By Law May Ning (14S03O)
As a (slightly more) innocent and naive Year 4, one hears many a foreboding tale from wiser seniors back from their travels to the other side of the world known as Bishan. Yet, about a year ago, it was not so much the horror stories of heartaches, failure grades or even the woes of late nights and less sleep that scared me. It was that wistful line of advice, thrown in at the back of every visit, that shook me the most. The line about treasuring years in secondary school, because the times – and the friends – would not be something you could get back.
Undoubtedly, even the most extreme introverts need some friends. Extraversion then ostensibly causes losing one’s close-knit group of friends to be an especially terrifying prospect.
Almost everyone has heard the excuses people give for friendships falling apart: maybe “people change”, “they made new friends” or “we lost touch”. For some reason, all the old clichés seemed a lot more real once I entered JC. My classmates of four years had not even a single common free day, and many old CCA mates decided to try something new. Even some friends who intentionally selected identical subject combinations ended up in different classes from me. (In retrospect it is almost laughable how optimistically delusional we were. There have to be at least 50 classes and more than 1000 people in a level. What were the odds?) Friendships are often built on interaction through school activities, and when you take away that common period of face-to-face talk, there is always the fear that friendship will fall through.
Then there is the mixed school component. I can hardly count the stories of friendships taking the backseat to romantic pursuits, or, worse still, the urban myths of jealousy and the consequent backstabbing between former best friends. Between budding love, longer school hours and new, more time-consuming CCAs, even the most superhuman of Rafflesians running on a mere hour of sleep a day would be hard-pressed to find common times to meet up with old friends.
Not to mention, the aforementioned list of commitments fails to include the growing pile of tutorials and intimidating class tests with failure scores (which, I found out the hard way, have not been the slightest bit exaggerated by seniors).
Luckily, I can say that, so far, fears of complete abandonment and exile in mugger purgatory have yet to be realised.
It is definitely true that I see and talk to my old friends much less than I did before. However, as short as nine months may seem, I daresay that I am still relatively close to the people whom I was good friends in secondary school. How easily friendships can be sustained depends a lot on their depth, as well as the effort put into keeping them going. In fact, RI is not exactly the segregated labyrinth it’s made out to be – one does see friends in the corridors, where we then proceed to make the best of the precious five to ten minutes. A bonus that my seniors seemed to have neglected mentioning is the number of breaks in JC, when loads of recognisable faces congregate in the canteen.
Even the part about hormones and puppy love breaking friendships apart seems untrue. I have yet to see friends completely neglect me in favour of newly found paramours. If anything, the buzz around happy couples makes it fun for jest and conversation, and, on a slightly twisted note, love troubles ironically forces one to turn to old friends for advice, helping to sustain friendships.
Yet, there is something about the friendships that have become undoubtedly different.
During orientation, initial interaction with people from other schools tended to be a little stilted at first, simply for a lack of common topics. Now, almost a year into JC, the tables seem to have turned on our old friendships. Being apart in so many activities and classes means my friends and I now share fewer mutual friends and experiences. No amount of retelling can help to relive emotions, and somehow, the story just isn’t as funny as earlier this morning, when you talked about it with your new friends who heard the same hilarious joke as you.
From primary school to secondary school, to JC to even university life: there are plenty of major transitions, and it is inevitable that some things will change. It is foolish to insist that my relationship with my close friends has remained exactly the same. But even if we converse less and have less in common, does that mean our relationship is no longer as strong? I recall the late nights of sheer desperation with my CCA mates as we rushed through what we had to do, screaming, crying and laughing. We went through things happy or sad that will hardly be forgotten in a year. Most importantly, when it counted, they were there for me, and they have continued to be there for me, even in JC.
It has been suggested that there is a limited number of people (150 to be precise) one can maintain relationships with in a lifetime. Perhaps, after time, we do lose some of our closest friends. Regardless, I choose to be optimistic – friends, even if and after they leave, created the experiences we enjoyed. As we move on to even greater geographical divides, we will always hold on to those cherished memories, the same moments and people that helped shape who we are.