Friends by choice or by chance

Feb. 16, 2018, 1:00 a.m.
Friends by choice or by chance
Courtesy of Unsplash

College. It’s the home of Late Night mozzarella sticks, annoyingly expensive textbooks and that first sip of sweet, sweet freedom. It’s an educational establishment where we students often fluctuate between stressed, unmotivated and flat-out confused about our future. Most importantly, though, it is the place where everyone is supposed to find their lifelong friends. In fact, the sheer number of times adults asked me whether I was excited for college, before spurting out another story about their “college buddies,” exceeds the number of vowels used in this article.

I never thought twice about these dated anecdotes until the chaos of NSO hit back in fall quarter. As people were making “friends” left and right, all I could think of was whether I would even have one classic college story to impose upon a freshly admitted student in the future.

After four years of living in a tight-knit community at boarding school, it had been a while since I practiced the whole making-new-friends-in-a-foreign-environment thing. Realistically speaking, how was I going to build new friendships when I couldn’t even survive one day without FaceTiming my high school friends? Why was it so easy for everyone else? What if I couldn’t find lifelong friends in college because it had already happened in high school? How was it possible that I could be surrounded by so many people, yet feel so alone?

So many Stanford upperclassmen assured me that this was normal and that everything would fall into place once classes started (they were so right, by the way), but I couldn’t stop these thoughts from swirling around in my head. The idea of me having to choose the right people out of a pool of around 7,000 strangers with whom to become “lifelong friends” was absolutely overwhelming.

Fast forward one and a half quarters, and I’ve come to realize that no matter how much you think it’s all under your control, it never will be. Even small things like individual friendships are initiated by chance, whether you like it or not. When I look back now, I see that while I was too busy trying to relive my high school friendships over FaceTime, my future friends had been right in front of me.

Thanks to some randomized dorm assignment, I found people who are willing to walk me across campus at 5 a.m. to make sure I’m safe. People who push me to try new things like dancing or taking myself more seriously. People who always know what I’m trying to say, even when I hardly even understand myself. People who I’ve come to genuinely trust and believe when they say, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine.” Friends I truly admire, respect and for whom I am so grateful.

I guess time will tell whether these friendships that formed by chance will last a lifetime, but I’m willing to bet that they will.


Contact Serena Soh at sjsoh ‘at’

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