One of the things I didn’t think of when I was thinking of going to law school was how I would have to make new friends. I recognized, of course, that I wouldn’t recognize anyone there. But I forgot that I’d have to remember how to make friends, that this wouldn’t be some continuation of undergrad where I’d see at least one familiar face in all of my classes. That this wasn’t a house party where I wouldn’t know half the people or a volunteering event with multiple RSOs; this was like going to my first college party where I didn’t know anyone but my roommate and the semi-sketchy dude who invited us, except without that my roommate or that dude. If I had realized that, any of that, I’d probably have welcome Shady McSketch with open arms.
So there I was at 1L Orientation, standing by the coffee urns like they were my lifeline (and really, they were – early mornings and social anxiety have always been a struggle for me). I hadn’t actively tried to make friends since my freshman year of college. Sure, I’d made new friends each year, each semester even, but most it had lacked conscious effort. It happened more by osmosis than anything – everyone was around everyone all the time, and after a while no one seems to remember things being different.
My first day of “professional” school, with the people I’d spend the next three years with, and I had to figure out what impression I wanted to make, how I wanted to be remembered, how not to make a fool of myself. And I had to make friends with those people. And fast, based on knowing next to nothing about them. You just spilled orientation coffee and pretended not to? Instant bond.
The process only gets more labor intensive from there. After you’ve identified some potential friends, you have to work at becoming friends. How soon is too soon to send a friend request? What non-creepy, non-weird way can you ask to exchange numbers? If it’s a potential friend of the opposite sex, how do you ask without giving them the impression that you’re interested? Or, how do you give the impression that you’re not too eager but open to being interested? It’s exhausting.
What if they don’t have Facebook? If I can’t online stalk you from a distance, how am I supposed to know if I can trust you with my most reliable form of contact?
It almost gets worse after you do exchange numbers, like waiting for the guy who got your number at the bar to call you the next week. How long do you wait to initiate contact – does the dating game 3 day rule apply? A phone call seems like way too much, so then you text, but try not to seem too eager. Hope you sound normal, clever. Try not to say too much but still try to build a relationship. Try to make sure you’re texting equally – don’t start the conversation if you sent the last text last night. Do you text and ask how their day was? Is that too weird, too familial, too familiar? It’s enough to make you understand people who choose not to have cellphones.
Of course, it all gets easier as time goes on. You get more familiar with your classmates; things get a little more like undergrad, a little more relaxed. You laugh with your now -friends about who your first-week, first-semester, first-year-friends were. You don’t necessarily end up with the people you started with, but you haven’t forgotten them either.
I can still tell you the first two people I talked to at Orientation, my first law school facebook friend request, and my first classmate phone number exchange. I can also tell you “I’ve known him since the first day of law school” means something to me, in some weird, unexplainable way. And mostly, I can tell you that I feel a great sense of relief that I won’t have to do this again. Except, of course, when (if?) I get a job and have to befriend my coworkers.
That will be a whole new nightmare.
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