It is fairly evident to us all, that within the four (plus) years we are in college, we face many challenges that help us discover who we are, what we want to do and where we are going. Aside from the balancing act between going out, studying, sleeping, family and friends, we also have to get used to living away from home, learn how to depend on ourselves and begin to think about our future after college. I believe, however, that one of the bigger trials we are confronted with doesn't actually begin to reveal itself until we near graduation.
Within the transition from college to life thereafter, we have to accept the fact that we won't always be in close proximity to our friends as we once were – we have to begin to appreciate them from the stance of keeping in touch.
We all think keeping in touch is easy, and sometimes it is, or we are lucky enough to relocate to a place where the majority of our friends live. However, no matter how good or close we may be – after we graduate things aren't the same, and this change is often unexpected. It is something we need to learn to not only adjust to, but also accept.
Life happens. Fast. And post-college, when our days are filled with more than before, we may even get caught up in it. We will have full-time jobs, we will make new friends, we could get married and start a family, and before we know it, it has been more than a week since we returned that call, responded to that e-mail or stopped to get a drink with a friend. Then, the e-mails and calls begin to build up – before we know it we have to get back in touch with a whole bunch of people. It is not as though we didn't care to get back to them as soon as we could, it's not as though we don't miss them or think about them every day, but … it just slipped our mind.
That's just the first part – learning how to keep in touch. We are lucky. We have e-mail, cell phones (often with free long distance) and even instant messaging. Therefore, you'd think it'd be pretty easy, but this is also what can make it so hard. Because we have so many areas in which to communicate from, we will in return be communicated with just as much – making our return-contact list even longer.
And because communication links have always been so easily accessible for us, we end up developing a sense of guilt because we feel we should be better at it. But keeping in touch doesn't just involve a call or an e-mail back; it requires our full attention and a chunk of time, to not only one person but to several. So once it builds up, which is inevitable, it is hard to make available what you so want to give.
The other challenge to keeping in touch is learning how to base a friendship around that type of contact. In college, we are used to seeing our friends every day. To having them so available to us, especially because their schedules match our own, and we like the dependency of knowing what's going on within our circle of friends.
So when the time comes that we don't know what they are up to, that they too were not aware of our on-goings; we end up feeling horrible because we, or they, weren't there. We feel as though we failed as a friend, or that they failed us. But we need to remember that's not true – because if we really trusted someone as our friend, then we should know that they wanted to be there for us. We should understand that they didn't take part for a reason, and that they too hate missing out.
We are friends with people for a reason, and no distance or lack of communication should change that. We have to be aware of that, and we have to accept the fact that things won't always be easy. But also remember that no matter how much things change, they always stay the same, and that catching up can be a great way to tighten a friendship.
Kelly Hagenah is a senior speech communication major. Her column runs every Thursday in the Collegian.