I vividly remember the summer before my freshman year of college, not because it was just last year but because it was full of goodbyes. As someone who's not part of a single friend group, I hung out with my friends separately, prioritizing each one based on when they were leaving for school and how far they were going. From Ann Arbor to Los Angeles to Ithaca, I carefully constructed a schedule of hangouts that reflected my predictions for how often I would see my friends. I knew that some of these hangouts would be the last I would ever have with them — I'd heard stories about how high school friends never lasted, after all — and so I planned each day out with this potential ending in mind.
The most memorable hangout of the summer was with a friend who left for Ann Arbor three weeks before I would leave for Long Island. We'd first bonded over our confusion in a ninth-grade Biology class and, as luck would have it, we ended up in many of the same classes for the next three years. For our last hangout before college, we decided to explore bookshops and stationery stores in Manhattan. This stationery shopping trip had been years in the making; we'd brought it up every summer since ninth grade, but our summer vacations and internships had always gotten in the way. The knowledge that we might not be close enough to hang out in the same way next summer made me redouble my efforts to fit the trip into my schedule, and I assume it did the same for her.
As we perused Strand's miles of books and admired Flying Tiger's colorful pen displays, I almost forgot that this wasn't a normal hangout. It seemed absurd to me that it was the last time I'd see my friend until Christmas (she wasn't planning to come back for Thanksgiving), especially after attending the same school for six years. I worried that she'd quickly move on from our friendship since she was a social butterfly and could easily draw people in. I worried that my own commitment to my academics would deter me from checking in with her, or with any of my high school friends. I worried that the constancy of seeing each other in classes or at lunch was what made us friends, and I worried that once the constancy disappeared, so would our friendship.
The day went on and I grew quieter as these thoughts plagued me. I remember thinking to myself that maybe all high school graduates felt this way about the friends they'd made over the past several years. Maybe the bond I felt when we fangirled over our favorite book characters or devoured milkshakes at Max Brenner's reflected a friendship of convenience. As we hugged each other goodbye at the end of the day, I closed my eyes and wished that we'd meet the following summer — wished that our bond would make it through our freshman year of college unscathed.
My other hangouts that summer was also tinged with sadness, even as my friends and I got our favorite foods, marathoned the "Harry Potter" movies, or went to Six Flags. Our goodbyes ranged from longer-than-usual hugs to full-blown sobbing. I tried to keep it together the best I could, but I cried at every parting. The one common denominator between them all was the promise that we would see each other over our next long break, whether that was Thanksgiving, winter, or summer break.
I'm happy to say that my friends and I have kept this promise and then some. Whether it's through three-hour phone calls, random texts at ungodly hours, or the occasional letter in the mail, my high school friends and I have not only maintained but developed our friendships. Just as they supported me through bad breakups or stressful projects in high school, they've been with me through the overwhelming process of adjusting to college. I like to think I'll have a place in their support systems for a long time to come, too.
Looking back, I wish I'd let myself fully enjoy that hang out with my friend from Ann Arbor. I wish I'd trusted a little more in our bond and known that distance would be no more than a minor inconvenience for us. That's okay, though — I'll be sure to enjoy myself when we explore the city again in June.