My first semester of college, I was hit with a wall of loneliness. My parents dropped me off four hours away from home, and for the first time I was utterly and completely alone.
At first I was hopeful. After all, I was attending a Catholic college, supposedly filled with other students with whom I would attend Mass and watch wholesome movies and discuss Thomas Aquinas.
Don’t laugh. I was naive and excited at the prospect of finally fitting in. It didn’t take long to figure out it was actually just exactly like high school, only with better landscaping and more beer. Fortunately the pond was a lot bigger, so there was bound to be at least one other person looking for friendship. I came up with a two-part plan:
- Strike up conversations with random people.
- Join organizations so I could meet people with similar interests.
This both worked and didn’t. My college was perfect for conversing with a wide range of people, because buses were necessary to get from class to class. In the era before ear buds, I took each bus ride a sort of “speed friendship dating” exercise. Mostly that only worked for the first couple days of school before people became visibly irritated by a bunch of questions from a weirdo girl. An obviously freshman weirdo girl.
I attended several club meetings (with free pizza!), but there weren’t a lot of opportunities to get to know people. (Side note: I did actually meet my future husband at one of the club meetings. So the plan wasn’t a complete bust.) I trimmed down the list of organizations to those I actually wanted to be a part of and resigned myself to four years of good grades and early evenings.
Until I met my Frog.
Do you know the Frog and Toad books? Toad is a worrier. Sort of crotchety. In the Arnold Lobel Personality Test, I lean more Toad. Cautious. Practical. Wart-y.
One afternoon I was sitting on my bed in my dorm, with the door halfway open, knitting. (Good grades and early evenings, right?)
A girl walked in started talking about knitting. Turns out she was just learning as well. All my intentional steps to find a good friend, and Frog just wandered right into my room. All I had to do was leave the door open a little.
Life was different with Frog. Frog who threw caution to the wind and lived life to the fullest. Frog who expected the best in everyone and wasn’t afraid to be a smart girl. Frog was exactly what I needed. She made me try out for choir when I was afraid of getting cut and insisted that I didn’t have to marry everyone I dated in college. (In a classic Toad move I did, actually, but that’s beside the point.)
Frog needed me, too. I was the one who reminded her to grab her insurance card the day we went sledding on “borrowed” lunch trays on The Hill of Death. (Obviously my description, not hers.) I was the one who made sure we looked at a map before wandering around Chicago at night. (I also insisted we only enter crosswalks when the “walk” sign was lit, regardless of the presence or absence of actual cars.) I was the one who gently broke it to her that every boy who crossed her path fell immediately in love with her, and I reminded her to eat lunch on days she was likely to forget.
We spent the next three years helping each other through several majors (her) and awkward social situations (me).
I went to college hoping to find a kindred spirit, and I did. We both liked reading and family and anything homemade. We disagreed on Johnny Depp (eww) and tuna straight from the can (dinner of champions!).
As our lives took different paths after college, I worried that our friendship would fade. I got married a couple weeks after graduating and moved back to my hometown. Frog joined the Peace Core and moved to Kenya.
I didn’t need to worry. Even half a world a part, we still wrote letters. And when she moved back stateside, we were able to pick up right where we left off, chatting for hours on the phone.
It was during this time that I realized why friendship is so special. It’s about being loved without obligation. That’s the beauty– without either the formal commitment of marriage or the lifelong tie of family bonds, friendship is “at will.” To know someone, warts and all, and still choose to maintain contact through thick and thin? That’s true friendship.
Looking back at how hard I worked to try to find a friend, I giggle a little. My whole method was pretty Toad-y. I am grateful that our paths crossed exactly when they did. It’s a reminder that even during the lonely times in life, Frog might be just around the corner with two ice cream cones.
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