From School Friends to New Family

The first time I visited Texas was to tour SMU with my mom; the day we returned, my mom and I both knew where I would be living for the next four years. Before I left for college, my relatives worried about how I would live on my own in an unfamiliar city without any friends or family in the same state. I was also the only student to attend SMU from my high school graduating class of 630. Despite all of this, I was never scared because the experience of entering a new environment without anyone to help was, truthfully, what I had always dreamed of.

         “It all starts at Corral,” they say, but for me, it started at AARO. I was waiting in line with all the other kids to get my ID. One of the volunteers working said we were all too quiet so he told us to turn to the person next to us and start a conversation. The girl in front of me turned around. We struck up the usual conversation topics yet the more we talked, the more we clicked. That very first person, on that very first day, became one of my best friends.

         Fast forward to the end of my freshman year. My social circle had grown dramatically. I had a core group of five other girls—six including myself—and by the end of the year we spent every weekend going out dancing, having Girls Movie Night (shout-out to Papa John’s SMU40 coupon), or just talking about life in the fifth floor lobby of Crum. We went through so many adventures together that shaped us individually as well as our relationships with each other.  I thought this kind of friendship was just like high school. Boy was I wrong.

         Summer came and it will forever be remarked as the Worst Summer of My Life. Every minute that wasn’t occupied my mind went home to Dallas. I was thinking of my friends. That’s when I realized that both my circle of friends and SMU meant so much more to me than I could have dreamed. These girls were the family that I couldn’t bear to part from. SMU felt like home more than my real home. Dallas was my city.

       I called my friends every week through FaceTime because those were the moments I lived for. I wasn’t in my room in Arizona by myself. I was with family.

         Why does your college friend group become more than that? I believe that the college environment presents us with an chance to experience life without our immediate family around to help us. Even if they were present, they may not always be the first one we want to talk to when it comes to personal situations like going to parties, relationships or just talking about young adult life. The friendships we form now are active commitments. I never feel scared or ashamed or guilty to tell my friends anything. When they hear what I have to say, I know they will do everything in their power to support me so I can make the best choice for my happiness. I know that my friends have become my family because they really do love me unconditionally. I love them the same way. That’s why I know.

         Blood relatives can be dismissive of our life choices. There will always be those who aren’t afraid to speak their mind when it can hurt their family members. I’m sure we have all experienced some type of criticism from people we love dearly or whom we don’t really love at all. We may have to call them family, but deep down, we know the people we consider family are the ones who are looking for us to be happy in whatever endeavor we choose to pursue. If that’s not family I don’t know what is.   

         Now you know why I’m terrified. I’m terrified that there’s going to come a day where I will no longer see my family. I’m not going to figure out when I can eat lunch with them. I won’t be able to go exploring the city with the windows down blasting indie music. I will have technology, but technology will never be able to replicate the midnight cry/cuddle sessions after a week of stressful tests.  It won’t be able to give me the feeling of screaming, “I love you!” across the Dallas Hall lawn passing in between classes. I can always make more friends, but I can never replace the ones I made here.

         One day, I’ll be playing with my kids when they stumble upon my photo albums. I’ll pull them out and show them the pictures of the family I made in my four years at SMU. I’ll tell them the names behind each smile. My kids will point and gaze in wonder, hoping that when their time comes, they’ll make the same family. A picture is worth a thousand words and I will never forget one.