You know those friends? Yeah, those friends. The friends that flake on you, the friends that require constant attention, the friends that make fun of you but then take it back immediately after you nervously laugh it off. They can be old friends that you’ve had since you were young but have always stayed around, the new friends that you just met in September or those people in the middle that are somehow just always there.
Although difficult to recognize at times, these kinds of friends can often be some of the most toxic people in our lives. Whether it is needing to constantly reassure them of your friendship, or acting like their therapist rather than a friend, at some point many of us come to ask ourselves, “Is this friendship worth maintaining?”
As college students, we meet new people every day. Especially as a first-year, it feels like I’m constantly getting introduced to new people, even in Spring Quarter. This has made me realize that friendships are constantly changing, as there are simply so many people on this campus.
Now, I’m not saying that every friendship is inherently draining and should be questioned; however, I think, as a whole, college students need to become better at self-care in terms of determining which friendships are actually healthy. This is not high school, people. We don’t have classes with the same people five days a week, we do not have the same dependence on finding a group of people to eat lunch with and, thank god, we are not stuck in the same place for seven hours of our day.
Instead, we have freedom. And not only does this mean being able to choose where we eat lunch and what classes we take, but it also means choosing who we spend our time with. This means that friendships are not obligatory, and we can find people who truly make us feel happy and fulfilled.
College students need to become better at self-care in terms of determining which friendships are actually healthy.
However, I am not saying that this task is easy. In the complicated social life of college, your friends are usually connected to your other friends to create a complex web of people you know, but do not always like. So, trying to get rid of a toxic friend that sits within a group of people you generally like is almost impossible. And I am not saying that I have all the solutions to these types of awkward situations; what I am saying is that it is important to recognize people in your life that repeatedly annoy and drain you. This doesn’t mean they are inherently horrible people — you just don’t want them in your house constantly, eating your beloved Ben & Jerry’s The Tonight Dough.
I myself have had a series of epiphanies this quarter especially. I have reached the end of the honeymoon phase where everyone is nice, funny and a great friend. Some people are just friends more so out of obligation or for convenience, as we just don’t click with everybody. The same goes for friends in high school as well. At UCSB, I have learned what I want in my friends and the people I surround myself with. In high school, friends were more handed to us through similar activities and classes, but here, as we constantly cycle through who we see, we have the amazing ability to narrow down who we see in our daily schedule based on a prioritized list of qualities that we want in friends.
There is a difference between loving your friends for their faults and tolerating a toxic friendship because we are too nice or too lazy to express our feelings. Loving your friends for who they are should not translate to making you feel degraded or hurt constantly, but rather means appreciating the diversity amongst friends. This does not mean we should berid anyone that seems slightly irritating, as some of my best friends are individuals who I did not originally click with. However, that only means that active communication is even more important, so both friends understand each other and their wishes.
Here, as we constantly cycle through who we see, we have the amazing ability to narrow down who we see in our daily schedule based on a prioritized list of qualities that we want in friends.
For many of us, it can be easier to recognize these qualities within romantic partners. Of course, this does not always mean that a break-up is clean, as sometimes even the most disgusting of partners tend to stick around, whether we like it or not. However, just like how our friends would tell us to break up with a person who is treating us poorly, I am also saying that this break-up, although messy and stressful, can also happen with friends, whether we’ve known them for 10 years or 10 months. At the same time, it is also important to understand that people are capable of change, and sometimes communicating your feelings is the most important step toward mending a broken friendship.
Taking care of others can often be easier than taking care of ourselves. We make excuses for them and tell ourselves that they aren’t that bad, that they’ll get better, but then five years later, they’re still eating The Tonight Dough out of your fridge while you glare at them from across the living room. But, as adults now trying to navigate through the complex social scene of UCSB, it is important for us to prioritize our own lives and search for meaningful friendships that make us feel happy. We do not have to put up with people who make us feel like shit or people who never put in any effort. We are adults, and it’s time we start having friendships with people who are adult enough to be good friends too.
Grace Wiley is a first year who emphasizes the importance of finding and maintaining genuine friendships within the complex social scene of college.