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Life after undergrad is wrought with struggles. Gone are the precious days of sleeping until noon, which have instead been replaced by painful 6 a.m. wake-up calls. Dining Dollars and meal plans have disappeared into the distance, bringing in exchange, an endless cycle of optimistic Sunday grocery shopping followed by refrigerators full of rotting produce and leftover Postmates deliveries. We slowly have to come to terms with the fact that there is usually a lot of month leftover at the end of our paychecks, and calling mom for a bank account re-up is not the move. Every day is a relentless pursuit of stability that’s sprinkled with obstacles, confusion, and overdraft charges.
Thankfully, in the midst of all this chaos, we still have our friends. Our pals. Confidantes. The people we reach out to for support with an, “Okay, I just need to bitch for a second,” text. Our first three likes on a risky Instagram post. The buddies you call when your ex gets engaged and it feels like a gut-punch. The crew you tell about a promising new love-interest. These folks are a key component to our survival.
But these years and careers come at a cost. Close friends start taking jobs and chasing their dreams in new directions and new locations. College buddies start moving cross-country with their significant others, settling down hundreds or thousands of miles away. Group texts and the occasional FaceTime have to take the place of those hungover Saturday mornings, laughing with mascara smeared on your face, and a half-eaten Jimmy John’s Beach Club on your nightstand. Direct-messaging meme posts on Instagram have become the new, “Hey buddy. I’m thinking about you.”
Friendship from a distance is challenging. It requires effort and intention on both ends. As I’ve grown further and further from my college years, my friendship-circle has drastically dwindled in number. The majority of relationships I made during undergrad have been reduced to double-taps on the ‘gram, “Lmao, you wild!!!!”’s on Snapchat, and the occasional “HBD” Facebook post. Keeping my important friendships alive is a job within itself. Road trips have to be made. Vacation days have to be taken to make those Bachelorette parties and weddings. Inappropriate birthday cards need to be sent. Listening ears need to be lent. At the very least, weekly contact and a dedication to remaining “in the loop” on friends’ lives and updates is necessary to keeping the spark alive.
The strongest and toughest may survive, however, and I’ve still got a great crew of people I consider my best friends, all across the country. Most of my closest friends live hours, or even states, away. I try really hard to stay up-to-date on what they’re doing, cheer them on from afar, and be a person they can lean on when things go south. Unfortunately, being human, I still need to have some on-location pals. After all, it’s hard to brunch alone. This is where things get tricky.
Adult friendships. What a weird, uncomfortable, and humbling experience. Making new friends as a grown-up is harder than it looks. For some, meeting new people is the challenge. For others, like me, connecting to those new people is the true battle.
I meet new people all the time. I have no problem talking to strangers or mingling with a mutual friend’s group of buddies. In fact, most people who know me would probably say that I could talk to a brick wall. Despite this superpower, the issue for me is that these relationships are (usually) overwhelmingly shallow. I’m not referring to those people you are introduced to at bars or networking events, and never see again. I’m referring to the people you consistently hang out with, or around. Your work friends. Your weekend friends. How well do you really know them?
It takes a lot of effort to create a genuine friendship. Do you know your new friends’ ages? Birthday months? If they have siblings? Where they’re from? What’s important to them? There are so many bits of information that are important in understanding and connecting with a person. I like to know these things about the people I spend time with, but making this work as an adult has proven to be difficult. Where do you even begin?
Your best friends know you the best – that’s why they’re called ‘best friends.’ It’s easy to forget all of the history and vulnerability that exists between these types of friends. Your best buddies know all about your embarrassing high school senior photos where you wore that fedora. They know your questionable taste in men and the names of your ex-boyfriends. That one time you drunkenly stumbled and busted your forehead directly on the concrete, trying to protect your new designer purse from the impact. They also know about the time you made that big mistake at work and had a breakdown in the bathroom. It takes time, interest, and effort, to nurture these kinds of relationships. It takes a lot of back-and-forth. It’s not like you meet a new potential friend at someone’s dinner party and immediately launch into your entire life’s backstory in an effort to create a foundation.
Many adult friendships revolve around the same few things. Happy hours, television shows, social media, and sports. These topics are easy enough to connect over but terribly unimportant in the big scheme of things. In a postgrad world where lessons are learned through failures, and improvements are made through challenges, we need squads who can back us up when shit goes sideways. So, next time you’re out with those new, on-location buddies, make an attempt to tune-in. Go old-school and play a game of 20 questions. Do more listening than talking. You never know; the Garth to your Wayne might just be sitting across from you. .