Last July, I moved across the country from Grand Rapids, MI to Wilmington, NC. It has been almost a year, and I have settled in well to the busy graduate student life. I drink a lot of coffee; I’m almost always hunched over a computer. And I’ve made quite a few friends as well. Friends who laugh loudly and often. Friends who know how to have fun and how to buckle down and get to work. Friends who I can count on to read my work and respond sincerely to it. Friends for drinking coffee, for studying, for drinking a glass of wine while playing board games. I have made some exceptional friends within the last nine months.
This past weekend, my friend Kincso, who I went to Calvin with, came down to visit me. It was a great visit, including studying at coffee shops, watching movies, playing Ticket to Ride, making dinner, and going to the beach. She lives in DC, only six hours away. Even so, I don’t see her as often as I’d like.
Having Kincso over for a couple days got me thinking about my friends. I used to think I didn’t have very many, only a few close friends. And that was enough. Now, I have friends all over the world—in Grand Rapids, in Wilmington, up and down the East Coast, and even in Korea.
I learned this song when I was young: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” It’s taken me a while to understand what it means, but I’m going to take a stab at it. My gold friends, the friends I’ve had since college, some since high school, are the people to whom I can tell anything, but with whom I don’t necessarily need to speak. They are precious, like gold. We have gotten past that awkward stage of getting to know each other and become solid friends. We don’t need to see each other regularly, or even talk on the phone regularly to keep our friendship alive. We will always be friends.
My silver friends are the newer friends. They, too, are valuable because they challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone, to engage in new and stimulating conversations. Some of these people may become life-long friends.
That’s why I feel that meeting people and reaching out to them is so important. You never know how the person that you smiled at or spoke to briefly might influence your life or how you might influence theirs.
Kincso and I met at Calvin. We were smoking cigarettes outside of Johnny’s and I went over and said hi. Time passed and we ran into each other at Common Ground Coffee House. We began studying together whenever we ran into each other there. Honestly, I didn’t have grand hopes for this friendship. I just wanted a study buddy and a casual friend.
Now, Kincso is coming to my wedding this summer. She is one of my closest, dearest friends. I often think about the randomness of how we met, and I wonder if some of my new silver friends will become like Kincso in the future. I can only hope.
P.S. Editor’s note: Bethany was just published in the online journal, Sleet Magazine! Read her story here.
Bethany Tap (’12) received her MFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she also worked as the managing editor of Chautauqua: the literary journal of the Chautauqua Institution. She is currently working on her first novel. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her wife, Clarissa, and son, Alexander.