College-Style Friendships are a Thing of the Past

I was playing phone tag with a friend yesterday and it got me thinking about how much friendships change once you graduate college. In school, you could (hypothetically) get away with putting in basically no effort to maintain a friendship. If you forgot to call that person for a few days, chances are you would just run into them on campus or at the bar. Your catch-up session would plan itself.

Now if you forget to call a friend, either they call you back, you call them, or you don’t talk and life is sad. Even if you live in the same city, friendships after college require methodical planning and effort on both parties’ parts. That’s the other key part of the equation: both parties’ parts. A friendship in post-college life is only as good as the two individuals in the friendship.

If you constantly call your friend, send her e-mails, text her and go visit her, then the relationship is in good shape. But if she spaces and forgets to call you back, doesn’t check her e-mail, etc., then the friendship isn’t going to last very long. This was easily disguised in college. If you were always the one putting in effort with a friend  (or vice versa,  it didn’t really matter while you two were in school. Like I said before, you’d run into each other eventually. Your proximity to each other would pick up the slack. Post-college life is not as forgiving. It brings any lack of effort in a relationship to the forefront. Now, as they say, it takes two to tango. It’s kind of like natural selection for friendships. Only the most tended-to friendships survive. My friend and I played phone tag HARD to get a hold of each other, and it was worth it because we had a great chat after a few missed calls and two voicemails.

 In a way this natural selection friendship process is sad. You may find friendships you really valued in college slowly start to fade away. But I try to think of it as a good thing. You can spend more time developing stronger, close friendships instead of trying to spend the same amount of time simply maintaining a bunch of more casual friendships.

That’s definitely not to say that you need to get rid of your college friendships just because it’s harder to maintain them now that you and your friends are working. E-mail your friends, text them, plan a mini-reunion, do whatever. Don’t assume that just because your friend forgot to get back to you once, she doesn’t care anymore. People get busy, people get distracted, there are a million reasons why phone calls go unreturned. Give your friends the benefit of the doubt, but also take a step back and analyze what’s really going on in the friendship. Who usually makes the calls? Who usually sends the first text? Who usually starts the Gchat conversation? If the answer is “I do” then take a break for a few weeks and see if she contacts you. Maybe she just always assumes she’ll hear from you and that’s why she’s not more active about getting in contact. If she hasn’t heard from you in a while, she may reach out. But if it’s been a few weeks and you still haven’t heard anything, maybe the friendship has become a one-way street.

On the other hand, think about your own role. Does your friend constantly send you funny links to YouTube videos? Does she always leave you voicemails to make you smile? How often do you return the favor? If the answer is “not enough” then it’s time to change that. Take five minutes and give her a call. Send her a text and see what she’s up to. If you’re feeling really crazy, challenge her to a game of Words with Friends.

Maintaining a long-distance friendship is kind of like having a long-distance relationship. It requires effort and dedication on both people’s parts. It’s great to keep in contact with a variety of friends from college, but make sure that your back doesn’t hurt from carrying the team…and make sure your friend isn’t feeling the same way about you.

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