November 26, 2018

LIEBERMAN | Platonic Love Is a Lifeboat

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This is my last column of my last fall semester at Cornell. I went home for break, where my parents, and my friends’ parents and my parents’ friends all wanted to hear how I was doing and if I was ready to be done. My answers were always “good,” and “kind of.” I’m ready to be done only in the sense that I’m going to pass astronomy, and I’m finishing my creative writing concentration, and I paid all my parking tickets and I returned all my library books.

In all the less explainable — but more serious— ways, I’m petrified and clumsy in trying to prove my own preparedness. I cried over a cover letter last week, I still haven’t memorized my student I.D. number, I can’t decide if I’m writing a thesis and I was lying when I said I returned all of my library books. Who could ever live for four years in a town and not lose a few library books? Certainly not me.

So, for now, I’d like to ignore all the questions about whether or not I’m ready to go. The simple, but generally unacceptable answer, is not yet. However, I still have one more semester left, so it’s plausible to believe I will be ready, eventually. Instead, I want to focus on the questions about how it feels — to have come this far, to have done this much, to have this much left to do. I like to talk about feelings, maybe that’s why I’m an English major and maybe that’s why I’m an opinion columnist; I have a lot of feelings.

Right now, I feel nostalgic. When I look back, at these four ungraceful but still remarkable years, I see so many patterns. Like, how I always gain five pounds in November, and I always lose my water bottle by December and I get a sinus infection every winter month (practically). The patterns that bring me the most joy, when I take the time to recognize them, are people. There are people that I can trace through all four years of my college experience, not without changes or distances, but their presence is ineffable and unrelenting.

I feel so lucky to have people who stuck by me from my first day. It seems that everything has changed, except for how much I love these people and my unexplainable luck in having them love me back. I’ve always believed that love, most reliably platonic love, can last forever, but when I think about it, the whole feat sounds so impossible it could be a fairytale.

In the last four years alone I’ve changed almost everything about myself. My hair went from short to long and purple to blonde. I’ve changed my mind about GMOs, Bernie Sanders and reality television. I went from shy to un-shut-up-able. I changed my major three times. I went vegan. I un-went vegan. I’ve gone months feeling immense joy, and I’ve had months that were permeated by grief. I’ve told probably fifty people that I loved them, and I’ve meant it every time.

I feel so completely different, and still changing every day, that I expect my relationship to wax and wane with this evolution. I am heartbroken when I lose a friend, but I do understand how and why someone could leave or something could change. I get it. We are all growing.

This brings me back to my point; how have we created lifelong friendships? It’s so incredible — it feels like magic. My freshman year roommate and I have been around the block, and we have taken such different paths, but we still love each other fiercely. And this girl, who I thought was cool in my freshman writing seminar, now is my senior year roommate. I still think she is so cool. My high school best friend and I have talked about moving to a big city together since we were fifteen, and now we are looking at apartment listings on Craigslist. It doesn’t matter if we have to share a bed, as long as we’re together.

Maybe I’m just being hard on myself, maybe I haven’t been through as much personal overhaul as it feels like, but in my mind, these people and their stubbornly loyal friendship has given me a testimony for the purest type of human love. I am so sappy, but please let me have this amid the dredge of seasonal depression: true friendship is a goddamn miracle.

This life has and will continue to throw every type of curveball our way. But I feel really brave, knowing who and what I will still have, when I re-emerge on the other side of struggle. Platonic love is a lifeboat in this unpredictable, disaster machine of a world. We should prioritize our friendships. They will do more for us than any unpaid internship could. This is what I will remember when I look back on my college experience. I know this is cheesy — I never said I wouldn’t be cheesy. But I think putting care and intention and time into our relationships is more than worthy of all the energy we give it.

Sarah Lieberman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Blueberries for Sal runs every other Tuesday this semester. She can be reached at slieberman@cornellsun.com.