On Forming Friendships in the City

by Diti Kohli

Friendship was simpler when I was “young” and at home—unhindered by the tedious responsibility of functioning independently. I am still young, but now young with the expectation of maturity. Back before, it was so easy to play along with the antics of other children and fall comfortably into the meaningless categorization of “best friends.”

In college—particularly one in urban Boston, best friends are not collected so effortlessly. Our relationships with our friends are purposefully created. We now have to work to facilitate and maintain friendships.

Though college is short relative to the breadth of life, my time here still feels drastically distended from my experience at home. At home, familiarity lurked in unconvincing corners: the right turn I took to the gas station and the unmoved candy aisle in my frequented drugstore. Standing signs were rusted with memories of loud singing in warm, broken-down cars. And people there were recognizable and reachable.

Photos by Mariely Torres-Ojeda

Photos by Mariely Torres-Ojeda

In my suburban Chicago town, I could recite the exact directions to my best friend's house and even specify which stop lights on the way were painfully slow and frankly avoidable.

Everyone in this city, however, is new. There are smokers on street corners with glaring eyes I’ve never seen any women with piercing glances that strike me for a second before I say my final silent goodbye.

In the fragmented reality of bustling Boston, it is facile to hunker down in our beds away from this unavoidable newness and submerge ourselves in the grey light from damaged windows. Here, I can be a loner with unending ease. It’s not uncommon to go days or even weeks without a word from those I consider friends; Karina’s texts are easy to ignore and conversations with Katie in hallways and passing moments are sometimes kept short and sweet. Many of my acquaintances, on the other hand—people I meet in organizations and classes—live multiple T stops away: $2.25 spent the green line, transfer to the red line, then walk five minutes.


Though we live in this confined and overpopulated metropolitan, the pace of school and city allow us to glide past each other and exist separately unless we explicitly try otherwise.

Spending time with those who pique your interest then, a previously minor activity that required only a short drive becomes long-winded because of this fragmentation. Is the platonic relationship even worth it at the end?—I often find myself begging this question.


My answer is yes. Interaction is essential to people. Everyone needs someone to listen to their unrelenting rants and shoulder a part of their burden of existence. I try to check in and spend time with the people I care about, no matter how busy and preoccupied I feel. Because the friendship that originates in these hours spent together is as significant to my well-being as it is to theirs.

Every Bostonian, especially every Boston college student, occasionally feels like one of many—infinitesimal in the unending quantity of people making their way down Boylston. And so each one of us must link hands and create friendships to shield away from the fragmentation of our New England metropolis and make us feel more connected and whole.