I’ve got a serious question for everyone reading this: How many of you talk to your high school friends on a regular basis?
Last term, I spoke with a lot of Carls about the frequency and nature of their contact with high school friends. I was shocked to learn that amongst the people I spoke with, keeping up with old friends was relatively uncommon.
In years past, I always considered myself fortunate to have maintained strong relationships with friends from home. I wondered why this wasn’t as important to all Carleton students as it was to me. Coming off this recent break, however, I realized the reason.
For my first few years at Carleton, I counted myself lucky to have had a fun, fulfilling college experience. Yet, I viewed college differently than a lot of other people on campus. I was always excited for winter break, because it was my time to go “home.” Carleton felt like a boarding school. It was a place where I traveled to study but did not consider my home. I loved touching down at the St. Louis airport, switching on my phone when the flight attendant gave the okay, and texting the boys asking about plans for that evening.
When my friends and I got together, we spent most of the time reminiscing about high school memories: the teachers, the pranks and the girls. It was straight out of “Stand by Me.” Later, I would hop on Facebook and read the statuses of Carleton friends. Many of them announced that they couldn’t wait to go home to Carleton. It seemed odd. Isn’t “home” the place where you grew up?
Throughout the term, if I ever had a serious issue, I’d pick up the phone and call my St. Louis friends. They always offered sage advice, or laughed approvingly at a funny story. Looking back, I could have gone to my friends at Carleton for similar support. I really did get to know my friends here quite well. I met some of their high school friends; they met some of mine. Still, I was very intentional about distinguishing between my “old friends” and “new friends.” I had a history with my old friends, and I was convinced this meant they understood me better.
I know now I relied on these categories because I was scared. I stayed connected with people back home to keep my distance from people on campus. I didn’t want to let go of my past. Moreover, I was scared to trust new people at Carleton, adamant that I couldn’t find friendships here as meaningful as the ones I cherished in high school.
More recently, I’ve realized that there are people here on campus who are just as supportive as my friends from St. Louis. Actually, this winter break marked the first time when I thought of leaving Carleton as leaving “home.” “Home” was no longer associated with where I lived the longest, but the place where I felt most comfortable. I now consider my friendships here to be the number one asset of my Carleton career.
I call “the boys back home” less and less these days. It’s difficult to admit this, but we really aren’t as close as we were back in high school. We are farther apart, both physically and emotionally, than we were back then. If I really need to, I can pick up the phone and call them when things are tough. Maybe they’ll answer. Maybe they’ll even have some words of wisdom.
It’s more likely that I’ll head over to Sayles for some late night venting with Carleton friends. I may not have known them for as long, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care just as much.