Staying Present in Friendships

“When you come to college, your friends are your family- that’s why it’s important that you have more than just a hangout/laugh relationship, you’ve gotta be able to count on them to be there for you”. A good friend gave me this advice earlier in my freshman year. People tell you to prepare for finals week, for spending way too much money, and for doing your own laundry. However, I found that the most understated thing upon coming to college was the value of real, solid friendships and what it takes to maintain those.

In between differing class schedules, conflicting social circles, and a variety of extracurricular activities, getting caught up in the whirlwind of college is all too easy to do. Sure you may still have their location on Find My Friends, but in a few weeks you can find yourself falling out of touch with people- your relationship reduced to a snapchat streak and a continuous cycle of “we need to hang out soon, I miss you!”.  Friendships felt near automatic when we were younger, but the present reality is that managing them takes time and effort. However, the return on investment is immeasurable; here’s a few tips to making sure that you’re putting the most into the people you care about:

1. Send words of encouragement.

Sometimes, schedules really don't line up. As important as quality time is, it can mean just as much to send that text that says "Hey, I'm thinking of you! Hope you have a great day." Simply knowing that you're on someone's mind is enough to reemphasize the fact that you're important to them. Until you can squeeze in that cup of coffee or the movie date, sending a thoughtful text eliminates the chance of drifting from one another. If you really want to do the most, send some snail mail- nothing beats a handwritten card. 

2. Make one-on-one plans.

Often, we use group hangouts as an excuse to cross a few things off our to-do lists at once. However, it can be difficult to rely on group activities to really connect on an individual level with the friends that we care about. It's important to remember that all of our friends mean something different to us and that no two friendships are the same. Carve out time to have intimate time with each of your friends. 

3. Share the conversation love.

Almost everyone's favorite subject is themselves. Especially when you only see certain friends from time to time, it can be easy for hangouts to turn into a dump of all the things that happened to you over the past three weeks. However, what differentiates friends from acquaintances is a genuine interest in what's going on in one another's lives. Share all the details you can, but make sure that the quality time is two-sided where you listen as much as you talk. 

4. Exhibit honesty.

The value of clear communication cannot be understated in friendships. The people that love you want to know what you're feeling. If something's on your mind or causing you trouble, be up front so the issue can be addressed without escalating into something bigger. 

5. Unplug. 

Your Instagram likes will still be there in an hour. There's little that makes someone feel less appreciated than eyes flickering to see the newest notification pop up every two minutes. Cherish the moments that you get with every one of your friends. Especially in college, you might only have one semester until they graduate and move on to the real world, so make sure that you're really there for the time that you have. 

Friends are crucial to your wellbeing. The great thing about college is that you can find friends everywhere: Bruff, class, clubs, even the girl you share a table with at Boot Happy. To live and to love are inseparable from each other. Friendship is an chance to love, to learn about who you are, and to open up to the full experience of life. These five tips help to make sure the people you love know what they mean to you (trust me, I wrote this article as much for myself as for others). Be the best friend that you can, because the world sure does need a little bit more empathy, compassion, and love. 

Side note to all my friends that make it to the end of my articles: 

I love you guys. I don't know how I got so lucky to have y'all, but I'm thankful everyday. Thanks for enduring all the mindless chatter, cringey jokes, and excessive laughter. Xoxo.