Throughout the week of graduation, my friends and I could not let go of how sad it all felt. Not bittersweet, just sad. In fact, despite the end of finals, the hopeful commencement speeches and the “joyous” graduation festivities, we were sad.
And it wasn’t mainly because of the common uncertainty and anxiety we face as we are pushed into the real world, but the reality that after graduation, our core group of friends — the college family we formed — is disrupted as we are forced to move to different places around the world to return home, to start our careers, to attend grad school, to begin new lives without each other. Now in our new lives, we go from seeing the same people nearly every day to almost never.
Staying in touch with college friends is different, and even more difficult, than staying in touch with high school friends; with no shared hometown — a common place to hold us together and occasionally reunite us — our college friends are scattered and we are no longer bound together by school. Now, we have to give more energy and time in keeping up friendships.
As a rising senior, I’ve felt this strain in trying to maintain close friendships. We become so tired from working and chasing greater ambitions that we don’t want to make the effort to FaceTime each other, or we forget to return a text because we’re so caught up in the job hunt, or we merely grow insecure about our friendships, doubting if our college friends really do want to stay in touch and remain friends, so we give up on making an effort before we even really begin.
Yet, I think many of us don’t realize or quickly forget how critical it is that we keep in touch. We need these friends who grew with us throughout the pivotal era of college, granting us a sense of warm familiarity and completeness while we endure the instabilities and tumults of the “real world.”
In spite of how easy is it to become absorbed in our big goals and our hectic daily lives, rarely thinking of our old friends, eventually a moment will come when we realize how lonely we are, that we missed our friends’ significant milestones or they missed ours, and that we have forgotten how much these people molded and brightened our lives before.
After commencement this year, as my housemates moved out and my friends left Berkeley, I was terrified — terrified that maybe these people were only temporary in my life; these people who worried how I did on my midterms and texted me right after I finished my exams to ask how I did, who got lost with me in foreign cities when we studied abroad, who left me notes on my bed and made me coffee on the mornings I had to wake up early, who played hours of dumb trivia games with me, who knew and tolerated my habits of whistling off-tune, or sighing when I was frustrated with an essay I was writing and when I became annoyingly loud when I drank too much Angry Orchard.
I was, or rather, am still, scared of gradually losing friendships with these people who were incredibly essential pieces of my life and made it fuller.
Only a few weeks have passed since graduation, but I try to commit to monthly phone dates with my old roommate, group video chats with my former housemates and texting and asking about even the most trivial of updates with all my close college friends.
Though these are small efforts and I remain unsure if these friendships can persist through our fickle human patterns and remote presences, I think it is necessary to try, and hopefully, at some point, these friendships will become permanently embedded into our lives after college.