To anchor and adjust

May 22, 2024, 10:49 p.m.

I’m sitting shotgun in a car on its way to Half Moon Bay with three other Stanford sophomores. One is my best friend, and the other two I’ve only met briefly in passing. Even with the lack of backgrounding, it’s a quartet made in heaven as we bounce jokes off one another, the laughter in the car growing louder with each addition. 

It’s a perfect Sunday morning; the sun is beaming but there’s still a damp breeze in the air. After being cooped up in the bubble for most of winter quarter, I feel the knot of stress that’s been looming in my chest loosen as we drive off for a beach day.

We’re talking about Admit Weekend and NSO week, how as frosh we all formed friendships so fast, desperate to solidify connections before it was too late. The very first people we met became our group and by day two of college we all acted like we’d known each other for years. 

Someone in the car recalled that during that first week he’d sat in a circle with other frosh and gone around asking, with the intimacy of people who were lifelong friends, What was your first impression of me? The irony was that for some people in that circle, that conversation was their first impression of one another.

I think a lot about how at Stanford we love to feign closeness. Everyone is someone’s friend, and no one is more than two degrees apart in connection. I’m hardly surprised now when I meet a stranger and learn within a few minutes of conversation that they know someone I know. We’ll both say, Oh my god, I love her! Me too! Which then begs the question of whether either of us really knows her at all.

I wonder how many people bring me up in that way to provide that grounding of mutual knowledge during a lull in the conversation. I wonder whether I consider them a friend too, or if we all exist in a chain of people who sort of know each other and are maybe friends because we get lunch once or twice a quarter to catch up on each other’s lives.

An older girl in my sorority told me recently that when we met last spring, her first impression of me was that I was quiet. We laughed about that, because it’s probably the furthest thing from what people who know me would say. She probably met me on a day I had a p-set due.

Two other girls, who I met during sophomore fall, said their first impressions were that I was a “leader,” full of unbridled confidence. They probably met me on a Friday night. 

I don’t think either of those descriptions is particularly accurate to who I am at my core, but they’re how I was perceived in two formative moments of meeting new people.

With my childhood best friends, I can’t remember what I first thought of them — we’re sort of tied together in the way a string gets so tangled up you can’t find the loose ends anymore. I don’t remember if we hit it off from the start in Mrs. Poy’s kindergarten class, or if it took several recesses for us to finally connect. All I know now is that we’re still friends 15 years later, so whatever those first impressions were, I’m glad we got deeper than that.

I think about my best friends at Stanford. Most of them lived in my froshs dorm and were among the first faces I met in California. They’re the people who lived down the hall, who hung around the lounge, who I would sit with at Casper Dining for lunch. Some of them I met later on, in a club or a class or through a mutual friend. But with everyone, I remember meeting them initially and thinking to myself, I want to be their friend. Either because I thought they were funny, or open, or kind, or just cool, that first-conversation energy spurred my future efforts to keep sitting with them, to cultivate knowledge and go beyond first-day small talk.

I wonder how many people I missed in that free agency period of freshman fall. How many people did I read incorrectly and never make the effort to get to know? How many friends did I miss out on by not introducing myself? How many people passed up on me for the same reasons I might’ve passed up on them? 

As sophomores, now that we’ve somewhat solidified who we find comfort in, it feels like hard work to get to know someone new. When people are fixated on applying to jobs or trying to finish the CS core, there’s far less time to devote to late night life retellings in the lounge.

But I’ve changed a lot in a year. Do I not get a chance to make a second impression? I think freshman year Erin cared so much about the way people saw her that the things she wanted to say never made it out of her overthinking internal monologue. I’m working on being a warmer presence, a better friend, a more engaged conversationalist.

I just met these people this morning — my first impression was that I’d love to get to know them better. 20 minutes into the car ride, and I already feel like we’re friends. It’s not too late and I’m not too busy. My life has only just begun.

Erin Ye '26 is the Managing Editor for The Grind. She also writes in Sports and Arts & Life. Erin enjoys black coffee, exploring the Stanford experience, and live music.

Login or create an account