Cultivating Community in Post-Grad Life
I remember going to an event in college where I was surrounded by hundreds of women. Most of them were strangers to me, but even the ones I did know had their groups, and I was left sitting by myself just waiting for the whole thing to be over so I could leave. An event I was looking forward to and excited about turned into a place of heartache… maybe you can relate to me. These moments hurt, making us feel like isolated outsiders watching everything through the window. Precious reader, I pray you never have to feel that way.
One of the definitions from Webster for the word human is “representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature.” Humans are social creatures, and as such, we need family, friends, sorority sisters, co-workers, and even strangers around us to interact with. If there isn’t any sort of relational or communal element to these interactions, we can find ourselves feeling lost and lonely.
As a student on a large college campus, I was surrounded by people and could usually find a familiar face everywhere I went. In my major-specific courses, the same faces kept showing up, so I naturally cultivated some friendships, even if they were just based around surviving the trial by fire that is intermediate accounting. I had my church group that I saw regularly and checked in with throughout the week. I had friends living close by who had extended an open invitation to me whenever the notion struck to get a change of scenery. I knew I had people in my corner that would stick it out with me in the trenches if I asked them to.
The transition to post-grad has been a bit more of a struggle, however.
I work about an hour away from where I live, so finding those same connections has been discouraging at times. I cannot tell you how many Google searches I have done for “young professional groups near me,” “young adult singles ministries,” and every variation you can think of only to find myself hours later with no better answer than when I first unlocked my phone.
The easy route that seems so appealing because it requires no effort is to simply wait it out—wait for the “right” people to fall into your lap. But not making a decision is a decision in and of itself. I have found that looking for brand new, unfamiliar territories right off the bat can be daunting and intimidating, especially for an introvert like myself.
For extroverts, it may work just fine to jump straight into the deep end, but I prefer a gentler approach. Start looking where you spend most of your time. Get out of your office or cubicle and interact with those around you—if you don’t, you’ll suffocate. A stranger doesn’t automatically become your friend if you never meet them.
Try out different community groups for activities you are interested in. You will most likely find people you jive with if there’s already a shared interest on which to build. Most importantly, don’t rule anyone out without at least talking to them, and I mean talking to them beyond a “hi, how are you” type of deal. I work in accounting and I have friends at the office who are engineers and geologists and cybersecurity analysts. In the end we are all people seeking the same meaningful relationships as everyone else—this is your chance to be the catalyst.
All of this does come with a caveat, though. A motivational speaker by the name of Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Pause for just a moment to think about that. I know I pick up on phrases, mannerisms, and the general attitude of those I spend more time with. Whether you like it or not, your external environment will have an influence on you—make it a good one. Pay attention to your values and the values of these new people you’re meeting—if they don’t line up at least partially, keep looking! Change for the sake of change just creates unnecessary chaos; making “friends” for the sake of not being by yourself still leaves you unsatisfied.
My last encouragement would be simply this—keep trying! I know it can be uncomfortable and awkward at times, but I am right there with you. We can do this!
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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