Welcome to the latest and possibly greatest edition of The Early 20s mailbag. This week, the theme seemed to be friendship — how to acquire these emotionally supportive specimens during this transient life stage, and how to dissociate from them when they get to be too annoying.
Read below for All That and more, and be sure to fill out the form currently staring you in the face if you wish to discuss anything — from how to handle your best friend on his/her 21st birthday, to Drake Bell’s finest TV roles.
-Lance & Steph
Q: I feel like I sometimes need a break from certain friends, especially if I’ve been hanging out with them too much. Is this normal or do I just suck?
Steph: Alone time is a necessity of life, especially when you’ve engaged in more social interaction than you can handle at a given moment. Even the most extroverted people need to be by themselves occasionally — though they might love their friends dearly.
When I need to unwind, I turn off my phone and disconnect from social media (if only briefly — I’m an addict). I go for runs. I go to film screenings by myself. I crawl into bed and listen to my favorite records on repeat (wow, that sounded a lot more #emo than I intended). The point is: it’s okay to take a break from everyone else when you only have enough energy for your own thoughts.
Lance: Totes normal. I’m impressed that you’ve got an admirable enough conscience to feel bad about not liking your friends all the time. I love my friends, but hanging out with them for more than like 5 hours is usually a taller order than a Starbucks trenta.
Q: I’m a college student and I don’t believe I’ve made any real friends. I guess it also stems from those awful HS days, but I just haven’t made real friends I can be me around. I do clubs and activities in things I truly love, but the relationship with those people, as nice as they are, ends there. I don’t like parties and drinking so I steer clear but it gets tiring being alone on weekends when everyone’s out and about and socializing. I’m a quiet, shy, incredibly introverted and awkward guy, but how do I make my social life in college not suck as it does now?
Steph: Take the relationships you’ve fostered with the people in your clubs and activities a step further. You already have common interests, and that’s the primary basis for friendship. Ask them if they’d like to grab coffee, a meal, or even to hang out. It takes time to build real friendships, but you can never reach that point if you don’t make the initial effort.* I know it can be daunting to put yourself out there, but the potential benefits certainly outweigh any costs.
*I feel kind of icky about sounding like a motivational poster, so here’s a slightly relevant Hoodie Allen quote to balance it out: “Say you never heard me…it’s your loss.”
Lance: Use classwork/club connections as a means to hang out. I think a lot of college friendships stem from having to get that deck done for the marketing presentation, or meeting up to prep for the recruitment meeting — it’s these sorts of things that make the friendship seeking less intense. Use them to your favor.
Q: You guys seem like you’ve made a few frat party playlists in your day. We’re having a date party – about 50 people, mostly upperclassmen. I’m a second semester junior and I think I have a real chance with the girl I’m bringing. We’ve been friends since day one of school (never more, but it feels like it’s moving there). I really like her and I think we have shot at an actual, somewhat mature relationship. This one just feels on a different level, you know?
Anyway, I’m in charge of the playlist. Any important advice? Don’t wanna jinx it, but I feel like this could be a huge night. I wanna really woo her.
Steph: The most important song you need to include on this playlist is “#Selfie” by the Chainsmokers. After that, you don’t really need anything else.
Moving out of the Friend Zone and into the Love Zone is risky. Most people worry about jeopardizing the underlying friendship — especially if they aren’t certain how the other person feels. I don’t even have anything snarky to say about this because I know this is a difficult transition, but it carries the possibility of an excellent reward — especially because you two, as friends, are presumably already comfortable around and care about one another. You should just be honest and explain how you feel.
Hopefully, do so during a killer EDM song…to really set the mood. Play this one.
Lance: This is a really solid question and I’m really pulling for you. It seems like everything’s set for you to have a great night. Of course it could also be an absolutely terrible night, but at least it’ll be a solid learning experience.
I think the key here is to find a song that seems to be specifically for her, in an incredibly non-creepy way — one that she’s always loved, and that will get her to look at you with a completely heightened appreciation if she realizes it was handpicked by you. The key to relationships is mutual taste, a taste that appears to be on a different level than everyone else in the room; not so much more sophisticated or smarter, just unique. Just yours.
Which is why you can’t go wrong with I Want You, by Savage Garden. Play it just as the party seems to be moving at an elevated tempo. You’re golden.
Q: Going to be 20 by May, would love some great fun advice on the early 20s. Thanks.
Lance: Eat as many awesome foods as you can. By the time we’re in our 30s were all gonna be on super serious iron man diets and be unable to eat mussels slathered in garlic and butter without shouting the word “cheat day.”
Steph: The best advice anyone has ever given me on navigating those Terrible 20s is “live, don’t exist.” Later, I found out that he ripped that line from Jack London in The Call of the Wild, and I felt slightly gypped. However, the principle still applies. It is easy to get caught up in the Daily Grind. School, school, work, work…but ultimately, more things matter than the numbers on your transcript or your bank statement. Don’t let yourself become shackled to the insignificant.
Try to meet as many people as you can. Have spontaneous adventures. Book a trip to New Orleans or New York City or Austin on a whim. Learn to know your mind and appreciate your body. Keep your good friends close, but cut out the ones who become toxic. Kiss the drummer in an indie rock band. Send letters to your favorite artists and poets. Randomly email people you admire — maybe they’ll help you out. Watch films like Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Vow that your own life will never become that bleak. Fall in love at least twice a year, get hurt a few times, but finally find someone who makes you realize just how rewarding it is to care about another person.
Welcome to your 20s (well, soon). It’s going to be one hell of a ride.