OP-EDS

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November 25, 2008

Friendly fire

College is no longer as scary or as lonely as it used to be, and this new comfort makes clearer our initial choices about companionship.

With the quarter ending, a strange (albeit probably age-old) phenomenon is starting to occur within the first-year class. After spending two months with whomever they happened to have become friends during their first days of college, first-years across campus have had a realization: I don’t actually like any of these people.

It makes sense. With a quarter gone by, incoming students are finally beginning to settle into their new environment. College is no longer as scary or as lonely as it used to be, and this new comfort makes clearer our initial choices about companionship.

After all, who were the first friends we made here? By and large, they were those who were the easiest to encounter. Perhaps they were people living in our house or those who happened to join the same Registered Student Organization as us. Or they were classmates who talked to us after the first awkward Hum class, or even people whom we drunkenly stumbled upon during the first parties at the end of Orientation. In the initial shock of such an unfamiliar environment, these seemed like natural choices. Yet in retrospect, random O-Week encounters weren’t the most reliable ways of judging compatibility, but in the first and frightening days, they were the best anybody could do.

But now, as fall quarter comes to a close, we first-years are beginning to realize that these early-made friendships aren’t all meant to be.

Of course, it should be said that this sentiment isn’t universal. Undoubtedly, some first-years’ initial haphazard acquaintances have bloomed into mutually well suited friendships. But the point is still that those first meetings were just that—essentially a matter of chance. At least from observation, it seems like that sort of luck is rare. While those fortunate few carry on, the rest of us are left to watch as inevitably, divisions start to emerge.

For example, perhaps the person you bonded with over a mutual unhealthy obsession with the election cycle is suddenly a hollow shell of a human being without any new poll numbers to discuss. Or maybe the roommates of a transient love interest continue to assume that because of the times you grudgingly tolerated them before, you’re best buddies now. Maybe that guy whose favorite band you enthusiastically pretended to love never ended up having any interests that you do share. Perhaps that kid who added you as a friend on Facebook before the year even started turned out to be every bit as creepy as that action would suggest.

In any case, realizing that you’ve fallen in with a less-than-ideal group doesn’t carry with it an easy or natural solution. It seems strange that we would actually dislike those whom we’ve spent so much time with thus far and odd that the people we’ve been calling everyday these past nine weeks are ultimately people we would like to delete from our phone books. The idea that we must once again try to figure out whom exactly to associate with seems daunting. We are, after all, socially inclined to try to make relationships work no matter how contrived they become, until it is no longer possible. But that state of affairs cannot last—it is inevitably bound to give way to reality.

This emerging realization creates an unnerving sense that just as you are becoming used to this place, another slew of changes is about to occur. It appears as if it will last forever—that we will either be condemned to a constant shuffling of not-quite-compatible friends or just have to resign ourselves to accepting who we are stuck with because it is too hard or too intimidating to do otherwise.

But despite that sense, these things are eventually (and probably sooner rather than later) bound to work themselves out. Certainly, the kind of social realignment that happens around this time every year is messy. But with any luck, new people—people not just chosen by the order of the line in Bart Mart or the roster of Philosophical Perspectives—can be judged with the comfort of feeling somewhat at home here and result in friendships that are meant to last.

Or, if not, the process can begin all over again.

Emmett Rensin is a first-year in the College.