One of my best friends likes taking videos of me when I’m not paying attention, especially when he knows that I am about to do something dumb. Take, for example, the time when he convinced me to play a video game for the first time in my life. I thought that I would have a “safe space” to learn to play Smash Brothers. In reality, he was videoing my struggle with the gaming console. I only figured it out when I looked over at him and realized that he had stopped playing altogether and was holding back laughter.
Over the course of our friendship, he has made a tremendous amount of these videos — and while most of them involve pranks he’s played on me, some are heartwarming videos that he’s taken as mementos of our friendship. This ritual used to drive me crazy, but now it’s become a hallmark of our relationship, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When I was studying abroad — very far away in Moscow — it was nice to have these videos on my phone: they provided me with a reminder of my friendships at times when I felt so very alone. And now that I’m entering the twilight of my undergraduate career, I feel similarly: I’ve begun to keep them in a folder on my phone (and computer) to make sure that I can watch them whenever I feel lonely, which is likely to be the case in a matter of months.
For the past four years, I’ve done my best to keep mementos of the relationships I care about — and while that often means doing traditional things like printing off photos at CVS, it also has meant making collages of birthday cards, printing off meaningful emails to put into scrapbooks, and treasuring three-dollar drugstore gifts with my life. Freshman year, I would have thrown it all away, but now that graduation has nearly become palpable, I cling to every piece of these relationships in the hope that I’ll rely on them for comfort someday.
In a way, this is a coping mechanism. When abroad, watching videos that my friend had taken kept me from feeling completely alone; now, back at Princeton, wearing earrings that another friend gave me for my birthday reminds me that she cares about me when I’m having a bad day. Reminders of your close relationships are, in a way, just as important as the relationships themselves: in the person’s absence, a memento serves to remind you that they are there.
This is critical for Princeton students: when we go abroad — for a semester or for a summer — so many of us are thrust into a completely new environment. Knowing that someone cares about us is often what makes the difference between a good and a bad experience. But this isn’t limited to going abroad: being on campus is hard, too, and it’s here that we often need to be reminded that we are loved and cared for.
Now that I’m on the precipice of graduation, I know that I’ll need these mementos more than ever. Wherever I end up, I’ll likely be very far from the friends on this campus, my friends off this campus, and my family around the world — and will need to remind myself of their presence. And for that reason, I’ve stopped minding that my friend takes videos of me when I’m not paying attention. Even if I end up saying something dumb.
Leora Eisenberg is a senior from Eagan, M.N. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.