I moved to a small town in my home state and started my first ever, full-time job about a week after my college graduation. I had been so overjoyed to find a job just a few hours away from home that I had never paused to consider it might be difficult to make new friends or get involved in the community.
The first few months were hard. I had gone from living in a sorority house full of friends always on hand to living alone in just one short week. I had spent much of my senior year envisioning what I would do if I had a free evening only to find that free evenings could be awfully hard to fill. The hours from 5 PM to 11 PM loomed in front of me seeming like an eternity. I had no idea how to go about meeting people and making friends. I was petrified. My office had a few young people, but they were all either married or engaged. In fact, nearly everyone I met seemed to be married, engaged, or in a serious relationship. I would have given anything just to have someone to go to lunch with me.
There were a few benefits to having no local friends. I saved a ton of money; visited home often and both got to know my brother’s girlfriend who later became my sister-in-law and spend time with my grandpa before he passed away; and I learned how beautiful it is to be and to have friends. I will forever be thankful for those long distance friends that spent endless hours on the phone with me both commiserating and assuring me that things would get better, and for my family who always reminded me of all that was good and put up with a fair amount of tears.
As summer turned to fall, I slowly started to make friends thanks to weekend work events and an invitation to play on a volleyball team. But, I learned an important lesson along the way—life is what you make it. My summer of mourning became a fall of activity. My tears dried up along with the leaves, and I started building the life I had envisioned. I joined every organization I had an interest in, overcame my fear of arriving at events alone, and I worked hard. I often like to compare my shift in attitude to one of my favorite children’s book, Peter Pan. In the summer, I was convinced that Peter was right when he told Wendy, “don’t grow up it’s a trap,” but by fall I had decided that his comment that “to live would be an awfully big adventure” was far more accurate.
Now, I am confident that I could start over again, and maybe someday I will. My advice to recent college graduates, or really anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation would be as follows:
• Make your home comfortable: You live there now, and whether it is a tiny, loft apartment or a five bedroom house, you deserve to have a happy place to call home.
• Get internet or television: Don’t cut yourself off from the outside world. I am not suggesting that you buy the fastest internet or the most extensive cable package, but money spent on basic cable or internet is money well spent. You might be spending a few more evenings at home, and why not make that time more enjoyable? Besides, people bond over television. You might meet somebody you could invite over to watch an awards ceremony or to indulge in a Netflix binge. Who doesn’t love a good Netflix binge?
• Join a gym: You might meet people there, or you might not. Regardless, working out is a great way to beat the blues.
• Moreover, be a joiner: Find a group the suits your interests and join it. Organizations are always looking for new members.
• Be an asker: Do you like going out for drinks or grabbing lunch? Invite people to do those things with you. Sure, they might say no, but maybe they will put forth a counter offer.
• Married people need friends too: I made the mistake of thinking that anyone in a relationship wouldn’t be interested in being friends with somebody that was single. That is ridiculous. Just because you don’t have the same relationship status doesn’t mean you don’t have all sorts of other things in common.
• Push your limits: I spent a lot of time just waiting for my situation to change on its own, but that just isn’t how life works. We are in control of our own lives, and sometimes that is uncomfortable. But you never know, extending an invite to a new acquaintance or attending that event where you don’t know anyone could be a game changer
This year marks my third fall. My junior year in the real world has already been markedly full with family, friends both new and old, and graduate school classes. And, one day a few weeks ago, three different people invited me to lunch. New beginnings are difficult, but Peter was right—to live is an awfully big adventure.