On old friends

A few weeks ago, I saw one of my closest friends for the first time in three years. He was taller—or my memory deceived me—but he laughed the same way (with all of his teeth out) and we joked about the same people and things. Having lived in London for high school, neither of us had any use for a car, but moving back to the States changed me mainly by forcing me to get my drivers’ license years after my American friends’ younger siblings got theirs. We had a great night in Princeton, and when I dropped him off at what might’ve been the world’s shadiest AirBnB. he remarked that he hoped it wouldn’t be another three years before we saw each other again. How much had changed in those three years—our career ambitions, our fears and hopes, and, ostensibly, our heights—but, really, so much had stayed the same, and the thought of waiting another three years for a few more hours together at dinner terrified both of us. We promised to call each other more often, as all old friends do, even though we knew we probably wouldn't, as all old friends do.  But we also understood that we didn’t need to talk often to stay friends. 

I’d learned that lesson earlier in life, first when I moved from Georgia to California in first grade, but mainly when I moved from California to London in ninth grade. Staying afloat in two new schools in a new country depended on me keeping in touch with all my old friends, and, despite the eight-hour time difference, I did a pretty good job at it. I went back to California every summer until I didn’t, when COVID-19 emerged and I lost my last real chance to spend time with my friends before we all went to college. The amazing thing is that I feel no less close to my friends from California—and now, from London too—than I did then. I haven’t seen one of my best friends in almost four years. For the past year, she’s been in Hong Kong with access to email once a week, and even though I forget to reach out some weeks, I still feel as connected to her as I did four years ago. And I know how incredible it will be when we finally do meet again, having our cooking competitions and swimming in her pool like we did when we were sixteen. 

A lot of my friends in college have lived in one or two places their whole lives, and thus, for them, the idea of “old friends” is a new one. I know how hard it can be to accept the inevitability of the rapid decline in frequency of seeing someone you once saw every other day. But, at college, we come to know that the value of a friend is found not in their proximity, but rather, in what happens in the gaps between. When you see a shirt they would love, or a video they would laugh at, or a person they would deem annoying. Beyond college, we will come to know these truths in much greater detail, and the college friends who once lived next door will come to know these truths, too. It’s sad how “see you tomorrow” turns into “see you next year,” and then “see you in two years,” and so forth, but it’s beautiful to think that after all those years, we will have the same love for each other, the same old stories to tell, the same jokes that we know will make each other laugh. We will be a little older and maybe a little taller, but we will have so much more to say than we ever did before, and we will be friends still, just as we were three years ago, and just as we will be in three and six and nine and however many years we are given.

Laura Boyle is a Trinity third-year. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays.


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