Look Back, Look Forward: Part 3 – Best Friends Forever

University is where you make some of your best and closest friends for the rest of your life.

original photo by Incase.

original photo by Incase.

You may be sick to death of hearing stuff like that.  But it’s true.  I know it’s a cliché, but so many students forge lifetime friendships and make bestest buddies during their uni years.  Maybe even bestest westest buddies.  It’s that good.

But friendships are strange things.  When you go your own ways, many delicate issues that don’t even revolve around the relationship can upset the balance.

Who’d have thought you’d be so concerned about the state of your mates?  Let’s explore some of the uncertain questions.

When your student experience comes to a close, how do you keep in touch with everyone after you leave?

  • Keep as many channels open as possible. Facebook, phone, text, letter, visit, instant messaging…it’s all open for you to use.  Don’t feel restricted to one or two methods of contact.
  • Don’t worry about it. Most relationships sort themselves out without much hassle.  Even if you have an overflowing address book and a Facebook profile with enough friends to fill a small stadium, it doesn’t matter.  As I discuss below, different types of friends become apparent, if they haven’t already.
  • Think quality, not quantity. Speaking to someone once in a while isn’t less special than speaking to someone every day.  The situation itself is where the goodness comes from.  Concentrate on creating wonderful situations, not multiple ones.

What effect does the end of uni have on the relationships you’ve built up?

  • Distance – Your closest mates can move hundreds of miles away from you.  The relationship doesn’t come to an end, but the dynamic does. Distance isn’t a barrier to anything but constant face-to-face banter.  And it’s great when you don’t see someone for a year and you meet up again as if it were the next day.
  • Personal circumstances – Career, family, romance, money…all sorts of things change.  The shift from student to graduate brings uncertainty.  You’ll find some previously close friends who fade away in the whirl of life outside higher education.  Don’t take their personal circumstances personally! Unless it’s obvious there’s a direct reason for the breakdown (i.e. they tell you), it’s rarely because of the friendship itself.  Life throws us around.  There is more than enough technology available to stay in touch, but personal situations still make it tough to engage with others as much as you’d like.
  • Casual friendship is exposed – Once you move on, you’ll realise that you don’t know much at all about some mates.  You shared the fun, but not the personal details.  The question is now whether you naturally lose touch or build things up further in your new situation.

Do you have time to deal with all your contacts now life is moving on?

  • Be brief, but care with every word. We’re busy people.  A few typed words thoughtfully written can be appreciated equally as much as a hand-written essay.
  • Keep an up to date address book and birthday calendar. Keep physical copies, as well as electronic ones.  A book of information in your hands gives you more focus than relying on Facebook or a mobile phone to tell you when it’s someone’s special day.  You’ll find it easier to manage all contacts with this information to hand.
  • Don’t forget about all the amazing people you’ve got to know.  There are people I love to bits and haven’t seen in ages. It happens. Their absence doesn’t stop me thinking about them all the time.  While the amount of contact changes in a click of the fingers, the strength of your feelings change more slowly and may not fade at all. Don’t be afraid to get in touch and let them know you’re thinking of them…however long it’s been!

How will all those friendships work out? Common groups of friends you’ll end up with include:

  1. Those you continue to share almost everything with – The core group of people that make life worth living, no matter how infrequently you get to see them.  Enough said.
  2. Christmas/Birthday card list fodder – People you want to stay in contact with.  But due to distance or career or family or a combination of things, contact is rare.  You don’t worry if contact breaks once in a while, but you try to make the effort to send cards and the like.
  3. Hardly any contact – You’re happy to check in on an irregular basis, but rarely go beyond that.  Don’t be surprised if years go past until you speak again…still happy to catch up though.
  4. Random stumbles through a mutual ‘closer’ friend, or through living in close proximity – Just because you’re no longer in direct contact with a person doesn’t mean you won’t bump into them from time to time.  You may talk about uni days, catch up on a more formal basis, or spark a deeper friendship outside the confines of the student experience.  Hey, this could be the start of another beautiful friendship!
  5. Fairweather friends – What seemed like a match made in heaven turned out to be a situational convenience.  Cut your losses…
  6. Facebook only – Facebook is like a link many past graduates had to go without.  Our ability to connect casually can’t get much easier.  You don’t need to lose contact with anyone now!  Mmm, good thing or bad?  You decide.
  7. Instant loss of contact, not even Facebook – Okay, some people do slip through the net and don’t even appear on your Facebook list.  Maybe they aren’t on Facebook (WTF? Srsly?) or you never connected that way (yeah, that’s more likely).  Once you leave uni and you don’t have a single way of contacting the person, you probably aren’t bothered about making contact now.  But if it’s an oversight, you need to do three things.  One, call yourself a muppet. Two, ask your mates and Facebook contacts how to get hold of the person.  Three, hope one of your other friends can help!

The good news for today’s students is that networking is easier than ever.  Many of us are big on networking without noticing we’re doing it.  It comes naturally.

Therefore, no matter what graduate life throws at you, you’re in a good position to keep your relationships in great shape.