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Photo Courtesy of Lauren Blaser

Authentic Eagles: Lauren Blaser on Groups

As Boston College students, it can be tempting to hide our true selves. Embracing our individuality can help us to understand ourselves and experience the world around us as genuinely as possible. Authentic Eagles is a series that gives a voice to the people who have experienced firsthand the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being one’s authentic self at BC. We hope that readers are inspired to have conversations and reflections of their own, working toward being more authentic individuals.

Lauren Blaser, MCAS '22

I’ve always dreamed of one day possessing a circle of friends whose love for one another crisscrosses equally over the entire group. We’d each be each other’s go-to's, first choices, right hands… every metaphor would apply to us. No one would ever be made to feel like a third wheel or plus one, those secondary and silent roles that will maroon a person in a crowded room. During high school I had hope, but coming to Boston College I had expectations. What is college if not the place to find your people? 

My class at BC was roughly 2,300, what I would call just right. The size of BC is also highly conducive to an ecosystem of friend groups. It doesn’t take a person more than a semester or two to cross paths with a significant portion of their class. Bonds form and converge on Upper Campus, and bus rides to Newton, and then they’re locked down with leases and transnational FaceTimes. Before they know it, seniors find themselves blocked into sprawling, affectionate groups of twelve or eighteen in the mod lots and hillside towers. 

Despite an atypical four years, punctuated by unexpectedly long stints at home and semesters of seclusion, I felt like I knew of much of our class by the time we were all preparing to graduate. I think a lot of people shared this sentiment. It was impossible to know everyone, but that was beautiful too—it meant that during the spring of senior year, we continued to uncover strangers. In our final months on campus, I met people brand new to me, people I loved and could envision a long friendship with. 

I’ve always hated the expression “friend group.” I sound like an overprotective parent when I say why, but here I go—it’s exclusive by nature. Isn’t it? I wince every time someone mentions their “group.” The bounds of a friend group are ambiguous and yet everyone knows exactly where they fall. I know because I spent the last four years outside of every friend group with whom I interacted. 

Freshman year, I watched as roommates and friends established circles with whom they remained in near-constant communication; people they came home to, made decisions with, and rallied whenever leaving campus. They were referred to with the pronouns “we” or “us” and no names or further clarification were needed—I knew exactly who they were talking about.

We decided to skip Circle last night. All of us want to go! We’re taking the T.

Luckily, people had relationships outside of their tight-knit circles, and that was where I found myself taking root. I fell into a routine in which I spent much of my time one-on-one with different people. As much as I craved the crowds that I expected from college, my introversion was no match for the unexpected intimidation they brought. Large gatherings with lots of eyes and voices, particularly during my earlier years at BC, induced a paralyzing silence that I didn’t have to face in more intimate settings. With a single person I could let myself speak, bring up thoughts that I wouldn’t dare mention to a full room. I realized that these interactions were where I thrived. I felt people lowering their walls to me while I did the same, and I was blown away when people continuously sought me out despite my removal from their typical groups. I alone couldn’t offer them the security of a crowd, but so many of the people I met made me feel like I, by myself, was enough. 

This social existence was still complicated for several reasons. While I developed intense—albeit scattered—bonds with people across campus, each of them was simultaneously becoming acquainted with who was soon to be their own close-knit group of friends. I was a nomad who drifted from person to person, while they broke away from their own camps to see me. It wasn’t what I’d expected, and not what I’d hoped for, either, but I began to accept it. During my junior year, when COVID ruled all aspects of life and academics, I reveled in the intimate friendships I’d made. I didn’t have to worry about capping the size of a hangout; I saw most people one at a time anyway. 

In the fall of my senior year, restrictions slowly eased up, and the result was a buzzing social scene. BC was ablaze with activity, the kind of well-functioning chaos that immediately comes to mind when you hear the word “college.” The excitement launched me into an era of self-questioning. My freshman self expected all of my self-conscious qualms to have panned out and settled by the time my fourth year rolled around, but I was a senior and that was not the case. Once again, reality guffawed in the face of my expectations.

The class of 2022 reunited in late August, emerging from off-campus houses and scattered summer plans that had us sequestered in different corners of the city, the country, and the world. I ran into people I hadn’t seen since spring of 2020, and realized that many of them had spent that time growing closer to entire networks of people I barely knew. I might have known them, if we’d had the previous year to mingle in hallways, bars, and study abroad programs. But I didn’t. It was our last fall at BC, and suddenly I felt like it was too late to form new, strong connections. This looming concern was accentuated by the fact that my closest friends were like gems strewn across campus in little pockets of their own. No matter where I chose to spend my time, and who I chose to be with, a corner of my mind was preoccupied with where I wasn’t. I know that most other seniors felt very similarly. Every study session, lazy afternoon, and night out felt significant in its conclusive nature. It started with our last club fair, then football game, then winter break. Back in September 2018, our convocation speaker, Dave Evans, introduced the acronym JOMO during his keynote speech: the Joy of Missing Out. The idea was that we should embrace the mere fact that we have so many lovely, abounding opportunities—people to meet, places to be, events to attend. We’re bound to miss some of them, Evans explained, but he said that this wasn’t a reason to be fearful. Four years later and acutely aware of every person and moment that had slipped by me, I was anything but joyful. It was as though I was stuck on a hamster wheel of FOMO, and no move could free me from it.

I remember trying to explain my frustration to a close friend of mine, thinking I was unique in my self-pity. I couldn’t find the words for a while, but when I did attempt, I was shocked by her earnest agreement in response. You? I’d think. But I always thought your people were one big, happy family (read: one big, happy set of blocked mods)? Aren’t you together, loving it, all of the time? 

I also had friends tell me that the concept of a “friend group” which I had enshrined as the epitome of the college experience was not nearly deserving of the reverence I had bestowed upon it. They’d tell me about the near impossibility of feeling equally close to so many people. The likelihood of drama that comes with spending so much time in the same ensemble of opinions and perspectives, drama which they’d experienced firsthand. That’s not to say friend groups aren’t desirable; I just hadn’t considered any reality outside of the rosy lenses through which I watched them. As I so often do, I realized I’d built a podium for a person/thing/idea that I didn’t know personally.

The spring of senior year was a riptide with currents of every emotion imaginable. I was mourning and relishing the passage of time all at once, terrified one moment and overjoyed the next. If the fall felt significant, then the spring felt more precious than ever. 

On the most iridescent, glowing afternoons of May, I’d pass by groups of friends as they were photographed under the Stokes bridge, or in front of Gasson’s towering stone glory. With this sight came even more feelings. I was overwhelmed with admiration, amazed at their beauty and maturity. Something about seeing friends and even strangers in suits and the color white made me so emotional. But there was also resentment. If I were to plan “pictures”—as the senior tradition came to be so simply called—who would I be photographed with? I knew who I’d like pictures with, but that list was a chaotic smattering of friends across campus, involved in totally different spaces, living in separate places, sometimes never having met at all. I felt like I was drawing up a list of bridesmaids. People might unite with strangers for a wedding, but not for graduation pictures. It was a lost cause. 

In particularly difficult moments, I let my mind wander and felt myself spiral—if I didn’t have a given group of people to link arms with in front of the golden eagle statue, what did I have? Who did I have? Poised to walk away from Boston College, and decidedly lacking a master group chat of everyone close to me, I wondered whether I’d done something wrong. Whether I’d done college wrong. The worst part about all of this was the harsh reality that my entire class was beginning to accept: it was too late to change anything that had already happened.  The reign of BC’s class of 2022 was rapidly closing in on itself. Time was running out. I loved so many people, but they didn’t necessarily love one another, let alone know one another. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Sitting in Bapst on the first (one of my last) study days, a straw broke deep inside my chest. I texted a good friend of mine and asked if she’d be willing to help me plan a little end-of-year photoshoot. Then, I sent a string of individual texts. My roommates from this year and from last. Friends I’d known since freshman year. People I’d recently grown close to, but felt like I’d known for way longer. Then I held my breath, because the whole plan felt like a self-centered and hopeless feat. 

The next day at 4pm, I hobbled in heels up the staircase next to Ignacio hall. Waiting by the Gasson fountain were some of my closest friends from the last four years. People weren’t standing five feet apart, or silently scrolling on their phones. They were all chatting like they’d known each other forever. And some of them had! I shouldn’t have been surprised. Everyone at BC knows that while the rest of the world is separated by seven degrees, the population of Chestnut Hill is tethered by two degrees at most.

On the golden, yet incredibly somber, afternoon of May 23, I slowly closed my car door and drove away from campus as a student for the last time. I was exhausted, angry, and scared, but full of love. I wasn’t alone. I realize now that I have developed a family of friends at Boston College. To my initial frustration, they weren’t (and still aren’t) arranged into a perfect circle of mutual relationships. But then, I don’t think I would have it any other way. I learned that life, love, and friendship are too nuanced to produce the perfectly geometric web that I dreamed about. Not everyone I love knows each other. The next instance in which I’m able to gather everyone together is likely to be my wedding. But that isn’t a point of shame for me anymore. It’s just another lesson I learned at BC, one I’ll carry for the rest of my life. And what is college if not the place to realize what you were wrong about all along?