to let go of a place (and/or people) that made you who you are, I can’t without feeling dishonest. To some degree, I have already done this. I think about the people who were my best friends in high school: TJ, PD, and RB. These guys were my whole world. We were on the phone for hours every day, hung out after school and on weekends at each others’ houses, passed notes back and forth in the hallways… I would have been hard pressed to tell someone about myself without talking about them. Those friendships and the way I developed while I was in that tiny group was, at the time, entirely indicative of who I am. If you’d asked me then, I couldn’t imagine not being friends with them any more at X point in the future.
…And now I barely even talk to any of the three of them. PD and I stayed the closest throughout the past four years, but even that closeness is like, months and months of not talking and then a very long and emotional catch up session, often in person. TJ and RB and I are still all totally cool with each other. We hang out in groups when we’re home and it’s really easy to fall back into familiarity with each other, even as we change, but that bond we had is gone. The people we were then are gone. Erased. Forever. Changed immutably by the new places we’ve gone, experiences we’ve had, people we’ve come to know and love and define ourselves according to our relationships with. I don’t regret being the girl I was when that was my life, but I also wouldn’t want to go back there for a second, even if it meant regaining those friendships and that experience, even though they once occupied nearly the entirety of my heart.
There are friends from high school with whom I did keep in fairly regular contact during high school: TN, SH, and FO. TN and SH are the two people in the world I’ve been closest to for the longest period of time, and though our friendships have gone through lots of changes over the years, I’m pretty damn confident they’re going to be my friends for the rest of my life, though the contexts and contents of our friendships will change. FO and I didn’t really become friends until after high school, when I was already in the process of undergoing substantive Princetonian change, so he fit right into my “new me” life with all of my friends from school.
And then I changed from the person I thought I needed to be to be a Princetonian (aka “Freshman Year Maya”) to the person Princeton actually made me. Remember, in the acknowledgements of my thesis, I thanked the University as a whole “for introducing me to myself and allowing me to reintroduce myself”. In so many ways, from what’s on my head to what’s in it, from what I wear to where I am, from intellectual development to more intimate ones, I feel in this moment as though I was never in my life as “me” as I am now, as these four years have made me.
…The only thing that keeps tripping me up is this: I don’t feel like four years ago, when my family sat on the bleachers at Oakcrest High School for my graduation like we did for my little sister on Thursday, I would have told you that I *didn’t* feel like myself. Perhaps, had I already absorbed sociological/psychological language, I would have said that I often felt like a passive participant in the construction of my self. If I was feeling particularly introspective, I could have told you I didn’t feel like I was my WHOLE self with anyone. But even that didn’t make me feel like who I was wasn’t “real”, even if that realness was separated into bits and pieces to be shared in different spaces. So if that self was real and this self is real, but somehow to a higher degree than the old self because I’m actively working to make and maintain the person I am now, then there’s no way of knowing whether in 2, 5, or 10 years I’ll still be this self. Well, okay, actually it’s a pretty sure bet I’ll be different in a lot of ways, but will I look back on these old blog posts and still recognize myself in the person I am now? I don’t know.
And that terrifies me. Not because I’m afraid of change or because I absolutely love the person I am now (though I am pretty happy with myself, if I’m being honest), but because I don’t want what happened with my friendships with TJ, PD, and RB to happen with my friendships with KS and EY. I’m scared that my deepest closest most intimate friendships are the ones that are most vulnerable to falling apart when I undergo deep intimate change. I mean, it makes sense, right? When the whole of who you are is wrapped up in this friendship and then the whole of who you are changes…I think only time can tell whether the friendship is strong enough to stand the change.
But you know, I think there is one thing that I share with my college friends, both the closest of the close and just the people I’m good friends with (hell, and even with all the random internet people who read this blog), that I didn’t have with even my closest friends from high school. It’s a word I toss around in the classroom a lot. It’s a word that interests me when you put an identity category in front of it or the word “politics” behind it. With these people, I feel authentic. I don’t feel like I’m taking on roles I don’t want or playing up some aspect of myself to fit in…I feel like I just kind of came along and laid myself bare on a table or something and they were like cool and rolled with it. I don’t ever feel like I’m frontin’, and though I would never have been comfortable using the word frontin’ four years ago, I couldn’t have said that about the vast majority of my closest friends from home at the time. I was able to be vulnerable with those people like I am able to be vulnerable with these people, but not wholly, not in all the ways I needed to be. I wasn’t able to be strong when I needed to be with them either, sometimes. I had to pretend sometimes, like I don’t know. Like I don’t want to in the future. Like I refuse to in the future.
So, am I going to stay absolutely as close with my best friends from college as we were in college for the rest of ever? Of course not. That’s absurd. We’re in different places and leading separate lives and off on our own great adventures. We’re going to figure out how people in “the real world” make friends and make new best friends in our respective places. I certainly wouldn’t be upset if EY and I talk every day like we did when she studied abroad junior fall, but I’m certainly not going to demand it either. The demand I will make is that I never want to fall out of touch with the people who mean the most to me right now. I never want to not know where they are or what they’re up to; I don’t want it to be weird if I call/text/email/facebook/tweet them on a whim. I also want to let myself grow in ways only DC can make me grow, like Princeton made me grow in ways only Princeton could have made me grow. There’s no point in starting a new chapter if you don’t give it the opportunity to affect you deeply, right?