/askslash/ 2nd edition

Dear UCG-community: once again you asked, we answered. This time GT and Johannes answer your questions about dating, friendship and how to connect to the other years. You can submit any other burning questions through this link.

1. Date ideas in the time of Covid!


This is a great question and admittedly I have been wondering about this as well for some time. Especially with it being winter as well it seems like there is nothing to do. For the moment I will thus look at ideas that are more or less winterproof.

Now, to get started, I would make the date dependent on the relationship with the other person. Is it a first date? Is it a second date? Do I know the person already? Have we been dating for a while?

For example, if it is a first date with a person you do not know well yet, committing to a two hour plus dinner date can make something that would be wonderful if given the time, become incredibly awkward. So in this instance, especially given corona, I like to invite the other person for a coffee/tea to go and walk around town with them. This has, on the one hand, the benefit that you can at any point leave if things don’t go well but on the other hand that if they do go well you can go to yours or theirs and continue your date. Another positive side effect is that you don’t have to worry about the big C all too much.

If it's the second or third date onward and you have become somewhat comfortable with the other person, then I would always recommend cooking or baking together (if you have the luxury of an oven that is). Ask what their favourite meal is, buy some stuff on the market together and off you go. You create something together, bond over your love of food, because let’s be real who doesn’t love to eat, and talk about your favourite movies or music or cooking technique.

Now if you want to set up a date with your s/o then keeping up a conversation is less important. Now it’s about spending quality time. That means watching each other’s favourite movie, reading from your favourite books to each other or drawing together. At this point, it matters less what you do but how you do it. So for the love of god put your phone away and give them your undivided attention.

A date is about getting to know another person and enjoying yourselves, so pick something you both will enjoy. Thinking about this together is also a good idea. If the other person likes you too, then they will be happy to help. So my best advice for date ideas is that whatever you do just pay your full attention to the other person. Not of the creepy, unblinking sort but make sure to put your phone away and listen to what they have to say, they are likely as nervous as you.

And now an unordered list of possible things to do on a date:

Go for a walk, bake something together, cook together, watch the best movie you have ever seen together, watch the most hilariously bad movie you have ever seen together, show each other your favourite songs and tell what they mean to you, play a card game, overthrow the patriarchy, binge watch Queen’s Gambit and then try to learn chess, paint together inside or outside depending on your cold resistance, do psychedelics, wreck each other at Mario kart, summon the devil, watch the night sky, go for a bike tour together, get high together and let compassion grow, drink tea together and talk about your plans for the future, play THE ( ) AND together (it’s one of those question games, I really like it here is a link), do anything that the two of you think is fun or interesting or worthwhile doing.


2. How can it be that when you start living with your friends the friendship can kinda fade?


What you are asking pertains to one of the harshest realities of life. Similar to romantic relationships, friendships can fade, rupture and disappear in an innumerable amount of circumstances. The situation you’ve described in your question is undoubtedly one of the most, if not THE most painful, difficult and confusing ways for these attachments to end. How can it be that when your life becomes more deeply intertwined with someone you’re quite certain you like, the connection seems to dwindle? Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Especially when the more common and comprehensible avenue friendships take toward their end seems to happen when the two parties diverge away from each other. In this case, you are converging, yet, the effect is somehow the same.

I’m going to outline some issues which have commonly come up in these scenarios, however, the best place to start looking for an answer is within. You need to look back and reflect on why you are friends in the first place. What drew the two of you together? Perhaps something about these reasons has changed? Maybe the bond was formed because the two of you shared a schedule or routine and found comfort and strength in carrying this out together? Maybe it’s simply a shared interest? The connections forming the base of these bonds come in many forms which is why I stress again that it’s important to look within and reflect as it’s the most sensible place to start. 

In addition to that, I want to talk more about schedules. It could be that the connective bond between the two (or more) of you is actually as strong as ever, stronger even. However, your respective pursuits in life may entail that you follow completely different schedules and therefore, you quite simply don’t get the chance to see each other that often. This is a truly painful but unfortunately common way for a friendship to fade, especially considering you now live together. I have experienced this on multiple occasions. Life can take you on many different paths and sadly, we do not get free choice of who to take along with us, no matter how much we like them. 

I would also like to point out that even though you’re in university and the whole world seems to be telling you that you’re a fully formed adult, these years are still very formative for your personality and who you are as an individual. Your interests, hobbies, values and perspectives all have great potential to fluctuate and change. These changes can be powerful agents behind a dissipating friendship. On the other hand, and on a more positive note, they can also serve to provide a strong basis for a new connection. 

Now, I want you to think about something that might very well be uncomfortable. Could it be that you were merely excited by the idea of friendship? Similar to how some people will form romantic relationships because they are more excited by the idea of love rather than actually feeling it? There can be overlap, sure, but this distinction is important. When people arrive in a new place (this case being university) away from the familiar connections and surroundings of their past, powerful feelings of loneliness and fear can take hold. On the flip side maybe you were glad to leave your past life because you’ve always lacked connection and companionship. Either way, a deep, uncomfortable void may exist within you, an empty space which demands to be filled. Thus, often we will feel the need to form new connections, sometimes as fast as possible. Pressure is further added by the fact that you only get one year in Frascati and you have to find a different place to live afterwards. One year might be enough for some people but certainly not everyone. It can be so infuriating to see how easily this process and these connections can come to some people while others feel like they are stumbling and fumbling around in the dark seeking for the certainty which others possess. At the end of my first year, I found myself moving into a house with some others who I called friends, much to my excitement. But time showed me that it was more the idea of living with friends which fuelled my excitement as opposed to the friendship itself. I now live alone which isn’t exactly the outcome I wanted as I often still fantasise scenarios of living with a cool group of friends (even just one friend would be nice). I am often jealous and envious of those who formed solid, genuine friendships quickly and now share a harmonious and fun living space together. But this is the situation I’m in and that’s just how it is. Though I should mention that I have in my life multiple genuine and loving connections with friends which are extremely valuable to me. It just took me a fair bit longer to get there. It’s also important to mention that I was by no means the only person from my year who moved out of their first choice houses and entailing housemates due to a faltering connection. Friendships can be so painfully similar to romantic relationships whereby it’s a long road of trial and error with a good sprinkle of circumstantial happenstance to throw you off. 

I’m sorry my answers are so long, but I, as well as many others, understand your situation and I wanted to give the best possible answer that my experience can offer. 

To round off this answer I want to touch upon some factors which I found online and which have been talked about by previous psychology teachers. These could also be the source of the rift you are experiencing. Generally, these factors pertain to a kind of imbalance which can exist between friends.

Caring and Sharing: Friendships will typically include shared compassion as you want someone to confide in which helps us with emotional strength and comfort. If there is an imbalance here whereby one person feels the other shares too little or perhaps overshares, problems can arise.

Affiliation and lifestyles: I talked about this above but it’s important to remember that the shared affiliations and interests between two people are subject to change as individuals will change, especially when you’re still young.

Expectations: Several psychologists have claimed that mismatched expectations are the most common ways for friendships to end. Desires for caring, sharing, time, energy, closeness and reciprocity can vary from person to person. Even if both parties are fully invested in the friendship, a mismatch can still exist. This is also very difficult to sort out as most people aren’t upfront about these sorts of things (I guess that would be kinda weird). Worst of all, the realisation that there are mismatched expectations might emerge late in the friendship, making the matter all the more difficult to comprehend and deal with. 

I hope this answer has helped you in some way.


3. How to connect with other years?


I am quite a social character myself and I totally understand this desire. I am lucky to have experienced most of university life in the pre-corona era, which meant I had full access to UCG’s wonderful building. I made full use of this because firstly, it’s a nice building and goddam, our extra expensive tuition fees ought to count for something right? Secondly, it was a perfect social space. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time there and getting to know more people as this is the kind of environment that UCG fosters. But alas, the dreaded rona has turned everything on its head, and I am left feeling lucky to have made my connections before its arrival. To be completely honest, if I had arrived now as a first-year, I don’t know what I’d do. Literally walking around a building and talking to randoms has always been my style, and Corona has made this impossible. There is one avenue which I initially did not think of but a friend of mine reminded me. Join a committee! Even though committee activities have taken a hit as a result of corona, committee members are making admirable efforts to sustain life and activity within their circles. The source of these efforts comes from what I mentioned above, UCG’s social spirit. For even though the wonderful building with it’s encompassing harmonious space is gone, the spirit is not. So maybe try that?

Also, side note, I’m sure you and I are in different years and I like to think that I’m connecting with some people I don’t know through the answers I am giving here. Maybe it’s not the same for you but I am rather grateful for this connection, even though the question was submitted anonymously. 


4. I feel like I haven’t made the right friends and that I cannot truly be myself around them, I really want to meet new people but with corona this is difficult and maybe not so safe and I don’t know what to do about this.


This relates a bit to the two questions which came before, however, you have emphasised your fear towards corona, understandably so. It’s hard for me to answer especially when I consider my own position of privilege where the friends in my life are more or less established. Since the start of the pandemic, I have not made any new friends because all the lockdowns and the threat of the virus seriously suck because we must be wary. I did make some friends but I was simply getting to know the people that lived in my building because all of us couldn’t really see our friends or meet new people. 

Honestly, I don’t have much advice for you besides maybe joining a committee as I have mentioned before? It could be something but I realise that’s fairly shallow advice when what you’re looking for is a group of friends to really connect and relate with. 

Of course, you could just say “fuck it” accept the risk of Covid and risk it anyway (If I’m ever on the record, I do not endorse this), get out there and meet some people. Again, this is kinda shallow advice because most things are closed and most people are pretty much staying at home. So, even if you put yourself out there, you might find not many others have done the same. 

This answer gets more dire with each sentence. Covid really fucking sucks aye? 

But perhaps I have one hopeful answer for you. I obviously don’t know the intricacies of your situation and the friend group you have found yourself in but you did mention that you ‘felt’ like you hadn’t made the right friends? My deduction would lead me to believe that these friends were made fairly recently. I would like to urge you to maybe give it more time? Friendships, like romances, can spring up and grow from unexpected places. I realise a friend group isn’t an unexpected place, but since you feel that you are losing touch with this friend group, you could say it is unexpected? The point being, you, as well as the people in this group, are still growing and figuring things out. Therefore, it could be worth sticking it out a bit more. And I’m not talking about just waiting around for the spark to catch but maybe you could try and manufacture that spark in some way? Don’t be disingenuous when you do so though, just try and open up with them a bit more and see if they do too. Perhaps there’s something in them that you haven’t seen or has not been revealed as of yet? Maybe there lies a path towards feeling comfortable around them but it has been hidden from you? 

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself though, my advice here might be completely useless as it could be this group just really aren’t the friends for you. In that case, I’m sorry, it’s a tough situation even without the pandemic. But before you resign yourself to that completely, try and stoke the fire a bit, see if something will catch. 

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