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MIT blogger Kidist A. '22

On Friendship by Kidist A. '22

how my beliefs have changed over the years

In an Uber ride during my freshman year, one of my friends turned to me and asked if I was okay. 

“You’re always so bubbly but you’re quiet now”

If you had said that statement to any of my classmates from high school, they would not match it to me. For the most part, I didn’t really talk to anyone outside of the people I knew from different extracurriculars or the people who sat next to me in class. I was the proud introvert with a Pinterest board dedicated to being an INTJ.01 One of 16 Myers–Briggs personality types. It stands for introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment.

So, imagine my shock when everyone else in the car disagreed with my claims of being an introvert. In hindsight, I see their point; I spent a lot of energy trying to maintain this new image for reasons I struggle to justify now. 

Was it because I felt the need to redefine myself? I don’t know where I had read this, but someone claimed that most CEOs and/or successful people are extroverts. So, naturally, I thought that I ~had~ to be an extrovert in order to be successful in life.02 False thinking

Moreover, In high school, I felt a (self-inflicted) pressure to be introverted in order to satisfy my identity as a shy-smart-nerdy-pants-girl. I truly don’t know why. Maybe it stems from insecurity in my intelligence and capabilities, so I felt the need to subscribe to a stereotype. But here at MIT, everyone is a nErD!!1!!1! Being smart was no longer a distinguishing identity but a common one, so the pressure to uphold some stereotype was lifted.        

Was it in search of a community? Maybe, though it shames me to admit this–a desire for validation however innate it may be. I don’t know where or when the idea of life-long friends was planted in my head, but its roots stretched deep. Unfortunately, something would get in the way of fostering those relationships, some my fault and others beyond my control. Whether it be changing schools or time zones or getting into some petty middle-school argument. 03 I remember getting into this huge mess about either pimples or test grades?? I don't remember lol which makes me angry because adults will be like yOu wOn'T cArE aBoUt tHis iN a fEw yEaRs... and they're right -_- And I'm sure a lot could be said about my experiences now and how I won't place so much meaning on them in a few years. But those experiences are valid regardless since they're shaping me. And statements like the ones above invalidate those moments. I mean, the solution is to not care about what others think, especially elders as I have been taught to value the wisdom of elders and accept their words as facts but this is a rant for another day

When I first moved to America, I made all efforts to stay in touch with my best friend Rebecca. We wrote essays back and forth, hers about the latest happenings at school and mine about the novelty of the US, and video chatted every other week. But, as the years went on, the frequency of our contact started to decrease from weekly to monthly to every other month to once a year to nothing. When I switched high schools in my junior year, my best friend and I went from daily interactions to monthly contacts though I had moved less than five miles away. 

My mom always insisted that family is the only constant in life, and I didn’t like that statement because it felt too deterministic. What if I didn’t have a good family? Am I to just love them despite their wrongdoings? Excuse their transgressions for the sake of blood? Meh, doesn’t sit right with me.04 As a side note, this is an example of my struggle with balancing having different values than my parents/relatives with filial piety and obedience. but this is another blog post for another day And it didn’t help that I had a track record of all these friendships that would end or fade out for different reasons. Friends can be the family that I get to choose. My relatives are spread out across the world and the love only seems to be growing, why couldn’t that be the case for friends? 

All of this plays into my friendship experience at MIT as follows~

I saw MIT as my chance to finally have four years in one place to find my besties for life. I did Interphase, an eight-week pre-college program, and I spent most of my time with a group of people. However, I felt more like an addition than part of the group, and though I wanted to find more friends, I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the time I had already put into building those relationships. I got over this phase by entering my excessive cheerful energy phase. 

During this phase, I attempted to cover feelings of loneliness and alienation by acting spirited all the time, which in retrospect was incredibly draining and detrimental. It felt as though I knew a lot of people on a superficial 05 ...which is normal bc the school year had just begun <b>facepalm</b> level while a lot of people seemed to have established pairs or groups with stronger bonds. 

After some time, I got really close to one person and had an established friend group, and my dream was realized. The End :) 

Yeah no. So, to keep it brief, some combination of academic, religious, financial, and familial stressors hit me, my close friends, and probably all freshmen in general. Dealing with those can change and shape you, and as I was going through struggles, I started to grow distant to many of those people. This is where I entered my low energy phase.  

Initially, I was heartbroken. The ideal that I had poured my heart into had collapsed, and I didn’t have the energy to salvage it. So, that distance grew and grew as we all started to change into different people with different values, and by the summer I just accepted it. So, now I think I’m in a relatively stable phase with a reasonable amount of energy where I can reflect on my stance on friendships.  

One thing I have dropped is the extra bubbly energy from the last year because it was not sustainable. But this difference in my behavior makes it seem as though I dislike people (not the case). I also realized I struggle with maintaining casual or surface-level friends. I took a perfectionism workshop last spring that exposed all of my subtle and terrible mental frameworks, a very common one being an all-or-nothing mindset.06 basically means what it says. thinking in extremes, black or white, either-or Generally, when it comes to friendships, I can maintain the ones with deeper roots and the ones with a specific purpose, which mostly boils down to p-set buddies. But when it comes to people that I am vaguely familiar with? s t r e s s. I don’t know where to place them in my existing categories, so I end up treating them like strangers.  

Another epiphany that I am slowly digesting is that friendships don’t have to be long-lasting in order to be meaningful.07 Do you see traces of an all-or-nothing mindset too? I mean, I don't blame myself, all-or-nothing is a pretty clear standard that removes the stress of trying to figure out a standard. But ~apparently~ life is a freaking grey mess :( and you need to set a lot of standards and find your balance multiple times. ew adulthood . Removing that pressure is so relieving and allows me to enjoy my friends for as long as they are in my life without any expectations.    

I’m writing this because I have confided this to several people, and they have shared similar sentiments.  I’m also presenting this post as an example of what changing and growing could look like. I never thought I would be thinking about all of this since in high school I found my community pretty easily– my main concern was my education and getting into a prestigious college,08 </span>Don't make this your sole focus, leads to empty and confusing times I promise and the group of people who shared those values were either in the same classes or extracurriculars. But of course, this became the standard once I came here.  For a long time, I blamed MIT for causing all my struggles, but in reality, I was going to struggle where ever I went. And in the end, I’m grateful that I’m learning about myself and my values here, surrounded by beautiful souls and amazing resources that encourage me to flourish.

  1. One of 16 Myers–Briggs personality types. It stands for introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment. back to text
  2. False thinking back to text
  3. I remember getting into this huge mess about either pimples or test grades?? I don't remember lol which makes me angry because adults will be like yOu wOn'T cArE aBoUt tHis iN a fEw yEaRs... and they're right -_- And I'm sure a lot could be said about my experiences now and how I won't place so much meaning on them in a few years. But those experiences are valid regardless since they're shaping me. And statements like the ones above invalidate those moments. I mean, the solution is to not care about what others think, especially elders as I have been taught to value the wisdom of elders and accept their words as facts but this is a rant for another day back to text
  4. As a side note, this is an example of my struggle with balancing having different values than my parents/relatives with filial piety and obedience. but this is another blog post for another day back to text
  5. ...which is normal bc the school year had just begun facepalm back to text
  6. basically means what it says. thinking in extremes, black or white, either-or back to text
  7. Do you see traces of an all-or-nothing mindset too? I mean, I don't blame myself, all-or-nothing is a pretty clear standard that removes the stress of trying to figure out a standard. But ~apparently~ life is a freaking grey mess :( and you need to set a lot of standards and find your balance multiple times. ew adulthood back to text
  8. Don't make this your sole focus, leads to empty and confusing times I promise back to text