When I was home over winter break, an interesting thing happened to me. I developed the ability to go outside in 30 degree weather wearing only a hoodie. I no longer scoffed at the idea of going out in the snow without every inch of my body covered in three layers of clothing. My friends back home could not believe how adapted to the cold I became—back in high school I was always the first to complain about any temperature below fifty.
But that wasn’t the only thing that I discovered. That first year you’re away from home, it’s easy to pick up with friends right where you left off. You’re having new experiences, are slightly uncomfortable with your new surroundings and need to cling on to anything—or anyone—who is familiar.
But they don’t warn you about the second year, the awkwardness of being two years removed from high school, of running into people you swear you’d stay in touch with. Go back and read through your yearbook from senior year, how many messages that were signed "KEEP IN TOUCH," and count how many of those promises were kept. Going back home during break, I realized how many of those tiny friendships dissolved, but the funny thing was, it didn’t depress me.
We all have those friends we know will be there for life, but what about the people that are stuck somewhere in between acquaintances and friends? Like the group of girls you had gym with that made sure you were never picked last for kickball games. We made sure each others’ jeans were adequately hidden beneath our sweatpants and our cell phones concealed under our T-shirts.
I went out with my best friend over break and ran into a girl I took sociology with. We used to split up study guide questions and trade answers. We wrote each other those yearbook messages and exchanged the occasional Facebook message since I had left. But it was awkward trying to make conversation. It’s not something you think too much about—the decision to break contact with someone. Sometimes friendships don’t end with a huge falling out, they just kind of wither away because neither person has time to keep up with someone they met by accident.
The truth is we don’t have time to stay in touch with every member of our senior English class. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Freshman year, it bothered me that I didn’t stay in touch with my friend that moved to San Francisco. I tried to hold onto that friendship, but eventually had to admit to the old "it takes two to stay in touch." I gave up.
But now, I see it for what it was: we both moved on, like we’re supposed to.
I think it’s a sign that I’m growing up. I’ve developed the ability to let go of people, of the past, without turning it into a big, drawn out saying goodbye process. It makes things easier that way: you can still remember your old friend fondly even if you don’t know who she’s currently dating or what she got on her last history paper.
I firmly believe that people enter your life for a reason. I united with my group of three girls in senior gym so we would never have to go through the humiliation of being picked last again, just like I attached myself to a group of five at freshmen orientation when we were playing ridiculous "team building" games like "birdie on a perch." But just because I made those connections then, doesn’t mean they’ll be there forever. It’s a process that I’ve become a part of, and I’m no longer afraid to embrace it.