When I left for college last September, I was heartbroken to move a thousand miles away from my friends and family. Of course, I quickly made new friends in college who rapidly became some of the most important people in my life. By the time I left campus in March, school already felt like my home and leaving it was devastating. Fortunately, I’m lucky to be alive during the era of Zoom and iMessage which makes keeping in touch easier than ever. But there was still a learning curve.
Here are the three biggest things I learned while trying to keep in touch with my college buddies:
You can’t stay in contact with everyone
In college, you tend to think of everyone you briefly interacted with as your best friend: that girl you did shots with at a party, that boy you sat by in Economics 126, that girl who served you fish tacos from the dining hall each day. When you are constantly running into these people on campus, it’s easy to keep up with niceties. Keeping in contact online, however, is much more time consuming and intimate– there are people I saw daily on campus who I haven’t texted in months.
For me, it was important to prioritize meaningful relationships and not get bogged down in staying in contact with every single person I’ve met. When I return to campus, I can go back to having superficial conversations with everyone, but right now it’s too tiring.
Make time for those who matter. If you are truly friends, they will prioritize quality time with you as well.
The quarantine blues can make it hard
Every week, I seem to miss a Zoom call, game night, movie party, or group FaceTime. I don’t miss events because I am busy (it’s quarantine–my schedule is permanently and unbearably open), but rather I miss these events because I cannot bear to pick up my phone. It can be exhausting to open a call with a big smile and pretend that everything is going swell and the Earth isn’t going to shit. At the same time, I don’t want to be the depressed person on the call reminding everybody about that sadness they are already living through everyday. So, I end up skipping a lot of virtual social events – I don’t want to bring the mood down.
Virtual hangouts are not as cool as real-life hangouts
I’ll be talking to my friends on Zoom and, at one point, it will feel normal: somebody will tell a joke and we’ll all laugh hysterically while we momentarily forget that we are all thousands of miles apart. That laughter, however, is always followed by a moment of uncomfortable silence as we realize we are speaking through a screen, and this, in fact, is not normal. We realize that the tests we are taking will be executed in our own individual rooms. We realize that it will be months before we get to hear each other’s laugh in person. We realize that, when the conversation finishes, we will not be able to hug each other goodbye.
That is always a sad realization, but the space between us is necessary for the time being. Soon enough, we will all be together again and this isolation will just be a distant memory. Until that day, I can handle a few more FaceTimes instead of face-to-face interactions.
This may be a new normal, but it isn’t a permanent one.