No one thinks they’re a bad friend. Few people tally events unattended or birthday texts missed on their part, yet we always notice when others fall short for us. In high school, being a good friend was relatively easy; you saw your friends throughout the day, in class or at practice, and rarely had to alter your schedule to carve out time spent together. School provided the infrastructure of friendship, and expectations of evenings at home absolve us of much planning save for weekends.
This model doesn’t translate well to college, however, as I learned my freshman year. While some friendships required very little effort to maintain — with neighbors down the hall or classmates in your major — most of my friendships required an unprecedented amount of planning and compromise. Whether it be walking across campus to an inconvenient location to grab lunch while my friend had a short break between classes, or spending money eating out to see a friend I hadn’t in a while. friendships in college have been much more intentional than those I had in high school.
I now see friendship almost like dating. Planning special events, making daily effort to check in and remembering little details — like birthdays, or names of home friends or favorite foods — are all signifiers of care and attention that our friends deserve. We cannot get complacent in our friendships. Transitioning from a class of 70 to a class of 3,500, I know that I must differentiate myself as an active friend and cannot rely on the parameters of a small community to attract people. I now find myself being much more intentional on following up about relationships, academics and family issues, despite their relevance or lack thereof to my individual life. If it matters to my friend, it should matter to me.
From attending a friend’s concert or asking if they need anything at the store, friendships in college often fulfill roles traditionally filled by parents. In college, friendship is caregiving in addition to fun-seeking. Friends in college must support each other in times of distress, checking in the morning after a rough night out or grabbing a late night bite after a bombed prelim. But they also must cherish each other’s triumphs, whether that be a summer job acceptance or a successful first date.
I’ve learned that to be a good friend, I must constantly seek to improve my friendship skillset. My friends deserve someone who is introspective and insightful. I know I deserve the same reciprocity from them. I find that competition, ego and insecurity often get in the way of our ability to feel happy for others, and I know that it is my duty as a good friend to work through my own issues so I can most effectively support those I care about.
Going back to the notion of a bad friend: to be a fun friend is no longer enough. Being a considerate, intentional and compromising friend is now the standard. Without requisite effort, friendships in college cannot survive on enjoyment alone.
Julia Poggi is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Outbox runs every other Sunday this semester.