’t special. The people you meet there aren’t special for being there, and neither are you. It sounds harsh, but in reality, the notion that college is the only genuine source of “true friends for life” is not only potentially delusional, but reminiscent of a disturbing exclusivity, embodied in the likes of fraternities or sororities. To say “you meet your true friends for life in college,” is to assume that you will not meet them elsewhere or that there is some inherent quality only obtained in college. Your emotional needs do not require a third level university qualification. Friendship does not have a CAO code.
It’s not that you won’t be bonded forever with your course-mates, society hacks, or flatmates — you might be. Some of you might walk into college and find an incredible group of friends that proves to be loving, lifelong and fulfilling. You may find college to be particularly formative. To this I say: great, but don’t assume there aren’t other people out there, with different but universal experiences, with an equal capacity to care for you. You have, most likely, met your closest friends by chance.
For a lot of us, college is awkward and hard. It can be highly pressurised. It can take months to settle into. It can be impossible to find connections. It can feel like a sea of random faces. And as the student body faces a socially distanced college year, these problems may multiply and these adjustment periods may lengthen. We must adjust to sitting beside empty seats in tutorials, and listening to recorded lectures alone. The prevalent narrative that college is the source of true “friends for life” is not just untrue, but often disheartening.
“Life post-college can be just as filled with beautiful people you’ll know forever, doing beautiful things on beautiful days. And in either case, both temporary and life-long friendships can be fulfilling.”
I felt like I lost my second year of college to mental illness. This was made worse by the feeling that I had wasted precious days of friendship-forging and personhood-building, that I had forgone the oh-so-special “Trinity Experience.” But these narratives are untrue, and the reality is much more comforting: you can find friends anywhere, at any point. Life post-college can be just as filled with beautiful people you’ll know forever, doing beautiful things on beautiful days. And in either case, both temporary and life-long friendships can be fulfilling. It’s not just that I think you won’t necessarily find unique friends for life in college, I think that believing you should adds unnecessary pressure to your life, and incentivizes you to reject alternative experiences. Relieving yourself of the pressure to make your college years the best of your life and opening yourself up to finding friends in other places may make your overall experience more pleasant and less taxing.
In light of this, the prospect of compartmentalising one’s life is wholly limiting. Ask yourself: “Why am I trying to keep my school friends and college friends separate? Why do I think they won’t get along? Are they really that incompatible? Why?” The confluence of differing groups of people can not only generate brilliant parties and shocking debates, but can make your own life more comfortable, and teach you things about your friends and yourself.
Sourcing all your friends from one location, many of whom have somewhat homogenous experiences, is a bizarre aspiration to have. In reality, all you are doing is limiting yourself. Diversifying your friend group beyond the scope of your college life means you might just find more ideas, different book recommendations, new movies, and challenging opinions. You might become a more well-rounded person, or you might not; becoming more well-rounded or informed is a much longer and more difficult process than having some friends outside of your immediate social bubble. But you might learn something, and at least you won’t eat every single lunch at Mamas Revenge.