Freshman in College — Should I Keep My High School Friend?

Reader’s Question

Please help me. I am so confused I honestly don’t know what to do. I am 18 years old and a freshman in college. I was made fun of a lot throughout my school years. Because of this, I find I am very shy and tend to be quiet. One of my friends and I have known each other and been friends since the sixth grade. We were especially close last year, senior year of high school. When we graduated, she went to a college out of town with some other friends we used to hang out with and I stayed back and went to a college closer to our hometown. I went from seeing my best friend every day to seeing her maybe once a month, and I really started to miss her. Because a lot of our other friends went to college with her, she still sees them all the time, and it makes me sad because I miss all of them.

This started to cause a lot of arguments between us because I would get mad and even a little jealous she wasn’t making that much time for me. I tried not to show it though. One day three months ago, she texted me and said I was too dependent on her and it would be best if we didn’t talk for awhile. I was so hurt, upset, and sad — not to mention angry at her. It’s been three months, and I got over it and am now in two plays, chorus, studying hard, enjoying all the new friends I’m making and feeling happier and more confident that I have in a long time.

But then she texted me the other day and said she was worried about me and wants to try being friends again. I don’t know what to do. Should I tell her how not talking to me for three months made me feel? Should I give her a second chance and let her back in my life? If I do, how could I ever trust her again? Since I’m happy, should I just ignore her and go on and forget her? I am happy and confident and I don’t want all the hurt, and sadness, and bad feelings she made me feel to take over me again. I want to stay happy. I don’t know what to do — please help!

Psychologist’s Reply

It’s not uncommon to have a history of childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, and later neighborhood/career friends. Like most students in college, you have developed a new set of friends who have similar interests — plays, chorus, study groups, etc. Most importantly, you have developed a new self-esteem and confidence based on your college life — not based on your high school years. You need to keep your college identity, not return to your high school lifestyle. Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • For one option, you can allow her back into your life, but with a different friendship classification. You are an independent college woman…and she is now an old high school friend. Text her and don’t discuss what happened, as those friendship transitions are always uncomfortable. Rather, email and chat on a level that you would with an old friend from middle school — tell her what you’re doing in school, your plays, and express your hope that she’s having a good time in college. She is an old high school friend — not a current or active friend.
  • She made the transition and developed friends at her school, and now you have done the same. Focus on your new friends and activities that make you happy. Consider her texts and email as contact from an old friend, not part of an ongoing relationship. Be kind and be polite…but stay where you are in life.
  • Our friendships create “emotional memories“. Those memories contain feelings and are attached to specific events, locations or even people in our life. Your friendship with this individual contains memories that are uncomfortable to you now — feelings of being teased, lacking self-confidence, and being ignored or jealous. For this reason, socializing with her can actually lower your self-confidence. Read my article on Emotional Memory for tips on handing these intrusive memories when they occur. It’s never a good idea to socialize with people who tend to make us feel bad.
  • If you have a strong distrust with her, you can further reduce her friendship classification to that of an ex-friend. At that level, you would provide her only grocery-store conversation — no personal information, nothing about plans, and only a brief contact — just like meeting a neighbor at the grocery store.

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The major theme is to protect and continue your current path of self-confidence and good self-esteem. As high school seniors, we all vow to be friends forever, and to an extent that’s true. But as time passes, we’re not “best” friends forever. You are making a new life and personality with your current experiences. Like most of us, you can remember high school as an emotional passage into adulthood. You can remember those teenagers who took the journey with you as well. But as a young adult you are now creating an adult personality — and doing well at it. Keep your past in the past and focus on new friendships, plays, song and most of all — study.

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