April 29, 2010

From Leigha, With Love

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Next time you go to the Palms or Rulloff’s, look around. Chances are, you’ll recognize at least half of the people in the room, if not more. Of this half, another half will be acquaintances, while a smaller number will be your friends in some capacity. You may call 15 people in the Rulloff’s basement your friends. But what will happen in the next 10 years?

Like most people, I entered Cornell with close friends from home. I quickly made dozens of friends in the first months of college, and with my new shiny Facebook membership, I had more “friends” than I could even keep up with. As time progressed, my social circle expanded and contracted, with some static members and many other temporary ones.

All of us make friends of convenience — the girl who takes great notes in your FGSS class or the guy you always run into at Johnny O’s. And all of us have those temporary friends, whom are often thrust upon us, like dorm roommates, frat brothers or team members. But with every passing acquaintance, every transition to a new apartment or the end of a class, we have a choice, to stay in touch or to let the friendship fade.

Many friendships are disposable, and will eventually fade with no harm done. Many others are not. There will always be the friend that you can call at 3 a.m. because you had a bad night. There are the friends who you can watch Glee with, after not seeing them for months, and it’s like you just spoke yesterday.

When we eventually leave our campus, we’ll be doing many different things. Some of us will matriculate to grad schools, some will become teachers and some of us will slave away in cubicles. Some of us will move back into our parents’ house and spend our days eating Frosted Flakes and watching Law and Order marathons. We’ll all embark on new paths, in different cities and with different goals. Graduation simply marks one more fork in the road, after which our friendships can flourish or flounder.

Quite frankly, many of our friendships will flounder.

In 10 years, will you really invite all of your sorority sisters to your wedding? Will your freshman year roommates be there at your 40th birthday? Your retirement party?

At some point, you reach a place where a person will become “that guy I lived across from freshman year” or “my close friend.” At each of these points, you have a choice, but more often than not, the friend will fade into an acquaintance.

What makes friendships last? There are often friendships that aren’t worth saving. People can change dramatically, and some people do not make good friends. But all too often friendships dissolve because of a stupid argument, or a lack of effort on the part of each individual. Sometimes friendships flourish because of simple geographical proximity, or professional convenience. Sometimes two people just get along well, and make the effort to stay in touch.

In the weeks approaching graduation, perhaps we should evaluate who will be our friends in 20 years, and who we likely won’t talk to again unless we end up at the same reunion event at some point.

We leave here with diplomas, with an education and sometimes with enormous student loans. But, no matter what our parents or professors tell us, the most important thing that we can leave school with is our friends.

Think about what it takes to maintain them. Reach out to those you miss. Stop making an effort with those people who you can’t imagine talking to in 15 years. And maybe stop to thank those who have been your friends for four years, and will continue to be so for 40 more.

Thank you to Zoë , the best friend I could ever ask for. To Munier, the most brilliant person I know. To Wacker, the only person I will play Super Mario with, and a man of many other talents. To Sam, for always watching out for me (and CK Dexter Haven). To Jacob, just because. To CK and Lola, my furry friends, and because my lovely editor told me I couldn’t thank pets. And to my family, if they ever read this, for everything.

To all of my friends, past and present, you are wonderful. I hope that in 50 years, we’ll still be catching up, preferably over a game of croquet and a glass of wine.

Leigha Kemmett is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at lkemmett@cornellsun.com. Starboard Tact appears alternate Thursdays this semester. Over the years Leigha Kemmett has talked about everything from Spring Break to race and privilege at Cornell. Here is a brief survey of her work:

1. Welcome Back? Hardly 8/27/2009 (First Column)

2. Sucker Punched: Exploring Race and Privilege 11/19/2009

3. 14 Things to Not Do Before You Graduate 2/25/2010

Original Author: Leigha Kemmett