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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Opinion — It’s okay to outgrow your college friends

Deirdre Northrup-Riesterer

When first coming to NMU as a freshman, I could see all of these vast horizons around me, all of these potential futures with their own sets of unique memories yet to be discovered. I felt like I was just along for the ride in this big new place, hundreds of miles from home where I could develop as an individual. Now, in my last semester at NMU, what once felt endless now feels very small. Marquette had always been quaint, but with an upcoming move across the country, nothing here is significant for me anymore, and I’m crawling in my skin to get out. 

Along with this, of course, are all of the connections that I’ve made along the way. College is a time to explore different avenues of who you want to be. Like in Sylvia Plath’s “Fig Tree” metaphor in The Bell Jar, there are infinite choices of what you want your life to look like– you just have to choose one. I don’t think it is right to myself to wait until I move away for friendships to end if they’re already dormant or extinguishing. I don’t want to stand passively and watch graduation eat my relationships– I want to take control of what or who is or isn’t in my life for myself.

The Lifelong String

Imagine your life as a long stretch of string. It’s variable to outside influences that might create knots in it, but it is relatively laid out, as chronologically as our human perception of time can be, and it reaches as far as you can imagine it. On this timeline string, there are various points of significant artifacts of your life. These are events, changes, accomplishments, and relationships. Some of these points stretch a long way down the string, many overlap, and some are just that– small blips on a radar. In college, which is about three to five years of your string, many individual points overlap it, but most don’t exist on the string independently from it. 

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Friendships included, are just points on a string that serve you until they don’t. Every blot on your life timeline should only take up as much space as you allow it, and when something or someone is draining you, that you can feel is on an opposite wavelength or holding you back, they don’t deserve to have a little spot on your string anymore. Don’t let it end through environmental circumstances– doing what’s best for you is a learned behavior through repetition, and you won’t learn it if you let ends end through conditions out of your control. 

Signs You’ve Outgrown a Friend or Friend Group

So, what does it mean to “outgrow” someone? It’s not as horrible as it sounds. It doesn’t usually mean that you’ve become more mature than them. Often, it just means that what you need in a friendship has changed and they, as they are, can’t meet that. This is not to say that friendships are what you get out of them, rather, despite your connection and history with this person, do they continue to be supportive? Understanding? If your values and priorities change, will they respect them? 

Here are a few signs you’ve outgrown a friendship:

  1. You don’t have as much in common anymore 
  2. You feel stuck playing a role, or aren’t yourself with them
  3. You don’t tell them things for fear of how they’ll respond
  4. You both feel unheard
  5. You reminisce on how it used to be
  6. (in a friend group) you feel excluded or ignored
  7. No matter how much you communicate, you can’t resolve conflict

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve “been through” with someone, how much “history” you have, or how good your friendship once was. What is important is the present and if you don’t feel safe, comfortable, respected, and valued in that friendship– that takes priority over what you used to share. Discrepancies and continual miscommunications are only going to spiral the further you diverge from each other, and it isn’t fair to either one of you to force anything in the name of a dead connection you’re mourning. 

The Bigger Picture

What’s right for you at one time won’t be in another. Dragging out these relationships in fear that your friend hasn’t outgrown you yet as well, is prioritizing their string timeline over yours. If they are actually a good friend, they won’t resent you for getting older, changing, and reevaluating what you need in a friendship. If they make you feel trapped, that’s an even brighter sign that it’s time to move on. It’s so difficult to navigate personal relationships in college because everyone is evolving so quickly. We often don’t know what we want until it’s gone, or invest in the wrong things only to realize what was best was in front of us the whole time. You shouldn’t spend these few years you have in college, the first time being an independent individual, trying to mold yourself into the ideal friend for someone else. College is temporary, and unless you are abnormally compatible, your friendships are too.

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About the Contributors
Megan Poe, Opinion Editor
My name is Megan Poe and I’m an English (writing concentration) and Philosophy double major at Northern. My concurrent experience with being published in and interning for literary magazines has landed me the job as the Opinion Editor of The Northwind. Because of my passion for creative writing, I love that my job dwells in the more “abstract word soup” sphere of journalism rather than the objective and tangible one. In my free time, I like to write surrealist literary fiction, crochet, play the piano, read short story collections, and watch pretentious little French horror films.
Deirdre Northrup-Riesterer, Graphic Designer