Learning to Lean

Remember freshman year when we took Victorian England?”

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, which means we’re sitting in our living room attempting to do homework, instead of hiking Old Rag like we had excitedly planned earlier in the week. But (naturally) as the morning fades into afternoon, the motivation wanes, and we find ourselves distracted by time hop, old assignments and old letters that surfaced many of the memories we’ve made over the past three years.

Three years ago, I had just moved into Shenandoah A405. Everything was new. New classes, new professors, new city, new living arrangements, new schedule, new hobbies, and more importantly, new friends. Before I moved to JMU, I’d heard that the friends I made that first weekend would probably be with me for the rest of my time in college, but I wasn’t sure how that was possible, and honestly, I wasn’t super excited about making new friends. I had great friends back home; why did I need more?

Three years later, I’m smiling to myself as I reflect on freshman year because those friends I met that first week are now my best friends at school and many of the closest friends I have. In fact, most of us live together in an old house not far from campus (and yes, all ten of us fit quite nicely, but you wouldn’t know that from the outside; hence the name: Little Big House).

One of the wildflowers blooming on our back patio.
One of the wildflowers blooming on our back patio.

Three years of laughing, crying, learning, adventuring, sharing, growing. Three years of inside jokes and memories that will forever bring smiles to our faces. Three years of learning more about what friendship really is and who true friends are.

Each day, I’m reminded that true friends are the ones who are there when it all falls apart. When the dreams crumble, disaster strikes, thoughts overwhelm, conflict arises, or it’s just been a rough day. They are there to pick you up, to comfort, to encourage, to listen and to solve the world’s problems in a matter of minutes.

For example, friends bring each other candles and ice cream when they have had a rough day.
For example, friends bring each other candles and ice cream when they have had a rough day.

True friendship is reciprocal. And that’s taken me a while to learn. It’s not about always being the strong one. It’s not about being the one who has it all together and all of the pride that comes with that mindset. It’s about letting people in. It’s about learning to receive back what you give to others. It’s about realizing there are people who love you and care about you just as much as you love and care about them. It’s about doing life together, when it’s good and when it’s hard. I think I’m finally getting it. Or starting to anyway.

The words of Bill Withers have started to finally sink, as I gain more appreciation for this thing called friendship and the wonderful friends I have. And not only my wonderful friends in Harrisonburg, but also all over the state, the country and the world. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show.
” –Lean on Me by Bill Withers


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