Dunbar: High school friends are worth keeping

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Blair Dunbar, Columnist

The holidays have ended, and it’s back to school. All the telltale signs are evident in Evanston and on campus. There are the “Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in so long,” screams in the halls, the lines at Beck’s and the closets full of clean clothes. Most of you likely spent your holiday break in one of three ways: on vacation, at home bored or at home catching up with your buds from high school.

I had quite a few people to see over break. I have had the same core group of friends since fourth grade, and to this day we have three annual sleepovers and a Secret Santa gift exchange. True, we are only sophomores, and they say the older you get, the further you drift apart from your high school relations. Most seniors I know haven’t seen or talked to anyone from high school in more than a year, and my boyfriend spent the majority of his break at home by himself. But when I picture myself 10 years down the road, I see four of my friends from high school in the foreground, and most of my college friends as tiny dots in the distance.

The thing is, I used to think I would meet the best friends of my life in college, the friends that would be in my bridal party at my wedding. After all, they blatantly tell you while you’re pledging a sorority that these are going to be your sisters for the rest of time. But whenever I feel like bursting into tears or throwing someone out a window, my first instinct is not to run downstairs to the living room of my sorority house. Rather, I choose to call one of my three best friends, none of whom attend Northwestern. Don’t get me wrong, I do have friends at college, but only a handful know me beyond a surface level.

I used to think there was something wrong with me. Maybe I just wasn’t noticeable in the large pool of students on campus. Or maybe my lack of peppiness was off-putting. But then I realized I wasn’t alone. One of my closest friends on campus spends four hours on Friday talking to her friends from her hometown, and the majority of my cousin’s Facebook pictures are with her two best friends from high school.

I recently asked one of my best friends who was better: her college friends or me? She said, “You because I have known you longer.” I responded, “But you will always have known me longer.” She just smiled. And that’s the key.

I have known my closest friends for 11 years. I have only been at Northwestern for a year and a half. While you may spend more hours of the day with your friends in college than you did with your friends in high school, one and a half years just doesn’t equal 11. I don’t need to explain any problem in my life because my high school friends already know my life story. They can predict what I will say or do and are never surprised by my strange quirks. We have no boundaries. You don’t come by that kind of closeness easily.

The longer you know people, the more leeway you are likely to give them. What’s a deal-breaker for someone you have just met might be hardly noticeable in a friend you have known for years. After a while, the time you invested in those years of friendship becomes too important to throw away, while a few weeks of friendship is easier to forget. I once told my friend from home she would have to commit premeditated murder for me to discard our friendship. I can think of a whole slew of other reasons, like second-degree murder, that would lead me to break ties with one of my sorority sisters.

I’m not saying that you can’t make great college friends. We just shouldn’t try so hard to move on from our past. Old friends can be worth holding onto. Those are the people who watched you grow into the person you are now. And another great thing about old friends? It’s never too late to give them a call.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].