We sat on her bed, typing our respective college essays — hers for schools on the East Coast and mine for schools on the West Coast. The sound of gently pressed keyboard letters permeated the room and it was the only sound we heard with the exception of a growling stomach or an allergy-induced sneeze, both which we dismissed until we had written at least two paragraphs for each prompt. It was an intense silence, but it was something we had become accustomed to as long-time study buddies for the past decade.
Julie and I were both Korean immigrants growing up in the same overtly white neighborhood. She lived up the street, past the “pregnant” tree, an odd tree shaped like a pregnant woman placed smack in the middle between her home on the hill and mine at its base. She lived in a wealthier part of the neighborhood, with her home decorated elaborately: a grand piano in the living room surrounded by ornately framed paintings purchased from local artists, a sauna placed in the corner to use for leisure and two little New Yorkies, named Coco and Buddy, running around in their Coach collars. She rode horses competitively for Christ’s sake and owned one named Phoenix or Bindy — I can’t remember. Despite our differences, we were friends — heck, even best friends.
I had approached Julie in fourth grade, calling her Fatty, her puffed cheeks deserving such a title, and she had almost cried. Yet, she chose to stay around, my insults doing nothing but establishing the foundation of our friendship that would last longer than the fads we gave into throughout the years: shaggy haircuts, Limited Too and Claire’s shopping sprees, Sketchers, etc. She was my rock, someone a bit boring but reliable — solid, and I was that for her, but definitely more exciting.
Our time together in the public education system was coming to an end on the day we began the college application process together. That evening, we wrote until we were ravenous, our appetites having been suppressed and ignored. We had written rough drafts about our lives: Julie’s about her handicap older brother and mine about Bill Nye the Science Guy. We shut our laptops, the comforting click of closure melodic to our ears, and headed downstairs for food.
Sitting around the dining table, an ornate light fixture shining above us as lofty as our dreams, we talked about our college applications, noting the implicit differences in our lives. Julie rambled on and on about wanting to ship over her horse to continue equestrianism if she decided on a school on the East Coast while she tolerated me talking about writing for a school magazine or newspaper and one day working for the New Yorker.
We bored each other to death, listening to each other go on and on with 15-minute-long tangents about how excited we were for our future. Eventually, I got tired of listening and cut her short: “Julie, we’re only best friends by convenience. We don’t have anything in common aside from our memories, and I think that’s the best and worst part about us.” To my surprise, she agreed.
We parted ways for college; I stayed behind to attend UC Berkeley and Julie moved across the country to attend Boston University. Despite my rude comment, she stuck around because brutal honesty was all our relationship knew.
My statement held some merit. I learned that the friends I made in college were people I shared similarities in both ideologies and interests, so our conversations were thought-provoking, exciting and refreshing. Each day with college friends bettered my understanding of the world, allowing me to improve myself in activities I loved while providing me with new communities and resources in completely foreign pastimes. It was a 180 from the predictable and safe relationship between Julie and me, and I loved these friendships for the adventures and wild memories.
Yet, they didn’t suffice. These new relationships lacked the history Julie and I shared, the intimate memories of our formative years that led to who we were now: my aversion toward religion a consequence of years in Sunday school and my didactic parents, her obsession with horses a result of her social anxiety as a kid.
We held onto one another through thick and thin, subconsciously being each other’s alibi for life’s atrocities — deaths, divorces, lawsuits and whatever unfortunate, unexpected event life decided to chuck at our heads.
My college friends could never understand the reasons behind my quirks, because they simply weren’t there to experience the events that shaped me — my character, interests and all. These college friendships would only be surface-deep, because they were established based on mutual and current interests and ideologies rather than a shared archive of our childhood memories.
I can count on Julie to have my back for the rest of my life because she’s experienced first-hand the extreme highs and lows of my life. She’s never been repulsed by my actions or reactions whether I was at my best or worst. She chose to stick around, partially because of the fact that she could never really get rid of me, but these new college friends can abandon me whenever they wish. They can exit our friendship because there just isn’t any common, irreplaceable history that binds us together like the boring but reliable friendship I have with Julie. Being present in someone’s life at the right time can only bring such a bond.
But time is something that we college students don’t have and can’t control.
Lauren Ahn writes the Friday blog on inedible nourishment. Contact her at [email protected].