The door to my dorm room in Champlin creaked open, my eyes following suit as I squinted into the offensive beam of light from the hallway. “Yo.” Will’s voice shattered any chance of staying asleep, so I pushed myself up onto my elbows. “What the he-”
“Let’s go to the gym,” he said.
I glanced at the clock. 5:50 a.m. “What?”
“Come on, it’ll be fun.”
“No way dude, I need to sleep.” I rolled over and planted my face as firmly as I could into my pillow, hoping to send a clear message. He stayed in the doorway — for 10 more minutes.
At the beginning of spring semester, a lot of first years may feel like their friend groups have begun to solidify. Others may still be trying to figure out who their real friends are. Some might even be looking for a way out of the groups they arbitrarily fell into in the frenzy of the first few weeks of school. I definitely felt a lot of uncertainty about who I really got along with and cared about in my first year at Brown. Four years later, I am still struck by the unpredictability of the people who have become my closest friends. There is nothing that my enduring friendships share except for that they have endured — no characteristic, timing or shared interest can possibly forecast the trajectory of these relationships.
Will did get me to go to the gym with him, but not that morning. Not the next day, nor the next semester, nor the next year. In January 2018, two full years after that first attempt, I started going to the gym with Will, and have been almost every day since. Though it’s a simple ritual, that arc is the best nutshell explanation of my friendship with Will. He pushes me in ways (including, but not limited to working out) that make me better. He never lets up, and he doesn’t apologize for it. And as occasionally frustrating as that can be, it’s exactly what makes him such a good friend. Beyond the fun conversations, lunches and even real care you can have for a number of people, one genuine test of a close friendship is whether it can stand a little bit of pushing, ideally in both directions. We’ve had fights, but between Will’s persistence and my ability to escalate his shenanigans, we’ve also helped each other out of (and into) a lot of unlikely situations and come out the other side a little closer every time.
On the other hand, the majority of my closest friendships could not be more different from my friendship with Will. I was lucky enough to meet three people on my very first day — the first of many exciting, yet horrifyingly uncertain, days at Brown — who have stuck by my side as we have grown together through our time at this university. Our conversations are entirely different from those I have with Will; the types of things we do together even more disparate. Instead of working out, we cook or play music together. While Will and I challenge each other constantly, these other friendships thrive on a simple willingness to let our guard down around each other, built over time by experiences we shared simply because we were open to them. There’s no singular event — not biking in a hurricane, not scavenging furniture from Providence streets, running Spartan Races, or even road tripping to North Carolina — that made us best friends. But these memories add up to friendships that will transcend the convenient proximity of College Hill.
As our schedules have gotten busier and our activities more varied, we have spent less and less time doing those things, but that has never been a major factor in the relationship. There’s an important difference between wanting to spend time with someone and needing them around that demonstrates a certain measure of trust — a critical aspect of steady friendships that lets you spend your time in other ways without worrying about the latter.
Thus, my semesters have been more often characterized by the people who — through lucky schedule alignment or some other circumstance — briefly become a significant part of my day to day life. Some of those relationships have translated to occasional-but-fulfilling long conversations about books over tea, while some have simply faded and a few others crashed and burned. But the paths of these arcs are impossible to foresee. Could I have known that the potential transfer I met during my first year would become a climbing buddy four years later? Or that I’d completely stop talking to the person who took the most classes with me? Or that in my last year on campus, I would meet some of the best people in any of my four years? There is no normative metric that could have told me how much those people would impact my life.
When I think about the friends I’ve made, maintained, and even lost at Brown, it always surprises me how extraordinarily different — and unpredictable — those friendships can be. If you open yourself up to where the unexpected relationships in your life can take you, you might get hurt and you might waste a little time — but you’ll also make new friends all the time. By maintaining an openness to relationships that sometimes defy rules of time or proximity, you allow yourself to be changed and made better in ways you would never expect. In the end, the ones who stick around will be more than worth the trouble.
Benjamin Bosis ’19 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.