How ‘Friends’ Helped Me Survive Moving Away For College

When I used to feel my heart rate rise and my stomach knot in high school, I would watch “Friends.”

My anxiety wasn’t bad — it was relatively common. It never prevented me from doing anything, I never took medication, I never missed out on typical high school experiences. I would be slightly unhappier at functions I was anxious at, just a little nauseous. On bad weeks I would go out with my friends to parties, not drink anything, and leave early to lay in bed and watch “Friends.” Something about it calmed me down, especially given the anxiety of moving away to college.

The idea of moving my whole life a 45-minute drive away to college terrified me. The life I had built, all of my closest friends, the house I’d lived in my whole life, my family, my mother’s amazing food — how was I supposed to recreate this? Don’t get me wrong, I was itching to get out. I fought with my mother about everything like the angsty teenager I was. My parents were overprotective, and in my opinion treated me like I was fourteen until the day I moved out. But to start completely over, even with this freedom, seemed like a looming unattainable task.

On days where I didn’t want to leave my old house and my childhood, I would run to my parents’ room with my laptop. Their bed is huge and comfortable and I sank into it and hid from the world. Not from my family, who would jump into bed with me and snuggle. It was the perfect place to nap, and my safe haven. Settling into their covers in the middle of the king size bed, I’d continue right where I left off watching “Friends” the last time I was stressed. Chandler would make a joke and Joey would hit on Rachel and Ross would cry and everything was alright, nothing ever changed in the 90s sitcom.

It was soothing, it was my safe place. The plot is predictable and easy, but filled with humor and entertainment. Nothing was shocking, so while my life felt in turmoil, I could live in this other world. I was so excited for the change, yet scared of the unidentified territory. The day could not come fast enough; I awaited the moment with frustrated anxiety. My life wasn’t a mess, but I was not confident that I would succeed in this new environment. Of course I had all the tools — growing up with six siblings you learn to fight for yourself. I’d been doing my own laundry since I was ten and could fend for myself living with any type of roommate. I’d always been successful in school without pressure from my parents as I watched my sisters attend medical school and land perfect jobs. It was a competitive atmosphere, but here I was, a seventeen-year-old snuggling into my parents’ sheets and binge-watching “Friends.”

The night before I moved in to college, I cried to my mother, my anxiety at a peak as the day was finally coming and I had no way of knowing if I’d be alright. Then the time came, and within the first few weeks almost everything about my life was altered. I had more free time than I’d had since elementary school, my classes were just challenging enough, and I had to report to no one as I stumbled down College Ave. with my new friends any night I chose at 3 a.m.

Little did I know, “Friends” prepared me in ways I never realized. I met some amazing people and some people I knew I wouldn’t want to spend time around. Like the six making up the coffee shop crew, I surrounded myself with only people who lifted me up. I was known as a sarcastic girl with a bitch face in high school. Here I could be fun, I could put forward my best self, a personality that people wanted to be around. I’d always be sarcastic and too honest for most, but now I could choose the people that brought out the better qualities within myself. I could live the life that I wanted to, as Rachel does by leaving Barry at the alter to begin having real relationships not based solely on wealth—an action that began the show.

Even better, at school, everything is my safe haven. No corner was scarred with bad memories or anxiety. I do not need “Friends” to calm down my heaving stomach or take me away from this life. This new beginning, so heavily shaped by the Manhattan characters, never makes me anxious.

To this day I still haven’t finished the final season of “Friends.” I hope to never reach it. For me, the show hasn’t yet ended — Ross is a geeky hipster and Monica cooks overpriced gourmet mac and cheese. Joey plays McDreamy on Grey’s, Chandler is Twitter famous, Rachel online shops for a living. And Phoebe, well, she’s just Phoebe.

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