When I first got to college, I knew I’d find my place. I had spent weeks upon weeks of high school flipping through the glossy pamphlets to discover the perfect home for me. And when I got there, I had no doubt I picked the right one. I liked my school and classes and, most importantly, the people I was around. To me, that meant the friends would eventually come along, too.
But somehow, I spent most of my college career caught up in stress. I ended up changing my major my junior year and spent most of my time trying to play catch up on what my new classmates had spent their entire college careers perfecting, and all those hours reading textbooks and searching for an internship forced me to drift from many of the friends I had gained. By the time I managed to look up from studying, my friends had grown tired of the canceled plans and no-shows. I really only had one true friend I could rely on. And for me, that was difficult to handle. Although I knew I had been unavailable, I wanted my friends to understand that staying out every Saturday night just was not an option for me. I had hoped that they would be proud of my growth, not hurt by it.
So as time went by, more and more of my friends just no longer felt like friends. They went from girls who slept in my room twice a week to people I saw at chapter twice a month. We entered a different phase of our relationship where they were acquaintances I would smile at when I saw them in the halls, but never actually approach or sit with. Scrolling past their squad Instagram pictures or reading their Tweets of inside jokes I was once a part of made me miss our old relationships. It was hard to watch them all move on without me, but I eventually accepted that we were no longer the tightly knit group we had been.
Then, halfway through senior year, I went to a party on a whim with some sorority sisters I hadn’t spent much time with. (In a chapter of 80+ women, it was hard to get to know every single sister personally.) It was last minute and spur of the moment, but I figured—why not? That night, I laughed more than I had in a long time. It was a combination of all of the things that make a perfect party: a great playlist, a cute outfit, and people who simply wanted to have a good time. I danced all night and felt for the first time in a long time that I had found my people. And the following morning, when I couldn’t make it to brunch because I had to finish up homework I had put off, they took my response with an accepting “okay,” and even brought me back some fries.
That was the start of our girl gang. Finding a group of women who were happy for my success and still wanted to have fun with me was exciting. And even though we only found each other months before graduation, we decided not to let that time crunch bother us. From that point on, we were never really away from each for too long. We had random midday group lunches at the local diner just to have their disco fries “one more time” (there was always another time after) and drives to Taco Bell in the middle of the night to talk about boys that we hated to love. Together, we took on all of our “lasts”: the last formal, the last Sunday brunch, and the last chapter—all with bittersweet tears. We laughed about the stupid things and laughed even harder about the all the things we were supposed to take seriously. None of us had known what a huge impact we would have on one another, but we were grateful that everything happened the way it did.
Take it from someone who knows: Before you have to say goodbye to your own girl gang, make the most of the time you have left with the people who make you happy. Keep taking over the dining hall tables and laughing too loudly at all the wrong moments. Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest, but who was there for you when you needed them most. Through this experience, I learned that friends who want to study with you because they understand how important it is to you are sometimes better than the ones who try convince you to go to a party instead. That the best moments can happen at 2 a.m at a diner. And that even if you have to say goodbye at graduation, it isn’t goodbye forever. Because once a girl gang, always a girl gang.
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Opening image by Damisola Balogun.