It took me 7 years to graduate college.
In my first two years, I was academically dismissed on two separate occasions for failing to maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average.
I spent half of my college career on academic probation.
The worst part about those facts is that I am a nerd who loves to study and learn.
I actually enjoy school.
How, then, did I manage to struggle so much at a task that I’m naturally suited for?
Two words: peer pressure.
My friends constantly teased me for wanting to spend all my time studying in libraries and coffee shops. They told me, “You can study any time.” They told me to relax and have fun. They even accused me of loving my books more than them.
So, I oriented my life around fitting in, pleasing my friends, partying hard, and proving that I loved them as much I as love my work.
And for three consecutive years, I watched all those friends graduate on time as I was forced to stay back and repeat classes I had failed.
My friends weren’t around to help me when I had to have uncomfortable conversations with my parents about why I failed to meet my responsibilities.
My friends weren’t around to help me when I had to explain to so many people why I was still in college in spite of my start date.
I was labeled by many people as lazy, irresponsible, and immature. None of my friends were around to help me tell the full story.
Those friends were busy living their lives and I had to sort through my embarrassment and financial loss all by myself.
I have no regrets because I learned a valuable lesson that will never leave me: Any friend who refuses to consider your values and responsibilities is not a friend.
“Friend” means a heck of a lot more than “someone who wants to party with you or hang out all day.”
A friend is someone who supports your efforts to be the best possible version of yourself even if it means they don’t get to have beers with you every weekend.
Love isn’t just about demanding someone’s time; it’s also about encouraging the people we care for to do what’s right even if it conflicts with our own selfish agendas.
Today, I have just as many friends as I did back in college. But none of those friends are people who make me feel guilty or apologetic for orienting my life around the values and responsibilities that reflect my true self.
It’s a feeling I highly recommend.
The Influence Your Friends Have on You Is Real
Study after study after study has shown that it’s not just the people in our immediate sphere that play a role in our attitudes and behaviors, but even those a few degrees of separation away—not just our friends, but friends of friends, and friends of their friends.