“I can count the people I care about on one hand.”

“I can count the people I care about on one hand.”

This was my catch-phrase in high school. I even wrote a song containing that lyric. Remarkably, five has remained my magic number at St. Joe’s. Discounting my family, there are five people in the world whom I consider to be my true friends. Last week, however, I was reminded that my number is soon to shrink.

College friendships are a tricky thing. My roommate, for example, is in the same grade as I am. We are (except in the event of a tragedy) going to be co-habitating for the rest of our time at Saint Joe’s. When my roommate and I graduate, I hope that we will stay in touch, but at least there will be lots of other things and new people in our lives to keep us in motion. In the same way, although I don’t really communicate with many of my friends from high school anymore, they were there for me throughout those years. All of them were my age and graduated with me. We split apart at the same time, so the loss was less of a big deal.

But in college, things are different. People are coming and going all the time. Most of my friends and acquaintances are not sophomores, like I am. Many of these people are graduating without me, something I’ve never had to deal with before. And that is why, as I mentioned, my nice, clean number of five dear friends is going to take a hit. It’s going to drop to three.

It’s scary. I think I’d rather lose two fingers. Even scarier is the fact that the two friends graduating are going to different continents in the fall.

It reminds me of when I had to move in 5th grade and switch schools. All of a sudden, everything changed, and I was the weird new kid that no one cared about because they had already formed groups, cliques with completely full membership, no applications accepted.

Probably you’re thinking that this sob story is not relevant to you at all. (Assuming that any readers are left at this point.) I’m going to try and make it relevant. Most people who read this are going to go through the same thing I’m writing about.

Honestly, I’m not trying to complain. The loss is something I’ve never dealt with as potently, but my friends are the ones graduating, not me. They’re moving away from the life they’ve known for four years, and entering a huge and scary time. All I can do is express how grateful I am: for the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, and for the amazing lessons I’ve learned.

So what lessons have I learned? I’m going to share one that comes very directly and physically from one of my (soon-to-be cosmopolitan) friends, from a birthday gift he gave to me. It’s a book of poems, Poems to Live by In Uncertain Times. An appropriate collection, don’t you think?

The poem I’m stuck on right now definitely has a more political meaning than I care to think about right now. It’s called “Otherwise,” and it’s written by Jane Kenyon:

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

I came here to Saint Joe’s looking for friends, and I abandoned the quest very quickly. As soon as I stopped trying, friendship came to me. So I’m not going to worry about filling my “friendship quota”. I’m just going to carry around my new book of poems, and remember that it could have all happened so differently.

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