“I’m delighted that somebody treats my Olivia with benign intentions.”
My best friend at high school sent me this message when I told her about my most recent gratifying encounter at Wake Forest.
Right after our conversation, I started rummaging through our chat logs from WeChat, one of the most prevalent social media platforms in China.
I realized that our chatting had changed from a very dense, daily back and forth to a weekly, now monthly status quo after graduating from high school. It seems like college separates our past friends in distance on purpose, though we neither doubt our mutual role as confidants nor lose the thoughts of each other as they occupy the corners of our minds.
I have ruminated for a while now on compiling my thoughts on friendship, struggling with its future longevity, seeking its trail and pondering on its significance.
My biggest struggle comes from my balancing of friendships. I worry about losing touch with my middle school best friends who attend universities in China, but at the same time, I’m sure that I will miss my friends at Wake Forest — who so often offer me solace and bring me courage and support — after I return to my home country.
It is strange that I am thinking about this so early as a sophomore, but my early nostalgia feels like chewing on a cucumber. There is a sweet side and a bitter end. Biting on either part means unavoidable suffering — either at present or in the future.
There is no way for me to hold on to any side as long as I wish. With days in the future bleeding into one another, the only thing that I can do is keep checking on my old friends and collect as many special jars of memories at Wake Forest as possible for me to dwell on once I go back home.
However, we can always choose to leave something behind so long as we cannot beat time.
My overwrought feelings are always soothed by my chat records — a record of me and my friends’ lives. I never delete them because they are where I find out on which day in which month and in which year I accidentally dropped my phone in the toilet and lost everything. They are where I found out which afternoon my friend had a boring class and unconsciously finished off an entire bag of sweet potato strips. They allow me to dig out those half-forgotten, half-remembered AP calculus problems we discussed senior year of high school and to remember the boys we never got a chance to cross paths with but whose whereabouts we knew so well.
These are the chat records that I let fill up my phone’s memory instead of deleting. And they are the friends for whom I will click thumbs up for whatever stupid posts they share and stay up until midnight to wish happy birthday. They are a part of me now. Regardless of how often or not they occupy my thoughts, they mean a lot to me.
Likewise, knowing that I have few of my foreign friends’ phone numbers stored in my phone makes me feel less adrift or scared when standing alone — even if I’m in front of Hanes Mall waiting for my Uber driver and four or five strangers get out of a car and fill the air with the pungent smell of cannabis.
Those chat records and phone numbers are what hold me tight. This may sound a little shallow, but my garbage collection and processing center must be guarded by people who love me so much, and who I would love back more.
I still may not have a clear answer to which side of the cucumber I should start biting, but I won’t hesitate to shoot that message saying, “I miss you, I miss you so much” to whoever will be far from me in the future.
Only for better encounters do we trek across distance and time.