Residence life can breed a culture of many faces that smile at other faces, yet one has to dig deep within those faces to find the friendships. Vanessa Selemale walks in and out of residence as one of those faces acquainted with other faces and her journey to making true friends has been one laden with many lessons. Having come to university with the hope of making the ideal friend who understand her without effort, Vanessa admits that her hope sometimes seemed to be out of reach.
Thinking about it some more she clarifies that she is satisfied with having her few friends and many acquaintance. This is something she decided very early in her university career after realising that not everyone who stands in the crowd and cheers you on while you’re drunk and acting crazy, is your friend.
She remarks that she still talks to many people she met during orientation week but the friendships are at different levels. This has resulted from spending time with them and seeing what everyone wants from the university life and their future along with the lessons she learned while partying with several of them. In truth, Orientation Week and the months that followed taught Vanessa many lesson about the dynamics of friendships and she hopes to pass her knowledge on to the generations of first year students still to come. “Some friends are seasonal, and that’s alright,” says a more mature Vanessa.
Learning about the clubbing scene for the first time in university, she discloses that she was unable to keep up with this lifestyle. Vanessa grew up as responsible daughter who held down a job and often took care of her brothers and knew nothing about the night life of a teenage girl.
Looking back and re-evaluating a week in which she had missed going to Grahamstown notorious club Equilibrium for a weekend of clubbing because her mother had come over, she relates how her friends in residence spent hours looking for her. Alerting the house sub-warden, the master key was brought out to open her door in an attempt to check that she hadn’t committed suicide. Appreciating a friend’s remark a few months after the incident, she relates that her friend expressed greater understanding of who she is and no longer pressured her into going out to Equilibrium on the weekend. “We’re all trying to find ourselves and in such confined spaces we need to learn people’s mannerisms and habits very early in the game.”
What she wants from her friends hasn’t always been a thing she was certain about. Leaning back and slowly sipping her tea, Vanessa explains that she has no problem with going out, the question is usually “going out to do what and where?” Crossing her legs and rediscovering her hand she hesitantly begins to explain the tension she’s had to face when choosing which friends to spend her Friday nights with, “for me, that’s where the whole Black and White thing comes in”. Vanessa finds that on many Friday nights her Black friends usually gravitate towards Equilibrium. Meanwhile her White friends have thought of yet another innovative way of celebrating the weekend, be it sipping a glass of wine at a casual dinner in someone’s digs or going to see different destinations in the province.
Although Vanessa’s has learnt that getting drunk and having random guys rub against you, all in the name of fun, is not her idea of a good time out, she believes that once a friendship is formed, one has to keep working at it because one is not a friend to someone in isolation of other friendships.
With a year of practice Vanessa still does not believe she is the expert on friendship but she now lives with a firm conviction that her real friends have been the people who remained her friends even in her absence without her having to send them a reminder.