This summer, I missed as never before. When I got home to Dallas, I missed my Yale friends who I’d left behind. When I went to Yale in London, I missed my family and friends at home. When I went to New York for a research project, I saw many of the Yale and high school friends I’d missed in previous weeks, but missed the friendships I’d strengthened in London. This frequent movement and existence in phases exacerbated the feeling of missing — I didn’t have anyone that I could depend on seeing regularly.
Some of my closest friends I didn’t see once the entire summer. During a long-distance phone call, one of my friends in this category shared an observation that changed the way that I miss friends like her, and the way that I develop and structure relationships. While we chatted, I complained to her that because my summer felt like an ongoing series of reconnections, every conversation felt like a game of twenty questions. Yes, I wanted to know everything about these dear people I hadn’t seen for weeks or months. But ultimately I didn’t want all my conversations to feel the same.
Kay broke it down for me. She’d decided, she said, that there were essentially two genres of conversations that build friendships. The first genre, the genre I felt stuck in, consists of an exchange in which friends simply want to know everything about each other because they care and that care leads to interest. Everyone has these friendships, which is why everyone has those types of conversations. Sometimes, you really just want the gory details and how they made your friend feel and if they think these feelings were somehow related to the color of nail polish they wore that day.
Then Kay explained the second type of conversation: the shared project. Here, two people come together not only over a mere friend-crush, but instead to reach some shared goal. Perhaps it’s econ problem sets, or learning how to live with a roommate you met two weeks ago, or even writing and editing stories for the News. These platforms break the just-catching-up mold, taking friendships in new directions, posing challenges beyond finding a convenient time for a meal. So before we hung up the phone that evening, Kay and I made a plan: our next conversation would include the 20 questions catch-up component as usual, but also a project element.
We picked a book to read together and scheduled a time to discuss it. The two-person book club project was born. The book club enabled our friendship to have this other dimension; we thought of each other not just when we spoke, but also whenever we read. This broke the cycle of missing and catching up that I’d gone through all summer.
I’ve got to admit, the first few minutes of that next Skype session felt a little bit like section and less like just talking to Kay. Not at all like the conversations with friends I’d grown accustomed to after a summer with waves of “catching up.” But it was fun and rewarding to have a framework for our conversation, a platform to hear a good friend’s opinions on a topic other than classes under consideration and the little melodramas of our lives (though figuring out our 20-something or almost 20-something lives is also, arguably, a great shared project). This revelation inspired me to apply the project-as-friendship-cement approach with other people both at and away from Yale, spawning ambitions of pop-up clothing stores, experimental cocktails and writing endeavors. I miss in a different way than I missed this summer. It feels good. There’s potential in this missing.
Caroline Sydney is a junior in Silliman College. Her columns run on Fridays. Contact her at email@example.com.