On Friends, Social Circles And Needs

Good news on the Grad School Survival Front: I’m still alive. This state is now exponentially more likely to continue until December, due to a variety of factors (including doing well on the latest round of mid-term tests). More updates on the non-grad school happenings will come later.

I’m not a person who deeply regrets events in the past. Stuff screws up. I screw up. I move on and keep moving until the screw up is (a) undone (b) counter-balanced by a ton of non-screwed up stuff. For all I know, if I reached back into the past and did something differently, the universe might have just come around the same way again.

However.

There will come moments when I’m quietly by myself and a thought will suddenly develop in my mind: “Y’know, back when I was in [City, Country, Year] I really should have spent more time/made more effort with x-Group of friends. Those people were really [positive adjective], I should have allocated more time to be with them.” The way that friendship circles work I believe is that the one which form quickest is the ones which form your primary social circle. Hindsight tells me several things:

  • The quickest-forming social circle is not always the “best” one.
  • What you need from your primary social circle usually changes over time.
  • You might not know what you need from a social circle until the ring has closed, as it were.

A past example comes to mind. When moving to a new location, the social circle that formed the quickest was based on a raucous social life (pubs, parties, nights out), gossip and politiking. The partying was actually a good thing in that it forced me to come out of my introverted shell and loosen up a bit. The gossiping and social politics that fuelled our friendships and daily talk wore me down after a while, though. Then when I slipped out of the loop for a bit I returned to a backlog of new gossip and reshuffled dynamics…and just couldn’t re-integrate. I realised that I needed new things that this group of friends couldn’t easily provide me with: day-time alcohol-free fun, supportive cohesion rather than divisive factions, more sedate “just hanging out” opportunities.

Needs change with my life circumstances. When I moved to Philadelphia first time around I needed a solid base of locals who would help me feel connected to the city as I adjusted to living in a new country. When I returned to the USA for grad school I quickly realised that I need grounded, fun friends who liked to do interesting things (i.e, help me forget that I was a grad student). That doesn’t even mean I need to re-prioritise social circles, just tweak the activities I do with them (“Hey, who wants to go on a roadtrip to Las Vegas?”).

I hosted a couple of housewarming/farewell parties while I was a student in Edinburgh. It was always quite noticeable that there were two distinct groups at these gatherings, neither of which had any familiarity with the other. Having two or more social circles is something that I consider quite important – I’ll never manage a perfect 50-50 split, but I try to devote my energies 60-40 or 70-30 between my social circles.

That is what I consider one of the benefits of moving country, actually. It is a chance to say “Actually, I’d like to have a group of friends who enjoy intelligent banter and adventurous sport activities – I’m going to join a rock climbing club in my new city.”

I’m grateful for the social circles I have and have had, even the ones that I’ve moved away from. The good friends always remain, even if I disbanded my circle that contained them. I don’t have a whole lot of time in grad school, but I know I have enough to maintain and form new friendships. That’s integral.

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One thought on “On Friends, Social Circles And Needs

  1. First, just want to say I love the blog. Found from GradCafe.

    Secondly, great post about making friends. It’s such an integral part of the enjoyment we get from new places and experiences. When starting somewhere new it’s easy to seek company in anyone that’ll have you. I’ll have to think about these types of scenarios also next year when going to Grad School.
    Good luck!

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