I don’t know if you’ve heard DJ Khaled’s song, “No New Friends” (okay, Drake is the one who whines the chorus, but give credit where credit is due), but I have, and I take issue with it. (And let us assume, for a few minutes, that I am not a twenty-something year old rapper with millions of dollars in disposable income.)
What, exactly, is the problem with acquiring new friends? Does their addition to your date book and contacts list threaten your old friends? Are they too demanding on your limited resources of affection and time? Do they chew with their mouths open or bad-mouth your profession? Are their belief systems uncomfortably challenging to your own? What is it, Drake? What?
As a professional living in a big city in her mid-twenties, the prospect of new friends is not only permissible, it is incredibly appealing. I moved out of my small hometown about a year and a half ago, and while I have met some people I would now consider friends, there are many occasions where I find myself subtly seeking even more individuals with which to share my platonic affections. If you’re reading this and shaking your head in astonished disbelief, Drake, then just hold on. Allow me to explain.
I was pretty popular in high school, if you can even qualify as ‘popular’ in a graduating class of 63 people. I considered myself friends, or acquaintances, at the very least, with the majority of my class. I made a point of being strange and silly and making people laugh – at me, or with me; the majority of the time it didn’t matter. I avoided lifetime membership to any one clique, preferring to bounce from lunch table to lunch table, identity to identity. Can’t catch me, White Preppy Girls, because now I’m rapping obnoxiously loudly with the Unfriendly Black Hotties! But don’t you worry, Sarcastic Nerds, I’ve got my copy of Half Blood Prince and my highlighter; I’ll see you in our sixth period book club (read: study hall). I had the system down. That’s what’ll happen when you attend the same school with the same people for twelve years. You become a bit comfortable.
College, therefore, paralyzed me like a shot in the back, leaving me unable to function with my previous ease. It was the classic ‘small fish in a big pond’ situation. Here’s a tip: if you’ve been accustomed to very small, nurturing environment your entire life, you probably shouldn’t hurtle headfirst into a situation where you’re a nobody in a sea of other loud, vulgar, oftentimes smelly nobodies. In other words, do not –DO NOT – attend a state school. There were so many people around me, I didn’t know how to function normally. So I threw myself into social situations with the grace of drunk hippopotamus (the main difference being I was not, in fact, a hippopotamus). Once I realized that the hangovers and residual humiliation were probably not worth a few hours of ‘fun’, I began trying to make friends in other, less sloppy ways: I auditioned for a dance group, joined a gospel choir, and began attending Classics Club meetings.
All of my attempts failed, for one reason or another, and I gave up and retreated into a shell of misery, loneliness, and boredom until my study abroad year. Life in England was brand new and exciting, and I vowed to start afresh: alluring French man staying in my hostel invites me to a party of another stranger? Why not? People at said party find me interesting and converse with me in broken English? Beautiful! Get their numbers! Try to learn to speak their languages! See, Drake, I was able to make new friends, and I could even get international with it. Rutgers may have been the bottom, but I was definitely, finally here.
…Until May, when classes ended and my Visa expired and I had to go home.
I graduated with a profound attitude of ‘good riddance’ and, beneath that, a sadder, angrier attitude of ‘wow, how much happier would I be if I had spent the past four years at a school that I liked?’ Alas, time, as is its wont, goes on, and bitterness is something that one must cope with, day to day. I knew I would never get those years back, never regain the seemingly limitless amount of time to find people you connect with and love and want to keep in your life as you mature and continue to reach memorable milestones. Don’t get me wrong: I did meet such people in college. My regret was that I could count those people on one hand.
Am I greedy, Drake, for craving a larger and more varied community of friends? Maybe I am. Maybe I should focus on maintaining the friendships I already have, you say. Pop more champagne, throw around our imaginary hundred dollar bills, you know, #justgirlythings. This is good advice, but allow me to posit that while appreciating your friend circle is important, healthy, and more than worthy of praise, it is equally important to be inclusive of potential new friends. Don’t deny them from the outset; how do you know they won’t be an amazing contribution to your life, and vice versa? This playground snobbery is beneath you, Drake. You only live once; that’s the motto. Open up and let them in (unless, of course, they’re only after you for your money and fame, in which case, have them kicked out of the club for having the audacity to breathe your air. Swag.).
This post appeared on The Penny Ledger on October 2, 2013.