By: Shameem Razack
These past few months, I have not felt at my best if I want to be completely transparent. As someone who is also just introverted by nature and living in the cold Midwest is not the right mix. A combination of all these things has made me isolate more often than not. As an undergraduate college student, there is always an expectation to socialize. There is an expectation of being in spaces (even if you really do not want to be there) for the sake of ‘networking.’ Or some other thing they told you will help your professional career in the long run. To be completely honest: It’s exhausting to me and something I never really cared for while being a college student. There is something so draining about forced interactions for the sake of ‘this person has connections.’
On top of that, then searching for a community and/or friendships becomes a bit more challenging when specific spaces do not reflect your identities to the fullest. These complexities cause people the lack of connecting to others only if it is for the sake of some transactional interest. The idea that everyone you engage with is a person who can elevate or provide labor for you is definitely rooted in capitalism.
I say all this to say that I am genuinely grateful for the friendships that have been formed through my college years. These friendships have been full of support when I did not see it anywhere else. Full of learning and unlearning specific ideas. To now being much more conscious of people’s experiences and listening to others. These moments of growth and accountability could not happen without that factor of intimacy within my friendships. Unfortunately, intimacy has been oversimplified to only equate to romantic or sexual relationships. However, friendships for various reasons do not share the same value in comparison to other relationships.
Part of this is due to our heteronormative society in which has regulated and put value only in heterosexual partnerships. For the sake of this piece, I will focus more so on the United States. Heterosexual partnerships are seen as the norm within society, and this production of knowledge of the ‘norm’ is seen through media, education, pop culture, and government. Ask yourself why is it married couples get certain tax benefits? Why do we teach children either inherently or directly that you should learn to cook or do various everyday things for the sake of doing it for a Husband/Wife? Why do we put more emphasis on celebrating a wedding in comparison to a graduation or job promotion?
Now connecting this back to friendships and intimacy. Our friendships, sometimes due to expectations from society, regulate how much effort is put into them. This is also why men and boys are unable to build friendships as their performance of masculinity solely ties to not wanting to be seen as ‘un-masculine.’ Just last week, I was surprised when a friend of mine decided out of nowhere to give me a candle and spend time with me as she knew I was not feeling great. Part of me being surprised was because something such as quality time, affirmation, and some form of gift is something we have expected only in romantic relationships. This then made me reflect back to previous friendships and why they ultimately did not work — because there was no mutual space for love and intimacy to happen. They were good friends, but we limited our friendship to only being something where we could have fun together, and that was it.
Not every friendship has to have some deep bond. Still, I will say from the friendships that have formed mutual love and respect, it was because there was a genuine connection. There was a genuine care for each other and expectation of wanting the best for each other. Especially the friendships that have fostered with other Black women have completely changed me for the better. I have a few more months here in college, but if there is one thing that I will take here, it is my friendships. Hopefully, everyone can experience that sometime in their life.
Shameem Razack is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. Shameem is currently finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Gender and Women’s studies at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Outside of being a student, Shameem is involved in various organizations that focus on social justice. You can also find Shameem on youtube, Sincerely Shameem, where she discusses all things pop culture, makeup and book reviews. Be sure to connect with Shameem on Instagram (@SincerelyShameem) and Twitter (@box_hijabi)!