I walk into the bathroom and there they are. Awkwardly, I stand there and muster a half-smile. We haven’t spoken in a while–it feels strange that a group of people I once knew so well had now become  complete strangers. I make polite small talk, just enough as to not be rude.

“How’s life?” One of them looks at me expectantly.

“Good. Yours?”

“Good. Thanks.”

I nod. She nods. We walk out and move on with our day, and although it mildly irks me that our relationship is no longer as good as it used to be, I know that it led me to a stronger group of friends.

There is no doubt that college application season is the worst season of high school. Then again, in 11th grade, junior year seemed like the worst season, and in 10th grade, sophomore year, and so on.

The point is, stress culture is most likely going to be a big part of your life no matter what grade you’re in. Whether it’s a one-day kind of stress that you experience right before an important test or a semi-permanent kind of stress you experience a few weeks before the end of the semester, stress has the potential to wreak havoc on a lot of things in your life: your sleeping schedule, your skin, your eating habits, but most importantly, your relationships.

It is no secret that stress crumbles relationships. Maintaining good and healthy relationships is hard even when you’re at your best, but when you’re tired, cranky, and overwhelmed? It seems impossible. A bitter part of you just wants to lash out and project all your anger on the people surrounding you. You know it’s not their fault – it’s just easier to have someone to blame for how you feel rather than to take steps to cope with your stress. At the same time, you find it difficult to be understanding when others treat you the same way.

I have had my fair share of damaged relationships. I have also had relationships that have simply run their course and fizzled out with time. But those relationships all had one thing in common: they lacked mutual support.

A year or so ago, I was in a rather large group of friends. There were around 10-12 of us always sitting together at lunch, laughing together, discussing the latest news. But I always felt like something was missing, a kind of bond that I longed for. The group was too large for me to be close with everyone, so I never felt completely comfortable around them. We spent a lot of time together, but it was meaningless time, filled with superficial conversation, trivial jokes, and much ado about nothing. We had no support system for one another; there was always one person in the group that the other members would take turns having problems with.

I have no hard feelings against the group as a whole. We had fun together and enjoyed each other’s company, which was important to me at the time, but as the pressures and stress of school grew more and more difficult to manage, I found myself craving friendships with real support. Eventually we unofficially broke up into two separate friend groups, largely based off of the compatibility of our personalities. And in my smaller, four-person friend group I feel like I’ve genuinely found a group of people I can express myself to.

Deep, long-lasting friendship is based off of mutual support. It’s knowing that you always have a shoulder to cry on and that your shoulder is in turn always available that makes relationships so valuable and meaningful. Especially when it comes to the extremely stress-inducing, sensitive topic of college applications, you want a strong group with you who will push you to be your best self and encourage you every step of the way.  If you feel like you don’t have relationships of that kind in your life, I encourage you to strive to that level with your current friends or go out and seek better ones. 

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