An Open Letter to My College Friends

This is something I’ve wanted to write for a while now, but I didn’t know how. If you know me — which you do, more than most people — then you know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. But I guess that isn’t the issue here. The truth is, I have too much to say, so much that I’m afraid I won’t get it out the right way, or do you guys justice.

Just as there’s nothing like your childhood or high school friends, there’s also nothing like your college friends. It’s a different relationship with a different dynamic. You might not know everything about my life before college, but you know who I am now. You know the real me, not the girl molded by teenage standards, but the one who decided to be herself. I finally feel like I belong, and that’s because of you.

When I first started college, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My parents and brothers hugged me goodbye after moving me in, and I walked back up to my new room and cried. I sat on my twin-sized bed, staring at the pictures of my high school friends scattered along my wall, wondering how the hell I was going to survive the next four years on my own.

This place wasn’t home. It didn’t feel like it. Not yet.

But if I had known then that I would’ve crossed paths with you guys, that I wouldn’t ever really be alone, I wouldn’t have been so afraid. I would’ve realized that “home” is actually the feeling you get when your friends hold you close, or the sparkle in their eyes when they’re excited, or the sound of their laughter after a shitty day. It’s not conrete, but it’s all around you.

You guys were there when when I missed my parents, ordering Chinese food and watching Awkward with me for the third week in a row. You dragged my ass out of bed and fixed me a drink when I was in one of my moods. You welcomed me into your group and treated me as more than your friend’s girlfriend, but as your friend, too. You didn’t shame me for spending my senior year hiding in my room and visiting doctors at home every weekend. You didn’t care that I was timid and anxious most of the time, or that I got a bit obnoxious when I drank too much tequila. You accepted me for who I was, and you grew with me. You had my back during the toughest, yet greatest, four years of my life. And for that, I could never repay you.

The morning of my graduation, I found out my brother was sick, that I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. So I left my ceremony in tears and sat cramped in the passenger seat of my car, headed down the turnpike — away from all of you.

I couldn’t find the words to say goodbye, not then. It didn’t feel right.

But I told myself it was okay. We had graduation parties and beach trips; and we weren’t all graduated yet, so I knew I’d be back to visit with a place to stay. I had my brother to worry about then, and I had another 365 days to create more memories with you.

Over this last year, I made sure to do just that. And I’ve learned that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, that you should never pass up a moment to tell someone you care. So that’s what I’m doing right now.

I grow closer to you guys every time we’re together, every time we speak, despite the little amount of time we actually have in person. And now that we’re all going our separate ways, I can’t imagine my life without you in it.

I’ll never forget the late nights ending at Pizza Hut, the philosophical debates at 3 a.m. when we were too drunk to close our eyes, the rainy day mall trips, the action movies, and the dreaded hours at the gym to justify wing night. But I think, most of all, I’ll remember not just the memories, but how they made me feel. How you made me feel.

We weren’t just there for the tipsy dancing on Mexican Mondays or the half apps at Applebee’s on karaoke night. We sat beside each other at a funeral, grew protective during breakups, endured each other’s panic attacks and nights hugging the toilet. We mourned each other’s losses like they were our own, because they were. Because that’s how it works when you’re connected to someone by a bond that surpasses four years of classes, frat parties, and bar hops. Sure, those times were some of the happiest of my life. But they don’t define our relationship. Our memories aren’t all we have; they’re just the beginning.

We could be miles away, scattered throughout the country; but I hope you know that I will always pick up when you call. And I will always love you like my family. Because that’s exactly what you’ve become.

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