Make An Effort: 5 Things I Learned About Keeping Friendships After College
About a year ago, halfway through my senior year, one of my friends who had just graduated said, “Maintaining friendships in post grad life is hard, but it’s all about making an effort.”
I believed this at the time but I was still in denial that I wouldn’t be as close to my best friends as I was in college. How could everything change so quickly? Would all of the effort we had put into these friendships these past four years just go to waste?
I knew I wouldn’t be able to call up my friend from down the hall and ask her if she wanted to grab late night food or my other friend if she wanted to go to spin class in 10 minutes. I knew that I wouldn’t casually run into people I knew at the on campus dining hall or at a party in the Mods.
I am an extroverted introvert. I get my energy from hanging out with friends, but I thrive when I have the balance of being alone while also spending time with some of my favorite people. College obviously had its ups and downs but I never felt completely alone.
In post-grad, sometimes I am actually alone.
Post-grad is hard. Keeping in touch is hard. But I'm learning that the most you can do is make an effort.
Here are some things I’ve learned about post-grad friendships in the 10 months since I graduated from college:
1. Think before you snap.
In today’s society, everyone is snapping pictures of their food, posting vacation pictures on Insta, and tagging each other in memes on Facebook, but is this really the best way to maintain long-distance friendships? Aside from my best friends, I know where my friends are working, living, and if they’re happy, but for some people that’s all I know about them now (when I used to get quick 30 second updates after running into them on campus).
I’m guilty of tagging my long distance best friends in memes on Facebook as a way to quickly say, "This reminded me of you." However, maybe it would be better to limit unnecessary-but-important-meme-tagging and shoot them a text instead.
This is challenging for some friendships that didn’t involve a lot of texting outside of hanging out in person, because it requires a whole new set of strategies in order to make the friendship last.
2. Put pen to the paper.
One of my best friends from college moved 700 miles away after graduation.
A few months after graduation, she wrote me a note just catching me up on her life (like she would have over dinner in person).
I must have crossed her mind one day and she wrote me a letter. I wrote back and we’ve been writing back and forth semi-frequently ever since. These letters force us to reflect and write with intention. They require a lot of effort but it’s worth it if the person on the other side of the paper is worth writing for. It’s a way to be there without actually being there. It requires you to think through what you’re going to say before the pen hits the paper.
3. Always respond to that text message.
Sometimes I get a text message when I’m in the middle of a meeting, in the middle of my commute, or getting ready for work, or out with a friend or somewhere else. I forget to respond. A friend might have asked, “Are you free to chat on the phone right now?” She might have needed me. And I wasn’t there because I was in the middle of something and told myself I would get back to her later.
Friends need each other more than ever in this post-grad life. So it’s important to respond as soon as possible.
4. Remember that your close friends are always there even if they aren’t HERE.
Flashback to 2007, when the definition of "making it" was merely determined by whether or not you had a full keyboard (and not by an-iPhone-that-takes-pictures-that-get-over-100-likes).
Therefore, it was harder to keep in touch. We would hang out during recess and school, but aside from the times that our parents would coordinate play dates with our friends, there was limited communication outside of school.
My childhood best friend transferred to a Catholic middle school when we were in 7th grade. I was scared because I wasn’t going to have my best friend by my side during my middle school years. I wasn’t going to be able to see her as often and because that was what kept our friendship going, I was scared.
After elementary school, we were never as close, but when we did see each other we would talk for hours. We were hopeful that the friendship would last even if we didn’t have the means to talk to each other every day.
We went to the same high school, but then went to different colleges. We kept in touch and we’re currently roommates, trying to conquer this post-grad lifestyle together.
5. Plan reunions.
After graduation, friends are all over the world, so it gets harder and harder to stay in touch. So write back, respond to that text, answer that Facetime call even if you’re exhausted, and most importantly, plan reunions. Make that effort and everything else will happen the way it’s supposed to.
It’s natural to lose touch with people, because both sides of the friendship have to make the effort in order for the friendship to last. It’s easy to forget about people you used to love in college if neither of you make the effort to keep in touch. Forgetting and moving on is easy. Making a valiant effort is difficult, but more fulfilling.
Make the effort, cherish the times you have together, and never forget about your loved ones.
[Photo by Nick Brier.]
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