Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Headline Said These Are the Best of Times

A recent Buzzfeed list was 19 Reasons Your College Friends will be your Friends for Life. It was posted on Facebook by a grad school classmate who’s 15 years younger than me; much closer to college and more gullible likely to want to believe this headline. 

Before you call me cynical—which I totally am—I will admit that I have my moments of sentimentality and dedication to certain friends with whom I shared utterly humiliating situations between the ages of 18-24. But I don’t have a core circle of friends that has lasted for two decades as this list infers should have happened. Many of my freshman friendships didn’t last through sophomore year.  Nonetheless, a few of the items in the list hold weight for me 25 years after I began college:

1990, me and Lisa on my 18th birthday

You lived together.

There is something about sharing a 12 x 12 dorm room with a stranger that makes you learn things you never thought you’d learn about another person. Somehow knowing those things binds you together in ways you can’t undo. You learn ways of knowing when they’re lying, when they’re upset, or when they’re hiding something by the most subtle, and sometimes unusual, of ways. Wearing certain shoes means she’s lying about who she’s going out with. Eating squeeze cheese means she’s homesick. And no matter how hard you try to not know, you always know when she needs to poop.

They’re the best people to do absolutely nothing with.

I experienced this just last week when my freshman year roommate, Lisa, and I got together for a girls’ weekend. We live 2 hours apart but haven’t seen each other in 3 years.  So we rented a place on the beach halfway between our homes for 2 days. Midway through day 1 Lisa said she was going out to read on the patio. I took a nap on the couch inside. We were only going to be together for 30 hours or so, and some might think we should have been DOING STUFF and hanging out TOGETHER…but I was happy just having her nearby. I didn’t need her literally at my side nodding at my conversation to know she was still one of my besties. Despite many years apart, we still share brain waves. I say with complete seriousness that we have conversations without speaking. I cannot explain it, but it’s the closest I’ve come to understanding the connection twins have. Our *doing nothing* is never nothing.

Nothing can beat the hours your spent bonding in the dining hall, gaining the freshman 15 together.  

For real. The dining hall at FSU was the best place to people watch, and it’s where Lisa and I came up with endless nicknames for cute boys and sorority girls, watched couples meet and break up, and eavesdropped on other groups who were most likely doing the same thing we were doing.  There was one guy in particular we called Cool Hand Luke. If he only knew the great pleasure we got watching him build his lunch at the salad bar….

You’ve witnessed each other’s terrible decisions.

And pass no judgment. Because whatever dirt I have on her, she has on me. It’s a Mexican standoff. As long as nobody tells, nobody gets hurt. But like a mom who can scold her kid with a side-eye glance, Lisa and I can still remind each other of a long-buried memory of a behavioral indiscretion merely with a raised eyebrow or nonverbal utterance…those well-timed grunts and snorts that convey entire scenarios that would rather be forgotten. 

 But in all honesty, you’re actually thrilled that she still remembers, because it means you mattered, and that you were important in that time in her life. When you are at someone’s side through their best and their worst, over time it ALL becomes the best of times.

Summer 2014, me and Lisa 25 years after meeting as college freshman



  1. I love this - so true and so well written. And it's true - we all don't have a St Elmo's Fire gang of college friends helping us go through marriage and career and life... but there are those connections that are a part of us forever.

    1. Interesting you say that. I never had a connection to St. Elmo's Fire, though my older brother once told me that the older he gets the more he relates to it. But he has kept the same group of friends for many decades; it's really admirable to see their brotherhood...part of me wishes I had that, but we're different people with different experiences.

  2. I love it and I love you all that much more for saying it so eloquently! I think we look just as sassy in our recent photo as we did in the earlier one!--Lisa

  3. I thoroughly agree! There is life and laughter in that recent shot!

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