Smirl Meets World: Navigating changing relationships

I’ve never been a big fan of change. When I get to a point in life where I am comfortable and happy with everything, I don’t want anything to cause that to change. Yet, starting college meant I had to become a lot more comfortable with things being uncomfortable for a little bit. Not only did most of how I was living my daily life change, but the relationships I had with nearly every person in my life changed a lot as well. How do you maintain a relationship with a significant other who now goes to a school almost five hours away? And how do you keep enough in touch with your mom or dad after you realize just how much they did on a daily basis to help you when you still lived at home? What about friendships? Even if you go to the same college as friends after high school, how do you figure out time to see each other?

I have asked myself every single one of these questions and plenty more on a very regular basis since starting college. At first, I naively thought maybe all the relationships we have stay the same, just where we go to school or where we live may change slightly. I quickly discovered I had a lot to learn, though. 

Dating in high school, especially as a senior, makes you feel like you’re almost an adult, with the ability to drive and spend time with one another pretty much whenever you were free, and if you go to the same school you see each other every single day. Yet I have realized when you reach college, the free time you have seems to become a lot smaller, and the drives you have to take to see one another become a lot longer, even hours longer for some of us. Coming home at the end of the day in high school, my parents were always there to offer dinner or ask about my day, and even if I was being a typical angsty teenager who didn’t want to talk about my day, I still had the comfort of knowing the two people that care about me the most are a room away. Now, I have to make that effort to call them and check in or plan days where I have time to come home for dinner to see my family. Friendships may change the most out of all relationships. Nearly all of us make new friends in our first few weeks of college, especially if we live with a new roommate (or several). So, how do our old friends fit in our lives when seeing each other during the day is nowhere near as easy as walking to the cafeteria and sitting at the table you know they’re always sitting in.

Even though all of these changes are difficult to adapt to and navigate, what I’ve come to understand is that now my relationships are actually adult ones. This is not the illusion of adulthood we experienced in our final years of high school, this is what becoming an adult is really like. So even though the change can be new (and scary for some of us), I’ve found it’s best to follow the advice my mom always gave me and to “lean into it.” You can’t go backward and relive old relationships or go back to how they used to be, so keep pushing forward and adapting to your new life, and everyone in your life will follow.

Rileigh Smirl can be contacted at [email protected]