Splitting a bag of chips on the beach. Spontaneous Starbucks dates. Tomato and feta pasta with a friend. A Tuesday and Friday lunchtime that has a permanent space on my calendar. Monday night dinners in the Caf. Takeout at a Graphic production night.
Each of these meals is more than just a time to stop and refuel. Each of these moments is a chance to sit down, connect with friends and step away from my horridly packed schedule.
The people I share these meals with have become baked into my routine. I know almost instinctively who I will see when I walk into the Caf, which Starbucks drink my friend will choose and where I can expect to sit and share a snack on Main.
And these meals are convenient. It’s much easier for me to be confide in someone at a table then, say, in a classroom or over text. Making eye contact in a space designed for connection helps me genuinely communicate.
Human beings have connected with one another over food for thousands of years, according to the Smithsonian Institute.
It makes sense because food is a quick way to learn about the people around you: what they like, what they dislike, how much you can trust them around an open flame, the weird food combinations they insist are good and whether they prioritize efficiency over the correct amount of nutrients (guilty).
But these mealtimes are also a mild source of anxiety.
In less than a month, my friends will be scattered across the country. Some will take a four-month break from sunny Malibu, while others will start the next chapter of their lives. Waving a friend over in the Caf or running up to them on Main will take a hiatus.
There will still be shared meals, of course, but they will look slightly different — pizookies with my younger sister, cooking breakfast with my dad, helping my mom out with dinner — the friendly meals of college life will be a fond memory.
It is a privilege, I have realized, to be within walking distance of sharing a meal with those I love.
The deeper question, anxiety, problem, what-have-you is how — without this guaranteed space for connection — I can catch up with my college friends. Where in our busy, not-at-college lives will we find time for deep discussions or debriefs or five minute check-ins without the crutch of a stop in the Caf?
I’m not 100% sure I have an answer to this yet, but I do have what my friends in STEM call a “working theory.”
The theory — as of now — is intentionality. Finding the time. Replacing the ‘Lunch with Friends’ in my schedule with reminders to call or text or otherwise check in. Getting over my stress of bothering someone and instead sending them that funny meme or asking about highs and lows. Eating dinner over FaceTime.
Connection, I will need to learn, does not have to depend on the magnitude of distance or lack thereof.
So, whether your friends are just up the hill or 2,000 miles and a FaceTime call away, you can still build and fine-tune your relationships. You can still be vulnerable and let others know you care. You simply need to find the time and open yourself up.
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
Contact Samantha Torre via Twitter (@Sam_t394) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org