Maintaining Relationships After College

Maintaining friendships after your college graduation is hard. If you went to a small school, like I did, you may have had a good handle on who half of the student population was. I couldn’t walk across campus without saying “hey” to at least five people, and usually at one of the five was a good friend of mine. I never needed to make plans at lunchtime because I knew my friends would naturally end up in the same location and we’d grab lunch, and the same went for breakfast and dinner. I also lived with three of my closest friends, and had close friends living within two blocks from my apartment.

Looking back, I was inundated with friendship. I never worried about catching up, or having someone nearby,  because I knew eventually I would grab lunch or coffee or come across my friend in the library and we’d stop for a quick chat. Now, almost two-years post graduation, I yearn for the days where my best friends were all within walking distance, and I can see now how I took for granted the accessibility I had to some of the people I held closest to me.

I got lucky, once I moved to New York City, that two of my best friends from home happened to live in the city. I remember how I thought it’d be just like college, and I’d be able to hop over to their apartments at moments notice and we’d be able to chat and share dinner before heading back to our own lives. What I didn’t account for was how tired I’d be after work, the different work schedules, or how long it takes to get anywhere.

Sometimes, after a trying day at work, the thought of socializing with anyone makes me feel exhausted and I can’t bear to lift a finger to text anyone let alone speak to someone in person or over the phone. One of my friends moved uptown and it now takes about 45-60 on the subway just to make it to her apartment, and it’s like she moved out of the state. With our busy schedules, I went five weeks without even talking to her. Chalk it up to “I’ll text her tomorrow,” which is the classic never-ending way to wake up one morning and realize you’re feeling so lonely in the busiest city in the world.

Post-graduation friendships take a lot of effort, energy, and understanding. Friend relationships shouldn’t be hard, but they do take work to maintain, strengthen and grow, like any living thing. You need to put energy and effort into all relationships, old and new, near and far, and in between.

It has been an extremely difficult adjustment, for me,  to go from living with some of my closest friends to having all of my friends spread through out the city, state, country, and world. Now I have to plan for time differences, busy work schedules, and I realize that I can’t just say “I’ll text them tomorrow” because I may not have the time tomorrow, or the energy.

I’m not saying that anyone needs to make an excel sheet or due dates for when to reach out to friends, but I’ve learned that just texting someone when you think of them can become sporadic, drawn out, and leave both parties feeling forgotten and alone. It’s important to take time out of your day or your week just to reach out to say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking of you,” or “Hope all is well with work!” You might pick up the phone or send an email with a quick update of a job promotion, relationship change, or funny Buzzfeed article that needed to be shared, or you may find that you pick up the phone to talk to person who is the one person you can count on to talk about the most recent episode of New Girl or who understands your obsession with Joseph Gordon Levitt.

I’ve learned (very slowly) to accept that friendships are ever-evolving and ever-changing, and some people will enter your life and exit it just as quickly, some people will slowly drift away for no specific reason but you’ll wake up one day and realize you have no idea what they’re up to, some people will come in and out like the ocean, ever present yet retreating and returning, and others will stick to your side like glue.

I am not one for change or letting go. I have a friend or two that I’ve realized I’ve grown apart from, and it’s not because I don’t love them or admire them, but our lives are just going in separate directions, and there isn’t the right time or energy to maintain a strong relationship. I know if I see these friends, we will embrace each other, catch up and overall be happy, but they are not going to be the first person I call if I have exciting news, pressing matters, or heartache. And that’s okay.

My mother once told me that people come into your life to teach you something about yourself, about the world, and about life. They may stay a long while, a short while, or forever. They may leave a positive impression, or a negative impression. And if they leave, it’s only to make room for someone who has another important lesson to learn. It can be hard to accept that someone who you once felt so close to is less present, or even just gone. But, if they were meant to be on the same journey as you, the want and need to put forth the effort and friendship would be apparent.

Overall, maintaining friendships once you no longer live in the same five block radius is hard. It’s supposed to be hard, in some respect, because it helps us “weed out” those relationships that no longer nurture or nourish us, and it helps us find the true friends who stick by us, the types of friendships we value and need most, and we learn develop strong lasting and emotional ties to each relationship.