The unacknowledged workload of college: Maintaining relationships

Illustration of students in front of Sather Gate
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Allow me to set the scene for you: It’s midnight on a Wednesday, you’ve been going through a particularly hard week with a midterm and an essay due in the next few days and you are just about to go to bed (slightly) early for the sake of your mental stability. As you climb into bed and get ready to scroll through TikTok for an hour, it hits you. You never texted back your friend from Math 1B, and you never texted your other friend from a club about possibly hanging out this weekend like you promised you would. AND you haven’t texted your sister in who knows how long.

This realization hits you like a ton of bricks, as does the guilt. It’s slow at first, but then it invades your mind and consciousness. The question “Am I a bad friend?” crosses your mind numerous times as you text a very long apology to all parties involved, and although no one responds, you go to sleep that night guilty and feeling like someone is mad at you. 

Now, although I highly doubt anyone has experienced this situation exactly, it goes to show a rather unacknowledged difficulty of the college experience: maintaining relationships. 

I was once told that relationships are like plants; you have to care for them and watch them grow. However, if relationships really were like plants, all of mine would be dead by now. In between clubs, classes and work, it’s hard to maintain growing friendships, and the usual texts or catch-up coffee dates often slip through the cracks. 

However, I would argue that every college student experiences this. It’s hard enough to juggle life and school, but adding relationships to the mix makes it that much harder. Relationships take lots of time and effort, and sometimes it’s simply impossible to give that during a midterm week or after a mentally exhausting month. I think there is a universal understanding among college students that everyone gets busy, but something I find absent in this process is the forgiving of ourselves. 

I often find myself, or others, feeling guilty after not catching up with friends for long amounts of time, because how long does it really take to send a text? This may be true, but it also doesn’t account for the amount of time that comes with conversations, or even remembering to start them from time to time. What matters, in the end, is the fact that we put effort in, whatever form that may take. You may have a friend that hasn’t texted in a while, but maybe a random text, or even a TikTok sent your way, could serve as a reminder that they are still thinking of you — or that you’re thinking of them. 

Maintaining relationships is hard, especially in college, and I think it’s important to give ourselves leniency with this process. Your mental health will thank you for it, and your friends will understand.

Contact Isabella Carreno at [email protected].