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All I Learned About Friends I Learned from My College Roommate

August 15, 2012

Ok.  That title isn’t entirely true, but a great deal of truth lies within it.

I was a bit socially awkward as a child (maybe I still am?  I don’t know).  I was crazy independent in elementary school when to be friends it was important to conform to what others wanted to play.  I was intense and would often play too rough or too hard or too long or too much.   I had a bit of an unrealistic view of friends, especially in light of my own personality.  I thought best friends did everything with you all the time.  Best friends spent all their time playing at each other’s houses, sitting next to each other or seeking each other out on the playground everyday, being friends with just one person or one small group, and whispering into each others’ ears.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in elementary school trying to figure out the rules of friends.  I was sad a lot and lonely a lot.  By the time sixth grade rolled around (which was still in elementary school) I spent time praying every night for a best friend.   However, my prerequisites for a best friend were  little too high…the best friend was supposed to be the popular kids everyone else wanted to be best friends with.

Don’t get me wrong.  I had friends.  I wasn’t an unhappy child, just occasional bouts of loneliness that unrealistic expectations will bring about.  I made a friend with a girl with long, wavy hair that I enjoyed talking to in sixth grade, she just wasn’t popular.  She was nice.  The cycle continued through junior high and high school.  I had friends, but always felt that best friend was missing.  I was hanging onto that elementary expectation.  Looking back, I had fabulous friends that I could barely recognize their awesomeness for my own expectations.  I still prayed for that best friend.

When I went to college, although I went to college with a lot of high school friends, I signed up to have a roommate assigned to me.  I ended up with a field hockey playing roommate who wanted to be a neonatalogist.  She thought she had been matched with a country music listening, over the top mountain Virginian girl.  It was rocky at first.  My roommate was a bit pushy and opinionated.  She moved into the room a week before (because of field hockey) and had the whole room arranged with photos on the wall before I even walked into the room.   I needed to just fit into what she had created.

I roomed with that wonderful woman for 3 years.  She became one of my best friends.  We didn’t hang out in a group of friends of all.  I didn’t feel like I fit with the “cool” field hockey girls and she thought some of my friends were kinda strange.  We never would have been friends if we weren’t roommates.  However, she was the one I could talk to about absolutely anything….questions of faith, boys, purpose of life, things that broke our hearts, dreams.  Sometimes we would go days without really seeing or talking to each other—I was an atypical college student and preferred not to stay up late while she was night owl.  I had many 8 am education classes and her classes often wouldn’t start until much later.  She was busy in the fall with field hockey, I was busy in the spring with track.

I learned how to be a friend and what a good friendship looked like from her.  I find that carrying over to the friends I have now.  Unlike what I thought when I was 11, I didn’t need to spend every waking moment with a best friend.    Friends are open to hearing anything.  Friends will keep your secrets.  Friends know what breaks your heart.  Friends know your questions and thrills.

I met with my dear women last night and was reminded of my college roommate.  There aren’t so many differences there.  I may not hang out with my dear women all time, we’re not inseparable like those famous Sex in the City women.   Yet, with them, I can be more honest than I can with most people.  There’s not a lot of space for small talk.  I can tell them what is breaking my heart that week, how I have failed, and what is saving my life as well.  They are quickly becoming a big thing that is saving my life today.  Sometimes, you need to have no more in common with a friend than a common love….a common struggle….a common heart.

Over and over in my head, I’ve heard the last two verse of the Servant Song (words and music by Richard Gillard and adapted by Betty Pulkingham).  That is what it means to be a friend and to have a friend.  The words I have struggled with finding today are said more poetically in the simplicity of the song.

I will hold the Christ-light for you

In the night-time of your fear

I will hold my hand out to you ,

Speak the grace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping

When you laugh I’ll laugh with you.

I will share your joy and sorrow

Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven,

We shall find such harmony,

Born of all we’ve known together

Of Christ’s love and agony.

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