Faltering friendships and careless classmates
Auntie Matter on growing apart and growing frustration
If you have questions for Auntie Matter, please submit them at tinyurl.com/AskAuntieMatter. Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.
Dear Auntie Matter,
Recently, I’ve felt like my friend group has become different from what it used to be. Sometimes I feel like I don't belong, and I thought maybe the stress of MIT was just getting to me and making me feel annoyed, because they’re not bad people and I’m grateful that I met them. But I’ve tried to analyze the situation when I’m in a good mood and I still often feel this way. I’ve tried hanging out with other people more and it makes me feel much more refreshed which is nice, but I don’t know if I can really “join” another friend group at this point. Perhaps it’s okay to not have one core group, and college *is* only four years in my life? I’ve thought about this lately as I try to cultivate things that make me happy in life. How should I deal with this and also stop beating myself up too much over maybe growing apart from them?
— Frantic Over Friend Groups
Auntie is glad you seem to read her column! You say, “I’ve tried to analyze the situation when I'm in a good mood,” which is exactly what Auntie advised earlier this semester. She’s glad to see this, because reading Auntie Matter is the first step to a well-ordered life. However, dear reader, Auntie thinks you still need a little more practice, because she thinks you may be blowing this issue a little out of proportion. (Auntie wonders if you are that same person to whom she gave the aforementioned advice — please feel free to keep writing back. Always need more questions!)
Your issue actually seems to be the labelling. While it is true that groups of friends do exist, these entities are usually not totally static, nor are they exclusive. There is no need to announce you are joining or leaving a friend group, nor is there need to only be in one friend group. You say you are berating yourself, but there is no need for guilt here. Ultimately, if there are individuals in that first group who still want to be close to you, and to whom you still want to be close, you can maintain those friendships. Not to be harsh, but if you really are growing apart, it’s likely that the rest of the group will not begrudge you making some other friends.
Auntie suggests going with your gut on this one, each individual day. Make plans with whom you want to make plans, not with whom you think you ought to make plans. If you really want to spend more time with other people, you can make a concerted effort to hang out with them. However, you will probably sort into the appropriate group spontaneously if you follow your genuine inclinations. Just hang out with who you like, and the big picture will probably sort itself out.
Don’t think so much. Enjoy yourself. It’s OK.
Dear Auntie Matter,
My recitations for my HASS class are mandatory, but lately I’ve been finding it painful to attend. The issue is, my classmates don’t make very insightful comments. People will often ask questions to which they would have known the answers, had they so much as read the PSET. Can I do anything about this, or do I just need to endure?
Auntie, who is herself a HASShole, suggests first the passive-aggressive approach. When a classmate brings up a question,the answer to which is on the pset, you should, in a tone of surprise and delight, refer them to the relevant pset question, e.g., “Oh, I noticed that Question 7 on the pset talks about that!”
Alternatively, post complaints about your classmates on MIT Confessions until they get the hint.
However, passive-aggression aside, the only real option Auntie sees for you is to endure. If it’s really bothering you, you can always drop the class, but if you need the class, or it’s not bothering you quite enough to drop, then you must endure. The core strategy Auntie suggests for weathering vexatious questions from classmates is to engage with the material and ask interesting questions yourself. The benefits of this strategy are several. First, if you engage with the material, you can think about your own theories and questions while the professor answers the annoying questions. Second, you can try to elevate the level of discourse in the class with your questions — maybe other students will become more interested if at least one student asks interesting questions, or, if not, at least you will be hearing answers to a few of your own interesting questions each class. Third, this is a good opportunity to get to know your professor; if the other students are not engaged, perhaps he or she can devote more time to you.
Auntie wishes you good luck with your disengaged classmates.