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Loving the people you’re with

My experience watching my social circles change from first to second year

<p>I wanted to consider this article a love letter to the friendships that perhaps aren’t as strong as they were last year. Though — unlike the fox and the little prince — we aren’t forever separated, I’ll still think of them when I walk past the Lawn, stop in O’Hill dining hall or pass our old dorm buildings.&nbsp;</p>

I wanted to consider this article a love letter to the friendships that perhaps aren’t as strong as they were last year. Though — unlike the fox and the little prince — we aren’t forever separated, I’ll still think of them when I walk past the Lawn, stop in O’Hill dining hall or pass our old dorm buildings. 

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As I approached my college experience as a recent high school graduate, I distinctly remember being repeatedly told about the unique social circumstances found on university campuses. “Never again will you have such easy access to social interaction with your peers,” my friends and family advised. “Be sure to take advantage of it.” Of course, having my first year transformed by a global pandemic made this more difficult than it would have been otherwise. Still, I still feel my first year provided me with the rich social environment which I had been foretold –- last year was filled with picnics, movie nights, adventures, study sessions and many more beautiful memories with friends — albeit masked and six feet apart. 

While my friends and family were right about the social experience college provides, no one warned me about the transition from first year to second — though we are only a month into the 2021-2022 school year, I have already witnessed how new housing, classes and responsibilities transformed my social circles. People who I used to see almost daily at study spots, dining halls and in dorms now seem far out of reach — though they may only live down the street or across Grounds. There are numerous possible reasons for this change — in-person classes, new leadership roles and responsibilities in our respective extracurricular activities. Plus, there is a new physical distance, as we no longer live down the hall from one another and eat at the same dining halls every day.

I recently met with a close friend for the first time this school year to confess that — despite my packed schedule — I felt lonely. Though constantly surrounded by new classmates, housemates and friends — some new and some old — I found myself mourning the relationships I was struggling to carry with me from first year into second year. To my great relief, my friend confessed he felt the same way. Despite his house being a constant hub of social activity for our friend group, he was facing the same difficult choice I was — which friendships to fight to preserve and which ones to let slip through our fingers. He imparted some advice he recently heard, expressing “maybe the people I’m closest to right now are there for a reason — it might be beneficial to stop focusing on what we’ve lost and instead focus on the people I’m with.” I’m embarrassed to admit this sentiment hadn’t yet occurred to me, and yet it made so much sense. The more I cherished the relationships that were in front of me in the present, the easier it would be for them to survive the times when we were apart in the future. Not only that, but I firmly believe that my current friends were put in this time and place of my life for a reason — it would be a shame not to pay attention to what they have to contribute. Their stories, wisdom, advice and companionship are more than worth emotional investment in their friendship.

The conversation reminded me of another piece of advice I received a few years ago — this time, from a favorite book of mine — “Le Petit Prince,” or, “The Little Prince.” I read the book for my French class during junior year of high school, and one chapter stuck with me in particular. It depicts the friendship between the main character, the little prince, and a fox he meets during his journey. When the little prince finally moves on from the field where he encountered the fox, he tearfully admonishes the fox, recalling that he had not wanted to form a friendship between the two of them as it would only end in separation. The fox responds, telling the prince, “J'y gagne... à cause de la couleur du blé,” essentially, “I’ve still benefited, because I will remember you by the color of the grain,” which is the same color as the little prince’s hair. The chapter illustrates the important lesson that, though friendships may not last forever, the memories and wisdom they leave behind are worth the bittersweet pain they cause when we are separated. 

So, I want to consider this article a love letter to the friendships that perhaps aren’t as strong as they were last year. Though unlike the fox and the little prince we aren’t forever separated, no matter how long goes between catch-ups and coffee dates, I’ll still think of these friends when I walk past the Lawn, stop by O’Hill dining hall or pass our old dorm buildings. I miss the closeness we had last year, but I will forever value the lessons they taught me and the memories they gave, and I know that I’ll carry parts of each of them with me into the new challenges and relationships this year brings. 

Caitlyn Kelley is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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