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Seeking A Friend For The End of the Semester 

When I was around 12 years old, I went over to my elementary school friend’s house. Let’s call her Lea. Lea and I were close friends from third to fifth grade. We exchanged numbers, went to each other’s birthday parties, and our dads became friends as well, so we got to see each other even after elementary school. Even if Lea and I didn’t text or call that often, whenever we saw each other it felt like no time had passed at all. I thought she would be one of those friends that lasts from childhood to adulthood, but sadly we drifted apart over the years. I was at her house because my dad was visiting hers, they actually managed to stay friends, and I was told to go down to the basement with Lea, and her other friend. Despite there being three of us, neither Lea nor her friend let me in on their conversation or even looked my way after I walked down with them. No one else had arrived yet, so I was pretty much just sitting there while two people were speaking to each other. After a while I got sick of my own silence and started to listen for any places where I could contribute something to the conversation. Lea and her friend got to the topic of video editing and I decided to mention that I happened to be in the broadcasting club at my school. I must have screwed up because after that the conversation came to a screeching halt and Lea and her friend stared at me. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting for me to say more or they wanted me to leave, but either way I wished to sink into the floor or die right there on the spot. Up until then I had no idea it was possible to drown in your own embarrassment. Once they were done staring me down they returned to their own conversation like a TV program rudely interrupted by a pointless advertisement. Still not asking me for any input or looking my way. Eventually, more kids showed up and they seamlessly formed groups filling the formerly empty basement with friendly chatter. I wasn’t included in any of those conversations either. The longer I sat on that damn couch without saying a word, the more I felt myself becoming as obsolete and inconvenient as the throw pillows people moved out of the way so they could sit with their friends. 

When I got to high school I made a solid group of friends complete with an annual Secret Santa gift exchange, a lunch table, and an overcrowded group chat. We made up lore about each other pretending that we were one big extended family. We met up with each other in the lobby of our school after classes and exams ended. We would always share food whenever we had extras or someone happened to bake something the night before. I still meet with my friends when I go home for breaks and I have yet to experience another painfully awkward staring contest. When I got to college, I assumed I would have something similar, but I am halfway through my sophomore year and I can’t help but shrink back into that 12 year old girl in that basement watching other people talk to one another while I simply sit there taking up as little space as possible. Of course, I’m not completely alone. I have my roommate and my partner, and most days I’m fine with not having a giant group of friends like I used to. I don’t have to deal with my phone blowing up with text messages or constantly maneuver my schedule to meet with them or make plans. And I’ve learned to like floating around and talking to different people without making concrete friendships. If anything that works best for me because that way I get to socialize without having to keep track of anyone. But it only lasts for so long and there’s only so many times a person can be as charming and palatable to new people. I know how important it is to spend time with people besides your partner. I know how important it is to have a network of people outside of your hometown. To have people that can help you move into a new apartment. People that are willing to go grocery shopping with you. People that you can spend time with besides your partner. People who you can call when you get back to the city. Just to have people of your own to go to. 

At meetings I see all the groups that have already formed or new friendships being formed. I see people exchanging ideas with their friends or offering to partner up with someone new and I can’t help but wonder if my face is literally burning whenever I try to share an idea. I say things and I can never really tell if anyone can hear me. Most don’t really know my name or that I’ve been there since freshman year. It’s fine, I tell myself, but it would be really nice if I could walk out talking to a friend instead of with my head down as quietly as I came into the room. Having watched “Friends” all my life I always had this image in my head of this tight-knit second family that I would have in my young adulthood. I thought this would come easy like in high school, no one told me that making friends as an adult is harder than as a teenager. Spontaneity feels like it went out the window in favor of “appointments” that are colder and more distant. Phone numbers suddenly became “business only” instead of something that brought you closer together. A small campus in the city can feel like a giant one in a rural area when you don’t have anyone to meet. You try to socialize but it always feels like you’re doing something wrong. You didn’t say the right thing, you weren’t interesting enough, you weren’t funny enough, you aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t wearing the right clothes, you don’t listen to the right artists. You try your best to come out of your shell until you see that no one even noticed that you went anywhere. 

As I write this piece, I have yet to make that “Friends” dream a reality. When winter break ends I’ll probably try again to forge a friendship that goes beyond “colleague” and manages to last during semester breaks. I don’t really know how to solve this except to keep speaking up until something sticks or wait for a friend group to adopt you as one of their own. But, I do know that making friends is just harder as you get older. Suddenly you have to job hunt or apartment hunt, you have professors that expect you to give your soul to their class, you travel back and forth from campus to home. I’ve seen some confessions on the Pace “crushes and missed connections” Instagram page of how hard it is to make friends when it seems like everyone is already in set groups. I don’t know how other people have managed to find their chosen families, but I do know I’m not the only person entering young adulthood suddenly forgetting how to make friends, so feel free to say “hi" to me or something. 

Written by JD Valdepenas

Photography by Thea Wiener

CD/PM: Lucy Anderson

Talent: Jasmine Cintron Soto

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