Graduation weekend — the best/worst weekend of my life – passed by in a blur. Four years later, I can sort out only a few impressions from the haze of memories and emotions: the sweet mimosas we drank at The Virginian, the brightly colored balloons that tracked faithfully our journey from undergraduates to alumni, and the rain that fell in torrents as we toasted U.Va. late into the night.
This haze (mercifully) persisted through the goodbyes I had to say to the friends who had become my family. One, however, was jarring enough to knock me out of my amnesic fog. It was to a friend’s mother, who said to me, “Now, make sure you keep Jeffrey around. He’s not good at keeping in touch, so make sure you stay in his life.”
At the time, I thought, “What does that mean?! Of course we’ll stay in touch!” But two jobs and two moves later, I get it. Life picks up after you leave college, and quickly. And, as long as plane tickets are expensive, vacation days scarce, and teleportation not yet available for public use (seriously science, get it together), frequent reunions with our college friends will remain a distant pipedream. Until then, I’ve found the following to be helpful in outsmarting the time and distance determined to keep you apart:
Embrace the Power in Numbers
Most of today’s technological advances are geared toward doing more with less, and communication is no exception. After graduation, e-mail threads with large groups, once dreaded parasites on your inbox, can become saviors of sanity. There’s also the added benefit of having multiple people to hold you accountable for participation. Remember what happened in college to the guy who checked out of the party early? Yeah. Hell hath no fury like friends ignored.
Put it on Your Calendar
For individual catch ups, you should never count on people not being busy. In fact, you should assume that people have absolutely zero free time. These are, after all, your friends from U.Va. and old habits die hard. It sounds cold, but it’s a good idea to carve out time by sending calendar invitations. If you treat “catching-up” like a meeting or an appointment, you are much more likely to keep it sacred, thereby avoiding the dooming game of phone tag that nobody ever wins.
There’s this fear of being overly aggressive in trying to contact people, even friends, because, understandably, nobody wants to seem needy. But this isn’t some person you met at a bar last weekend; these are the people who have known you, and still accepted you, at your worst and at your best. So call them a million times. Text them even when they haven’t responded to the last one. Extort them if you have to! I have shamelessly threatened to call my friend’s mother after I had left 5 messages for him to call me back (for the record, super effective.).
Back in college, my friend Brittany and I watched a lot of basketball games together (we were Joe Harris fans before he was JOE HARRIS). To this day, she still shoots me a short text on important game days to cheer a victory or lament a loss. It doesn’t matter whether or not we’ve had a proper conversation last week or last year; she’s thinking of me, and letting me know. Little gestures like that go a long way in reminding far-away friends that they are still present in your life.
The truth is that, no matter how deep the bonds of U.Va. run, your relationships are going to change. Some friends will fit easily into the cadence of your new life, but others will require more of an effort. Everyone is busy, but a little thoughtfulness, planning, and, well, sacrifice, can mean the difference between being in the wedding party and being “that guy who might still live in San Francisco(?)”. The time and energy is always worth it. Even if it means you miss the UVA vs. Duke re-match in the ACC championship.
HA just kidding. Friends don’t let friends miss a beat down on Dook.
Post by Jenna Mullady (CLAS ’11). Connect with Jenna on LinkedIn.
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