Congrats, you’ve finished college! All those long hours grueling over homework and last-minute cram sessions paid off. You really worked hard for a…flimsy piece of paper, but at least it’s a fancy piece of paper certifying that, yes, you’ve endured and succeeded through the challenges of higher academia. So…now what? Some say jump into a job, others say continue pursuing even higher education and many say that it’s the prime time to figure yourself out as a young adult.
But in the midst of that existential crisis, where do friendships fit in?
See, what they don’t tell you about after immediately graduating from college (besides how to file taxes and apply for health insurance) is that you’re suddenly left with a lot of free time. Now that the stresses of homework and keeping track of extracurriculars have left your brainspace, the novelty of freedom from school routine quickly turns into boredom. Mornings really do become time for coffee and contemplation, as Jim Hopper from Stranger Things says. I’m not a morning person but some mornings indeed kept me up with lots and lots of contemplation.
I definitely found myself in this state of limbo the first few months after graduating, especially given the physical isolation that came with living through a pandemic. On the one hand my inner introvert felt really content with hermiting away. On the other hand, introverts also get lonely. I’m glad that I at least have a tight relationship with my siblings, who fulfilled the social interaction hole in hilariously quirky ways. However, strong friendships also prove irreplaceable, and I know many of you can relate.
I’ll admit that I’m usually not the person to reach out first to others even before the pandemic and graduation. In a group of friends, you’ll rarely find me taking the initiative to organize and put together hangout plans. Initiating first? I’ll avoid it if I can.
Looking back now, it’s easy to see why I spiralled down a pit of social withdrawal the initial months after graduation. The friends I always counted on to plan things and reach out to me for chats had their own concerns, busy work schedules and figuring-out-life thoughts to consider. Super understandable; I don’t fault any of them for that.
The combo of immense free time and scarce social interaction then led me to some deep self-reflection.
While this mini existential crisis included the usual “what am I doing with my life?” and “who am I outside of what surveillance capitalism demands of me?” thoughts, for the first time ever I faced a thorough self-analysis of my interpersonal relationships. I had little to distract me from deep-diving into all of my close friendships and why it felt like I was slowly losing them with our physical distance. Why do our conversations now feel awkward? I haven’t heard from this friend in a while; are they busy or did they get tired of me? How can I meet them in the middle and keep the friendship alive?
These were just a few of the hard questions I asked myself.
After a while sitting down with my thoughts, I came to terms with the fact that I’m averse to initiating conversations and not the best at responding to messages. Heck, I’m still working on those personality flaws. It sounds easier said than done, especially since it’s taken a lot of thinking and active work to reach that level of self-awareness. But what else was I doing with my free time while stuck in post-grad pandemic limbo? It was honestly the best possible time to be having a period of self-reflection.
Given the new meta-level understanding of myself, I reached out to various friends and worked out schedules to dedicate at least one virtual hangout per week with them. Most of my hangouts include chatting while playing games together or taking advantage of the chat feature on screen-sharing platforms while watching shows. I highly recommend “Overcooked 2” and “Stardew Valley” for games and “Neon Genesis Evangelion” and “Infinity Train” for shows. Setting a routine time to catch up with friends, even if it’s less often than it was during college, can really go a long way in maintaining those strong connections.
Adult life, with all its twists and turns, makes it super hard to meet up with friends.
Even if my friend lives in the next city over, it still takes more work to coordinate schedules and deal with logistics than it did before. Don’t even get me started on a larger friend group; sometimes it takes months before seeing everyone all gathered in the same space, virtual or otherwise.
It does take time to adjust to this new change of dynamic on top of getting thrown into the adult world. Nothing is really the same as it was before graduating. But like I did, I hope that my fellow recent grads can adapt, find their own ways to keep connected to each other and cherish those friendships no matter the distance.