Congrats, new grads! You did the thing! You got the piece of paper! All your late nights, hysterical breakdowns, and manic study sessions over the last four(ish) years have finally paid off! We’re so, so, so proud of you!
When I graduated a little over a year ago, I thought I was so ready to be an adult and do adult things, like have a job, have a husband, and have responsibilities. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, y’all: Adulthood is a trap.
Don’t get me wrong— adulthood is awesome. I love my job. I love my husband. I love my friends. No one can tell me that I can’t have ice cream for dinner. I’m happy with my life right now. But I was so, so unprepared for a lot of the things that went down in the last year.
In part one of this series, I’m going to go over the things I wish I knew would happen with my relationships with my college friends after graduation. Read on to learn more:
You will feel lonely.
A dear, dear friend of mine moved to Maryland after graduation. My bestie moved to Minneapolis. Another dear friend moved to Kentucky. Another moved to Portland. Another moved to Chicago. I am not in any of those places.
I got so used to having all my friends around me all the time in college that moving to a big city where I didn’t have my safety net of supportive friends was really, really scary. I was lucky that I had my husband to support me; otherwise, I think my loneliness might have been unbearable.
Moving to start a new job or grad school is hard enough, but it’s even harder when you know you’ll be moving to a new place where you don’t know anyone and you’ll be relying mostly on yourself— possibly for the first time in your life.
How to Deal
It sucks, but it’s true – you’ll have to make some new friends. It’s not as easy as it was when you were in college, but it’s not impossible either. You just have to put a little work into it.
Chances are, you know someone in your area— maybe someone you went to summer camp with way back when, or a girl who used to be on your swim team in high school. Creep a little on Facebook, then ask them out for coffee or brunch. They’ll probably take you up on it— they might feel just as lonely and out-of-place as you.
It also helps to be an instigator of fun things. A few girls I knew in college live near me, so I asked them if they wanted to start a book club together. Now that book club is something I look forward to every month, and I’m building a new, supportive friend group with women who have interests similar to mine.
If living alone freaks you out, get a roommate or a pet (if you can afford it, by which I mean you can get it all its shots, spay/neuter it, feed it what it needs to eat, and spend the time it needs from you to live a happy life). I would suggest a cat, because I am a crazy cat lady, but I have a friend who is totally head over heels for her rumply baby bullmastiff, so, y’know, you do you, girl.
In the meantime, get good at being alone without feeling lonely. Do something you love that may have fallen by the wayside during college, like reading, crafting, or hiking, or get a new hobby. DON’T get sucked into a social media spiral or mope in front of Netflix— this feels good for a while, but it won’t help you in the long run, trust. Been there.
And don’t forget make regular Skype dates with your squad from college. It won’t be the same as seeing them every day, but it will help you stay connected to them even if you’re 1,000 miles apart. Speaking of old friends, keep in mind…
Your friends might go a little crazy…
You know that friend of yours who didn’t hold down a boyfriend for more than a few months in college? She’s going to fall head over heels in love with some rando at her internship. That friend who never, ever, talked about getting a tattoo? Expect Instagrams of a map of the world splashed across her back.
Your friends are going through the same transitions and the same period of soul-searching as you, which may lead to some erratic or out-of-character behavior. For you, that may manifest in an obsession with yoga and mandala coloring books, but for your bestie, it may be breaking up with their longtime boyfriend and casually dating a bunch of people.
How to Deal
This can be really hard to watch, especially if you’re experiencing this mostly through social media. I think, in some ways, we want our friends to stay the same because it gives us a sense of stability when our worlds are changing so quickly and drastically. That expectation is totally unfair to your friends.
So, what can you do? Be supportive. Buy some Younique mascara or Jamberry nail stickers. Listen to them talk about their new boyfriend. Try the vegan coconut oil and cacao nib smoothie they suggested. Go with them and hold their hand when they get that tattoo.
Don’t treat their new interests or behaviors as strange or weird. For some of your friends, this may just be a phase of acting out, but for others, they may finally have a chance to live the life they want, which includes this (to you) totally random behavior.
One caveat to this: if your friend’s odd behavior du jour hurts other people, is self-destructive, or has serious long term consequences (Read: getting involved with someone who’s in a relationship, doing hard drugs, about to get married to someone who is abusive, etc.) say something.
…and you won’t be friends with some of them anymore.
You’ve probably had a friendship run its course at least once in your life, so you know how this goes. As people change and grow, so do their relationships. In a perfect world, you love and accept everything about your friends no matter what, and they do the same for you in return. But that’s not how it always works.
I don’t speak to one of my best friends from college anymore— or, more accurately, she stopped speaking to me soon after I got married. I don’t know why she did this, and I probably will never know, but that doesn’t matter that much to me anymore, because it helped me realize that she wasn’t that great of a friend for me in the first place.
Some of the friendships you thought you couldn’t live without will wane naturally with distance and time, while for others, the distance may help you realize how one-sided or un-fun or convenient a friendship was when you have to put even more effort into staying connected.
Related reading: How to Handle Friendship Changes in College
How to Deal
Let it happen. If someone decides they don’t want to be your friend anymore, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. The best thing you can do for yourself is start the healing process and try to move on.
Treat it like a breakup. Don’t call them, don’t text them… not even when you’re really, really drunk or you really, really miss them. You don’t have to be perfect about this, but do try. It’s hard. It’s so hard. It hurts. But they have to decide to be your friend again, and no text, Instagram double tap, or FB like will ever make that happen.
If you decide you no longer want to be someone’s friend, figure out the best way to let them down gracefully. For some friendships, this means letting the friendship naturally fade over time. For others, you will need to give some (kind and gentle) explanation.
And don’t beat yourself up for not wanting to be friends with someone anymore. You have too much on your plate for a relationship that doesn’t feel rewarding to you, and you don’t owe anybody your friendship, no matter how long you were friends.
That being said, keep in mind that even in the healthiest relationships, people still hurt one another. If your friend hurts you really badly once, but sincerely apologizes and takes steps to make it better, give that friend a chance. If someone shows patterns of behavior that disregard your feelings or hurts you, or makes no effort to fix those behaviors, it’s time to re-evaluate that friendship.
What do you think?
What do you wish you had known about life after graduation? What advice do you have about getting over a friend breakup? How do you keep in touch with your friends who live far away? Let me know in the comments below!
And stay tuned for part two of the series— how to adult after graduation!