When I graduated high school, in all the exuberance and happy tears, I hoped that I would be able to maintain all the close friendships I had made throughout my life. It’s been a year and a half since then; winter break afforded me the opportunity to see all of those friends again. While I enjoyed their company, it made me recognize the distance that had grown between us. This did not happen with the friends I kept in touch with — only with the ones with whom contact had become perfunctory or almost non-existent. We didn’t stop caring about one another — not at all — but our lives became so divergent that it made connecting difficult. Coming to grips with this reality, I realized that drift in friendship is inevitable and universal, not just for students at the College of William and Mary, but for everyone. That being said, there are ways to mitigate the guilt and anxiety it can bring.
I felt guilty. Why hadn’t I messaged them? I tried to justify my inaction: They didn’t message me either. Most of all, I felt sad. I had known these guys since the first or second grade. We’d been through so much together, No amount of drift could take away what that means to me. That’s something that everyone dealing with drift should remember: It doesn’t diminish the value and impact of those friendships. They helped shape you as a person. Their words and actions stay with you, even if you’re not communicating with them. If you’re hurting, think of that.
Be mindful that drifting is a choice — one we may not make consciously. We often feel the worst about the drift we just let happen. It’s often mutual: both friends bear some responsibility. To anyone who fears this drift: Be proactive. Occasionally ask your friends how they’re doing. Maybe set up Skype sessions once in a while. Do anything to stay clued into each other’s lives. Even a little contact can make a big difference, especially during freshman year, when adjusting to new people and surroundings can be a struggle. You’ll be surprised how many of your high school friends are having similar problems in college.
Of course, despite your best efforts, drift can happen anyway, and that’s okay. It’s a part of living somewhere else and growing up. Making the most of your life at college means pursuing your interests and making new friends who will likely share some of those interests. It’s much easier to maintain lasting friendships when they’re with people with whom you can share your passions. (I can’t talk about my love of writing with some of my friends in engineering and business from back home, who scoff when I mention my liberal arts education, and from whom I’ve drifted noticeably.) You can only divide your time so much, and drift is a natural consequence of that.
Focus on where you are; otherwise, why are you there? That doesn’t mean ignoring family and friends outside the bubble of college, but it does mean directing the bulk of your energy toward the people and opportunities around you. It’s difficult to make connections when you are mentally and emotionally somewhere else. It’s important to have a support system where you live.
You don’t need to feel guilty about drift if you feel happy around your college friends. Be thankful and enjoy them. I was wrong to think I could stay close with every single one of my good friends, but even though I’m not connected with them in the same way, I haven’t forgotten what they meant to me. You don’t have to either.
Email Matt Camarda at firstname.lastname@example.org.