It’s a frigid Thursday evening, and my workout buddy has strep throat. Bundled up in my beige puffer jacket, I trudge over the dark stone pathway towards Lawrance Hall. With every additional step, I slowly sink into the realization that I won’t be working out tonight.
Drawing out my phone from its snug pocket, I swipe left towards Spotlight Search. I type in “B-e-n-Z-h-o-u,” and click on his contact. I cold call him.
“Hello?” His voice crackles out from the phone.
“Are you free to work out around 8:00 tonight?” I ask, crossing my fingers.
“Yeah! How does 8:15 sound? We can meet in front of Lawrance A,” he replies.
Ben Zhou ’21 lives two floors down from me, which means that anytime I’m headed out to Sterling Memorial Library or going back upstairs, I’ll peek into his suite to see if he’s there. There are times where we’ll hunker down in the library together on stressful nights and others where we’ll blast the “Dear Evan Hansen” soundtrack and talk about life’s many problems. One of those problems is Ben’s inability to go see “Dear Evan Hansen” before Ben Platt steps down from the role.
In the last two months, Ben has become my “anytime friend,” and I his. The “anytime friend” is the person you call to grab dinner on a weekday, ask to come over to your common room to do homework and go to a plethora of on-campus events with. They’re a person that you want to become closer friends with, but who you wouldn’t run into organically.
In high school, there were interesting people that I wanted to get to know but never ended up reaching out to or spending time with. Sometimes we would express mutual interest in going out and grabbing coffee together or hanging out during the weekend. But by the time I realized that we had never done so, my four years in high school were up.
At Yale, I pass by dozens of fascinating, complex classmates every single day. It is an obvious fact that the people who fill up the classes and organizations that I’m involved with during my time at Yale will be the ones with whom I have the strongest bonds. However, there are many classmates who I will only interact with tangentially. Maybe we both shopped a seminar before dropping out of it or even studied together for an economics midterm with mutual friends. There are those that we talk to once and others that we never garner enough courage to even say “hi” to. Regardless, it is a pity to let these people pass by and through our lives, letting our social circles be molded by fate.
As such, I’ve adopted this mindset of “the anytime culture,” a mode of living in which I actively pursue friendships outside of what fate and circumstance grants me. I strive to spend time with people outside of the four classes a semester I take and the handful of organizations that I manage to juggle. Sometimes it’s calling up a friend and asking if they have dinner plans as I head out from Lawrance, and other times it’s setting aside time to wander out into New Haven and try out that new poke place. It’s living my daily life per usual, but taking a couple minutes each day to bring new people into it. Sure, it’s not always the most convenient — and at times, can be awkward — but I don’t want to realize, towards the end of my senior year, how many amazing people around me I am only tangentially associated with.
To cultivate “the anytime culture,” one also needs to be an “anytime friend” themselves. The other day, I went out to dinner with my friend Daniel, who lamented about how he missed his group of friends back home — people who he could call up to talk about anything and go anywhere with. By the end of our meal that evening I made sure to let him know that I was willing to be an “anytime friend” to him: a classmate he could cold call, whether it was to vent about life or attend a college tea with.
The “anytime culture” is intimidating, awkward and takes work, but it is truly rewarding. What started as a cold call and a workout session has quickly become a friendship with Ben Zhou, a boy who spends his free time listening to “Dear Evan Hansen” and watching “Toy Story.” If I hadn’t called him that Thursday evening, he would’ve just been the boy who lived two floors down.
Katherine Hu is a first year in Ezra Stiles College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .