I’ve been told that you meet a lot of temporary people between the ages of 16 and 22. I’ve found that to be true.
Your late teens and early twenties are the only years of your life when you’re consistently caught in the balance between being selfish and responsible, adolescent and adult, wise and curious (the list goes on). It’s generally a lose-lose when you’re saddled with the myriad of feelings that comes with this balancing act.
“Am I supposed to be an adult who’s focused on forging my way in society? Or am I supposed to be out there experiencing it all and worrying about the rest later?”
Who freaking knows. One thing I do know is that this journey isn’t one that any of us takes solo. You’ll undoubtedly will end up crossing paths with a lot of people who, just like you, are trying to make sense of their role in the world. I know I did. Here are some of the key players who showed up, played their part (however small), and helped me emerge on the other side of 22, unscathed and thriving.
I had a high school boyfriend who set everything I thought I knew about dating on fire. He was a toxic mix of Prince Charming-level charisma and insecurity, and eventually I decided he wasn’t worth the pain. He taught me that I could say “no” when faced with a difficult question that could determine the rest of my life.
Hanging out with the senior girls was, to me, the coolest thing ever (at first). They looked like adults, they could drive after 9:00, and they always knew where the best party was. I felt popular and untouchable. They weren’t bad people; they were just in a phase of life I wasn’t ready for yet. They taught me that rushing the business of growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
My first college roommate was perfect on paper. She was from a city near my hometown and had some similar interests as me. We even met up at an Olive Garden before school started to discuss our future best-friendship. By living together, though, we found that we were complete opposites. She taught me that you can be nice to someone even if you really, really don’t enjoy their company.
Given my roommate situation during my first semester at college, I turned to my hallmates for comfort and friendship. We were all incredibly different. Some were even from different continents, but a good bit of us still keep up with each other today. They showed me that sometimes you have to make your own community when the one you’ve been given doesn’t quite do it for you.
After being turned down by my first choice university for studying abroad, I was devastated. That didn’t last long, though; I ended up shipping off to Glasgow for six months and immediately clicked with a few of the girls in my dorm. In retrospect, it seems to me like there really is no such thing as an accident. These women taught me that you can be from any country and still find things that connect you forever.
I also joined a sorority when I was 20?the one I had been dying to be a part of since I was a freshman. After getting married, though, I’ve lost touch with all but about 4 of my sisters. They’ve taught me that love is still valid even words aren’t exchanged for months, but that those who really want to stay in touch with you just will.
I started working for a university upon my move after marriage and, despite my best efforts, compared it constantly to the one I had loved and experienced so much at. My first set of work friends taught me that just because something is different than what I’m used to, it doesn’t make it a bad thing.
I also had a brief stint with a real estate business upon graduation. These people taught me that some human beings are really just assholes.
So what is there to take from all of this?
Some temporary friends were good and some were borderline sociopaths, but they were all vital. They were key players in helping me cultivate who I am and what I believe (as of right now, anyway). It’s true that friends come and go; in a way, that very instability is part of the beauty of twentysomething life. I also believe that it’s true that some of those friends who’ve gone are the ones to whom we owe the biggest of thanks.
Main image via i-D