What I wish I knew when I was making friends after college
There was a stretch of time where I believed I might have done college all wrong. Leading up to it I always heard “this is where you’ll make so many lifelong best friends.” I was imagining that I would forge an enormous new group of close friends from class or the dorms and then we’d always study in the library together, order pizzas and watch bad reality TV on Wednesday nights. Then after graduation we’d all get apartments near each other, eventually attend each other’s weddings and have kids together and when we were old and gray play bridge or bingo.
That was the fantasy planted firmly in my brain. But in that description of finding an entourage of best friends, there was never any mention of meeting and becoming close with anyone AFTER college. It was as if there was a hard boundary line. All friends had to be made pre-graduation, relegated to high school and college and then that’s it. That’s your group of friends.
So, when I graduated college with many acquaintances but only two people I’d consider close friends, I panicked a little. This was where I was supposed to create my huge sorority-sized group of forever besties, where had I messed up?! Of course the answer is that I hadn’t, but then the question was also how DO you make close friends or friends of any kind after college? Apartments aren’t dorms. There’s no quad on which to join a volleyball game. There’s every dating app in the world to assist in finding a romantic partner, but what about if you feel like you don’t have a best friend?
If you’ve ever found yourself in the position of wanting to shout “Hey I’m fun, are there any cool people who just want to eat cookies, binge watch Scandal and discuss how many times you’ve accidentally cried on your commute to work?” then you might be like me and if so, here are all the things I wish I knew when I was making friends after college.
There is nothing wrong with you (or me, or any of us)
I’ve always said that the best romantic relationships happen when you’re sure of who you are by yourself. When it comes to best friendships the same rules don’t exactly apply. I think the most solid of friendships are with the supportive people that can weather the ups and downs of figuring out what we want in life.
And because college was a huge transitional period, where I was discovering my confidence and coming into my own, it was easy to think that being unsure of myself was standing out like a beacon to others as “don’t be friends with this insecure girl! She’s a disaster!” But really if you meet someone and they don’t like you, who cares! Everyone in the world is not going to get along. And unless you were behaving like an insufferable human being, it says nothing about you. Certain people click and many do not. And even when you click, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a lifelong, till death in your purple hats do you part relationship. And that’s fine too! There’s room for all kinds of friendships, and we are no better or worse if we have two best friends or twenty.
It’s quality not quantity
Like I mentioned before, I left school knowing lots of people but also feeling that I had only truly bonded with two people. But when I thought harder about it? I didn’t regret that I wasn’t closer to other people I had met, I was simply hung up on the fact that I hadn’t met MORE people who felt like they could become besties of mine. However the friends I did make, as well as the ones I retained over the years from childhood are stellar human beings. The number of people you can count as a best friend does not matter nearly as much as the caliber. And my friends are top notch.
Other people are trying to make friends, too
I was once approached by a very sweet girl when I was running a 5k by myself. She too was on her own that day, and asked me if I’d be interested in running another race in her town a few weeks later. We exchanged email addresses and began doing races together at least once a month. After some time and finally an exchange of phone numbers, she mentioned to me at one race, “you know, we don’t always have to be running when we hang out. We can do other things.”
I had sort of assumed that we were just occasional running buddies, but once she said that, I realized that she was all of the things I appreciated in a good friend. She was fun, kind, funny, reliable, why hadn’t it occurred to me to spend more time than a twenty-five minute race every four to six weeks? Now almost seven years later, she’s a very close friend. Moral of that story? It’s important to pay attention. I think I always assumed other people had their own group of friends and weren’t interested in accepting “new members’ so to speak. But now I take the approach of the more the merrier and I love introducing friends of mine from different walks of life to each other and seeing them also hit it off.
Be open to everything
Part of paying attention is being open. Often with dating advice, singles are told to be open to the possibility of meeting a potential mate at any time in any place. Same goes for friends! You could get stuck in an elevator with someone who might end up being your maid of honor some day. And when social media first became such an integral part of everyone’s life, I never would have guessed that it or the internet in general could lead to friendships, but it totally does! In fact, I once begrudgingly searched Craigslist years ago for a summer vacation rental and ended up taking a room in a house of girls whom I had never met. Today? One of those girls is someone whom I love like a sister. You never know who might come into your life and when.
Co-workers can be friends, too!
I think because most of my previous summer jobs were at places where I was drastically younger than everyone else, it didn’t really occur to me later that co-workers could also be friends. But there is something really comforting about going to happy hour on a Thursday with all the people who have experienced the exact same aggravation that you have had all week. And you can commiserate about how you can all make it through one more day before the weekend. And there’s also something to be said for befriending co-workers who are older who may have some professional and or personal wisdom to impart.
The point is that college (and high school) are not the end all be all when it comes to forming friendships and I hope by now most adults have stopped exclaiming the “this is where ALL your lifelong friendships are born” decree. Yes it might be. But you will meet and fall in platonic love with people the rest of your life. I wish I recognized that fact so much earlier on. The majority of my closest friendships are with people I met in my mid twenties or later. And I’m excited because I know there are so many more cool fun potential friends who I might stumble across any day at any time. Some could be best friends, some will not be, but there’s no high score to reach in order to be considered successful at making friends. The goal should be to surround yourself with people you make you feel good when you’re with them and who feel the same about you.
[Image via Netflix]