Arizzi: Changes on the homefront, college friendships remain

Erin O'Neal

Back in October, when I went home for the first time since beginning my freshman year, I was ecstatic to see my friends. Hanging out with them I felt like nothing was different; as if it were still summer and we were all still in that post-graduation happy phase. And I guess nothing had changed at that point. Everyone said they loved school, but when you looked deeper, you knew it was home that held that special place in their hearts. The lifetime friends were the hometown friends, and school, well that was where they went to get an education. The entire first semester was like that; the countdowns and to break began a good two weeks before we were off and I went home as soon as my last midterms and finals were over, not wasting one moment of home time with my ‘Novans.

But it’s not like that anymore.

Sitting in my house over this Easter break, all I could think about was school. The very things I found so refreshing about Bay Shore back in October are the same things that make home unbearable now. Nothing changes here. I come home and realize that I change back to whom I was last summer. I think it’s because my friends and I fit together best in that brief span of time when we all were in the same place in our lives. Last summer we all were college-bound, friends were for life, relationships were forever, we thought that we would always be that way, that we would always be on top of the world, fancy free and simply happy. When I go home I long for those feelings, I wish I were still that girl who I pretended to be last semester.

Sometimes I wonder why people resist the changes that occur inside them; it’s inevitable that some people grow apart, some together. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but for me I know it’s because I’m afraid of the person I’m becoming. I’m afraid of the fact that life can be so uncertain, that who I am can be so uncertain; it’s scary to think that in a year I could change so much.

This semester has brought people to my town who are different from the ones I knew last semester. The changes are subtle, but they are there. You can see it in the way they talk about school. The “college-friends” are now lifetime friends, the “college relationships” are now going to last forever. And there’s a note of puzzlement in their voices, because they, just like me, are trying to figure out how to fit two sets of incredible life-altering people into their lives. In the end I think the people that stay with us are the ones with whom we can still fit together. I’m going to use a really cheesy metaphor here, but I think we are all like puzzle pieces. You know the kind I’m talking about, the monstrous 1,000 piece puzzle sets where each cardboard piece has about eight bumps of varying shapes and size. The corner pieces are easiest to fit together, but most of us are the kind that fit somewhere in the middle, and you save them for last because the only way to figure them out is to look at them in the context of the whole picture.

Freshman year for me has been an exercise in puzzles. I’ve learned who my real friends are, I’ve learned who can last through the distance of time and space and all that goes on in college, and I’ve learned that some people were meant to fit with me only at a given moment in time. Not all friendships are supposed to be forever, and that’s all right.

I’m scared of summer; I’m scared of having to spend three months away from my best friends, going through this same process of time yet again. Because it’s not going to stop now, this year has been the beginning of four years of changes that will amount to God knows what. I sure as hell don’t know what kind of person I will be come time for graduation from this school, but I think that’s what college is really about. We are here to test our intellectual capacity for knowledge, yes. But more importantly we are here to test our capacity for growth, our ability to adapt to the changes that are taking place all around us and inside of us while we are cramming for midterms and finals. As this year flies past me, I realize that the most important things I have learned are not the things they teach me in core humanities or theology; they’re the things I’m teaching myself. And it doesn’t matter that I’ve probably got it all wrong, because I think that’s the point.