By Johnathan Lim (23S03M) and Sabrina Tong (23S03Q, Peer Helper)
Your resident Aunties and Uncles are back with our Ask Aunt Agony and Uncle Upset column, this time as a collaboration between Raffles Press and Peer Helpers’ Programme (PHP)! Ever wanted to rant about that someone you just can’t stand? Overwhelmed with too many feelings? Submit your confessions to https://tinyurl.com/riadvice and we’ll give them our best shot. This column will be published at the end of every month.
In JC, it feels like friendships have become a lot more shallow and surface-level. As someone who isn’t used to this, every time I try to get closer to someone by becoming vulnerable with them, I feel like I’m being repelled, which has caused me to become quite alienated from my circle in class. How do I manage my expectations in the current social climate?Friendly Flynn
Dear Friendly Flynn,
Maybe you reminisce about the times when you were still kiddie-pool-age. You would play in shallow waters with your other kiddie pool friends, splashing and having lots of fun, ironically forming deep and meaningful friendships in the meantime.
Well, that’s in the past. Times when kids could be kids are over.
Now, we are in JC, with whirlpools of experiences, from house games to batch nights to enjoy with your so-called friends, exchanging cheap laughs and fake smiles. So much so that it may feel like you are drowning in a sea of superficiality.
You may be wondering, what changed? Why can’t we all just be kiddie pool friends again? Believe it or not, it is still possible to delve into relationships with depth. There are just certain things you have to exercise caution in before diving deeper into your relationships.
We have to admit, JC is a very different environment from the playgrounds of our childhood. The people are different, the social scene is different, and naturally, our approach towards forging relationships should be different too.
It is tempting to attempt recreating the friendships we once had (and probably cherish deeply). But it’s not very fair to have such expectations on people you haven’t even met. In fact, it might even hinder the chances of you being able to create novel yet equally valuable experiences with the new people you meet.
Imagine you sit down in a park beside someone you never met before. You strike up some light conversation with them to pass the time. You talk about your day, your pets, the weather, and they talk about their school, their vacations and their lunch. Fun stuff.
Suddenly, they start sharing their phone password, home address and bank account number.
Sometimes, being vulnerable without the foundation of a stable relationship can feel like crashing waves. While comfort in being vulnerable is essential in every good relationship, one must also make sure that the receiving party is comfortable with your vulnerability.
So, if it’s so complicated, how do you even go about making your kiddie-pool friends?
Ride the Waves
Is it not tiring to always oppose the relentless tides at sea? Sometimes, to get to a destination, it is easier to just ride the waves, and before you know it, you’re there!
The same goes for making friends: just go with the flow and do what you feel like doing, say what you feel like saying and laugh when you feel like laughing (don’t worry, you don’t have to laugh at bad jokes). If you enjoy hanging out with a particular person, try organising more meet-ups so you can get to know each other better.
And when the time is right, being vulnerable wouldn’t even feel like a conscious action anymore.
Ultimately, depth in a relationship shouldn’t be forced. As long as making deep relationships remain at the back of your mind, and you remain true to yourself, the right friends would naturally gravitate towards you.
After all, you would rather your friends like you for who you genuinely are, rather than who you are pretending to be, wouldn’t you?
Dive Head First
Maybe you’ve met people who have a checklist for their ideal relationships (romantic or otherwise). Or maybe, you are that person.
However, going into a relationship with preconceived notions of what it should be like is likely not going to end well. For instance, let’s say you expect your friend to wish you “Happy birthday!” the minute it turns 12am on your birthday. There are two possible scenarios:
At least in this example, expectations clearly set up a lose-lose situation, where one scenario was only at best satisfactory, and the other disappointing.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for some), there’s no objective metric out there to divide people into categories of “good” or “bad”. There’s always a gap between characteristics we think we want in a relationship and what we actually do, making it pointless for us to excessively hedge and curate what the Model Friend is to us (because there isn’t one).
Instead, we should step into each potential relationship with an open heart. Embrace the wide variety of people you could meet and the endless possibilities of what people could be. Afterall, isn’t that much more exciting than being ruled by what relationships should be?
Mark Your Tidelines
Just like how the sea reaches out to the shore, it might be worth reaching out to potential groups of like-minded people. Consider joining a VIA you have a genuine passion for or attend an event you are interested in to broaden your reach for possible friendships.
You may also want to try being more selective with your friends. Similar to water, which thins the wider you spread it, you may not be able to delve deeper into any of your relationships, especially with so many people.
Don’t be greedy and prioritise a small core group of people whose company you enjoy the most.
Now, grab your diving gear and hit up your JC friends. It’s time to dive into deep relationships! Maybe start off with a wave?