At the beginning of freshman year of college, it often seemed like everyone else found their best friends immediately.
There was a lot of pressure to find your friend group early on, but for me, a lot of those initial friendships didn’t stand the test of time and faded out as the months went on. I certainly didn’t meet my “day one” on day one of freshman orientation or even during all of fall semester. To be sure, one certain Old Gold & Black production assistant named Lillian didn’t come into my life until February, and by May, I might as well have moved into her dorm in Collins. If you haven’t met your Lillian yet, that’s okay — trust me, she was totally worth the wait. I certainly didn’t expect that the girl I helped with InDesign and one seminal politics paper on Ruth Bader Ginsburg would become my co-editor, closest confidant and best friend.
Given the stress and intensity of college life, friendships here can be more difficult to maintain than they were in high school, yet they are arguably much more important to your mental well-being. When you’re overwhelmed, stressed and sad, it can be easy to draw inward and away from your friendships. I’m definitely guilty of that at times. However, doing so can make you feel even more distressed. No matter how busy you are, you can make time for what and who are most important to you, and friends worth keeping close will make time for you. That’s one of the best parts of my friendship with Lillian. We both have busy and hectic lives — I am on the swim team, Lillian is in the Color Guard of the marching band and we’re now co-editors of the news section — but we keep our friendship close and supportive by taking the time to be together even if that means merely studying side by side. Fiddling with line spacing and picas on InDesign together for hours on end doesn’t hurt, either. Lillian and I often take a few seconds to tag each other in funny memes that remind us of each other, and while it might not sound meaningful, letting your friends know you care in the smallest ways can make them smile even when life is pretty hard.
Also, it’s important to find friends who share something in common with you, but diverging interests can bring a lot more variety to a relationship. You always have much to learn from someone else. Lillian and I have bonded over the most minute commonalities — our loves for Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno and the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column and a great liking for cinnamon toast, for instance. We must have something in common because multiple Wake Forest food workers have asked us if we’re twins, even though we look nothing alike. (Hopefully Laura, my real-life identical twin, doesn’t take exception to that).
But because Lillian is an English major and I am an economics major, our academic interests differ widely. Lillian will often look over my shoulder at my economics assignments and shake her head in disbelief, and I will often look at her thousand-page English anthology and shake my own head in disbelief. Friendships with people who live and breathe the same passions that you do can be great, but sometimes they can be an echo chamber.
Best friends can make life better in the most unexpected of ways; without Lillian, I wouldn’t have known the gift to humanity that is Parks & Recreation, the best way to sneak pudding out of the Pit, or about a thousand relatable memes. Lillian, I love the many ways in which we are always on each other’s teams, whether that means transcribing each other’s newspaper interviews so we don’t have to listen to recordings of ourselves, me curling your already-curly hair or just making each other laugh until our sides split. Even though you tease me relentlessly about my salad and bagel preferences and we fall on opposite sides of philosophical questions such as whether one de-cobs the corn or de-corns the cob, I know our friendship—and Snapchat streak—is here to stay. It sounds like a cliché, but I know I can be my most authentic self with you—how many times have we said, “Why are we like this?!” Before our friendship grew into the loving and mutually fulfilling relationship that it is today, I was unhappy, depressed and unsure about whether or not Wake Forest was the right place for me. More than anything else, your friendship kept me here and makes me better. I love ya, Lillian. When you need me I promise I will never let you down.