College was probably one of the favourite periods of my life. I loved it because it was very social. I knew so many people. There was always someone with whom I could laugh. Most students were from “down the country” as Dubliners referred to it. We country mice used college as a hang out as opposed to a place of learning. Monday to Friday entailed twenty hours of lectures. The rest of our time was spent messing. My college pals and I passed our time in the students union; binging on piles of junk food; talking about sex (and getting none); and sharing information on the guys we fancied (and borderline stalked). The craic was plentiful.
The students from Dublin treated college like a part-time job. They never arrived early and left as soon as lectures ended. Some were uninterested in making friends. They reserved themselves to chit chat before a lecture. Evening outings were out of question for them unless it was one of the seldom functions scattered on the academic horizon. The Dublin students had no dependency on college as a social outlet; they had long-established friends from home. I never understood why anyone might not want more friends. You can never have too many in my opinion.
A year after college I had plenty of friends. Progressing time and increasing complexity of life caused the expanses of my college group to deplete. Time constraints limited the frequency we met. My fledging relationship (and newly discovered joys of sex) actively distracted me. As the years passed, I met with college friends less and less. I gradually realised we had little in common. Slowly the boundaries of my social world receded. Last year, my handful of close friends took a further hit when one went travelling, a second moved to London and another left Dublin.
It’s understandable why I miss the college days, but I sometimes wonder if the friendships back then were bonded out of naivety, pure necessity and circumstance. There we were at the age of eighteen, fresh faced, open minded and away from home for the first time of our lives. We intended having a good time and pretty much did. Today, when I meet my former, college classmates the conversation does not flow. The awkwardness usually subsides after a drink or two. Perhaps, those nonchalant students who lived in Dublin already knew this.
I am certainly not lonely at the moment. I have plenty of good friends. An interesting observation I made a few months ago is that my group of friends and Bestfriend’s friends are slowly merging. His close friend from college, Miss Polly, is now a good friend of mine. I know Miss Polly’s and her husband’s family. I view these expanding networks to be roots. My settling down has been slow and gradual. Overall, it’s a nice feeling. It’s solid. My current existence is probably the most permanent I’ve ever known. I realise I have a place in the world, but I still need to meet new people.
I can continually long for the college days when “a stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met”. Alternatively, I can do something. With the help of a friend, I located a Book Club based in Dublin. They are meeting 20th October and I intend joining them. It will be healthy for me to meet some strangers – or potential friends – or even just learn something new. Life is about exposure and I am missing certain outlets. I’ll read the book, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, attend the meeting and talk about the book with some strangers. It can’t be that hard, can it?