Lesson Learned: College Friends vs. Work Friends

During freshman year,  I became very good friends with my roommates. We were such good friends, in fact, that we remained roommates throughout our undergraduate years. Our friendship blossomed because we were open to learning about one another, shared a similar sense of humor, a love of food and Law and Order: SVU, and many other similarities though we came from different parts of New York.

someE

Our group consisted of one Italian-Irish girl from Long Island who was obsessed with Eminem and Degrassi; one Cape Verdian girl from the wild streets of Westchester County who also loved Degrassi and all things Drake’s eyebrows; one Italian girl born in Mahopac and Tennessee-transplant with her two younger sisters and single-mother as a teen—her love was her incredible grandfather; one Bronx-raised girl who scared the living daylights out of me, but who was actually a genuinely sweet and sensitive person committed to success; and then there was I—Dominican-born, Bronx-raised girl obsessed with sarcasm and romance novels. Combine all these and you had a power-keg mix of personalities that sometimes clashed, yet matured together (with the exception of one member’s departure) and a true network of genuine friendships that sustained. Along the way we added several others to our group with a very special individual coming into our midst during our second year together—a powerhouse committed to protecting her friends and having a blast from a small town called Hurleyville.

sailor

Late night pizza-eating, alcohol-soaked weekends, birthday cake celebrations on the day of, family dinners, and many other events led to an incredible living experience with my friends. I mean I had it made. I could have bitchin’ conversations ranging from trivial complaints about rude people on campus to serious ‘why am I like this?’ by simply walking a couple feet from my bed. I could also take a breather and have alone time in my room. I had the best of both worlds. Nothing I write with adequately emphasize how significant and incredible it was to be surrounded by people who’d seen you at your worst—and at your ugliest—and still laughed with you after the smoke cleared. They became my family. Living away from home didn’t bother me at all because I lived with a cool group of women and I was getting my education on. Score, y’all! In fact, coming home for the summer felt odd and I was always anxious to ‘return to my home’ aka school.

After graduating in May 2013, I did the typical thing and moved back home with my parents. I was determined to obtain the internships I never focused on getting while in college to segway myself into the TV/Film industry with the eventual goal of screenwriting. You may wonder, ‘why didn’t you get any internships while in college?’ Let’s be real here—I was lazy and thought napping when I wasn’t in class, and chilling with food, was more important than committing myself to any extracurricular activities. I gained over 40 lbs while at college and I regret nothing because I loved eating all that junk. However, I then found myself starting from ground zero concerning my desired career because I didn’t study film outside of two courses in college. Eventually I landed two internships at two different production houses. Yay!

intern life

These internships thrust me into a casual corporate environment wherein people in the creative industry surrounded me. Executives wore jeans and t-shirts, and used words like ‘fuck’. People also surrounded me around my age again meaning new friends! Since returning home, I’d had a 180-degree shift in my social activity with people my age. My friends from college, whom I didn’t realize I’d relied on so much for my regular dose of social interactions, were now not mere feet from me. They were hours away from me and these bitches didn’t reply to my texts in a satisfactory amount of time. I was deserted. I spent so much time nurturing those relationships, and a few select ones that I’d gained from classmates and coworkers, that I barely maintained any meaningful contacts back in my home of New York City besides my best friend. I was certain these internships would lead to friendships that were, though not identical, similar to the ones I’d maintained during college. I would become friends with fellow oddballs in New York City and go out to bars or dancing, and have a grand old time.

mindy

I was disappointed to realize that just because you share intimate details, laugh together, and talk about random stuff on the daily while at work doesn’t mean you’re friends. It means you’re work friends. I honestly felt so ‘thirsty’ and I might as well have had a red cardboard sign hanging around my neck that read ‘Please, be my friend.’ I’d always had people that I’d target and say to myself, ‘I want to be her/his friend’, and I’d go about charming the individual with my normal vulgar and dramatic self. At a certain point it’s almost like dating. First, you’re drawn to this person. Then, you try to engage in regular conversations no matter how trivial. Next, you see if you can up the relationship by adding him/her on social media. Eventually, hopefully, you get those digits. Somewhere along the way you’ve probably hung out once or twice. One thing I learned in college is that drinking together facilitates social interactions so you naturally invite the person out for drinks.

milton

What I failed to realize was that, though I am basically starting from scratch in the friendship department here in New York City, these people already had their groups. The girls I tried to hang out with on a weekend or after work usually already had plans to go out with either girlfriends or a significant other. What the French? Sure, there would be the ‘let’s hang out’ spoken, but it wasn’t sincere and I was hurt. Why won’t you be my friend? Why won’t you invite me for outside-the-office adventures like you do with other coworkers? It reminded me of the times an established group, or clique, would have a new person who was attempting to penetrate the pack. It usually took a while for the penetration to successfully happen. I was usually within the group already, but this time I was the interloper. Well, this was an unpleasant twist.

officeSPACE

What I’m describing is mainly in regards to two coworkers I genuinely wanted to be friends with, but who didn’t seem to reciprocate my desire. These girls were not mean in anyway. They were sweet and kind and funny. I’d tell them all about my boring weekend, my dissatisfaction with my tasks, my terrible financial situation and they’d reciprocate with details of the restaurant they went to with family or their recent adventures. In my eyes, we were stacking bricks and cementing a possible friendship, but it didn’t seem that they were genuinely interested in building the same friendship house. Eventually, I stopped trying. They pop up in my News Feed or on other social media I’d added them and I still feel a small pebble of bitterness when I see them together. I don’t like being the outsider though we all are at some point, but I’m the type of person who will naturally bring in someone new to a group. I was returned to the time I cried “I don’t have any friends” on the playground after lunch because I was iced out of my group for whatever reason. I told the school aide and she scoffed. She clearly didn’t get it. I may have been 9 years old and exaggerating, but I am feeling the same at 22.

FOREVERalone

With the exception of these women, I did however make several friends at my two internships because one of the most important things to do as an intern is to build a network. I assumed that the individuals in my network had to become dear friends, similar to how my college friendships were; yet that is not always the case. You don’t have to be best friends with your co-workers simply because you’re in the trenches together. You can be what I call “hardcore acquaintances”, but my advice is that if you notice that a coworker seems to constantly ask you to hang out (by ‘constantly’, I really mean that he/she has brought it up in conversation more than three times) maybe you should give the person a shot. Be a decent human being and grab the hand being flung in your direction. I was fortunate enough to have several people grab my hand tightly, and for that they will always be dear genuine friends. It might be more difficult to get together because we all have our groups of friends who know us inside and out, but I don’t believe in limiting myself when it comes to making friends. Every interaction with someone new is an open door to a new friendship. Don’t slam it shut just because you know you have friends whom you consider pillars in your friend circle.

rock

Haha! But seriously:

tracy

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