I was recently blessed with the task of cleaning out the closet of my childhood bedroom. I found a picture collage among the dust bunnies, lone socks, and heaps of nostalgia. I made it the summer before my Senior year of high school to document my recent summer camp experience. I went into that week knowing one person and left with a whole new set of “super close friends”. Well, at the time we must have been close enough for me to spend the 19 cents per photo at Walgreens to print out this collection of pictures.
“I went into that week knowing one person and left with a whole new set of ‘super close friends’.”
Looking at this collage over 10 years later I recognize the people, and I have some very distinct memories of that time at camp, but friends? Not really. Sure, I remember watching a 15-year-old girl attempt to eat a dead roach after a counselor promised to award her team an extra 1000 points for her bravery. But now? I think she’s married? Is she the one with twins? Living in… Portland? Or is that the girl who sang Little Mermaid for the talent show?
Most of those friendships didn’t make it to Thanksgiving. We all came back, high on camp feels and with a firm belief in our indestructible bond, to lives that continued like camp had never really happened. We all went to different high schools, lived in different areas, and had no natural reason to see each other. So, the friendships faded, almost as quickly as they had formed.
“Most of those friendships didn’t make it to Thanksgiving.”
I recently saw a tweet comparing some friendships to cooking with a microwave and others to a crockpot. The microwave comparison really works with camp friendships — quick and powerful to heat up, but also quick to cool down, safe, easy, and sometimes lacking the quality that only time can instill. Camp isn’t the only environment that can create these microwave friendships. Any friendships formed away from real life, over a short period of time, with unique (and sometimes intense) shared experiences can be a “microwave friendship.”
These friendships are not bad, less valuable or doomed to fail, (some things thrive in microwaves — Popcorn! Easy Mac! Leftover meatloaf!) but they are unique. Whatever the situation is for a microwave friendship, it isn’t real life. Part of what’s magical about camp, 6 weeks studying abroad, or a mission’s trip is that it deviates from normal. In a different place with different people we have a chance to be a different version of ourselves. The structures and stressors of our lives are removed and we are given endless amounts of things to bond over. The absence of normality creates so much room for us to get to know one another and friendship flourishes in shared experiences.
“In a different place with different people we have a chance to be a different version of ourselves.”
While these things are what makes microwave friendship special and exciting, it is also what often contributes to their demise. Camp doesn’t last forever and eventually friendship’s greatest foes, time and distance, will have to be dealt with. But, if you are lucky enough to make some great microwave friendships, that you can nurture and transition into real life, they very well may end up being some of your best friends. Because, let’s face it, nothing bonds two people together like surviving weeks of shitty camp food.
Halaina Kumpf is a guest blogger for Make New Friends.