When I was a sophomore in college, I lived on campus in an all-girls dorm. It was a beautiful five building affair (I think), all austere old brick, and I always felt like I was walking up to Hogwarts or something, just on an obviously much less impressive, much less magical scale. I didn’t know my roommates well at all when I agreed to live with them, and while I knew several other girls by appearance, from the christian campus organization I was minimally involved in at the time, I didn’t really have any friends for the first few months I lived there. It was a pretty lonely couple months.
Two times a week, I’d be walking to class in the afternoon, and I’d see this girl I knew, by appearance and name only, walking back from class. We’d pass each other on the sidewalk, sometimes awkwardly nodding at each other, usually avoiding eye contact altogether. I felt sure she was way too cool to be friends with me.
Then that fall, at the annual retreat held by that christian organization, something intangible and almost mystical happened. One night, during a concert, I think, put on by the worship band, several girls were dancing in the back together, including me, one of my roommates, and this girl, Grace. (Yeah, we were in our hippie phase, okay? Long skirts, dancing and twirling, bare feet. I look back on it with fondness, despite the fact that it’s an obvious cliche. It was real, then.) And we just became friends, right in that moment. I don’t even remember what prompted it, but I remember hugging Grace, both of us laughing, breathless from dancing, and it was like we knew we were the same, and our silly insecurities weren’t going to stop us from being friends. And we’ve been friends ever since: she was in my wedding and I in hers, she’s expecting her first baby and we actually talk on the phone sometimes (remarkable for two self-professed awkward people who hate the phone). Later, she said that she felt certain that I was too cool to be friends with her, all those times we’d walked by each other on the sidewalk. Funny, how we both had the same fear, how often that happens, and yet how we can’t shake it.
That was years ago, now. Maybe eight years have passed, and in all that time, I think sometimes that I’ve progressed, moved beyond that feeling that people probably don’t want to be friends with me. But today, twice, I’ve had similar thoughts to the ones I had about Grace all those years ago. First I thought that my friendship with a person was likely more important to me than to them. Second, I thought (again!) that another person was way too cool to be friends with me, and I, like, don’t even want her to see my patchwork house. Let alone how few cute items of clothing I have, especially now that I’m postpartum. Because that’s what friendship is all about, right?
And I wonder, now, if I’ll ever get past that. If it will ever get to the point where I don’t have to take months to talk myself into making a new friend. If I’ll ever be able to just rest in a friendship and accept it for what it is to me, instead of worrying about what it is to them. If I’ll just be free from that insecurity, or if this will be the one I can’t shake.
P.s. I met my husband at that retreat, too. My husband and all of my college friends. It’s funny how something that provided so little substance or had so little lasting importance in my life, like that campus organization, also completely changed the course of my future, albeit in a second-hand sort of way.