How do you cope during that awkward, post-college phase?

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By: Holly LayCC BY 2.0
This past June, I graduated from college and came back home from being out of state for four years. While I have long-term plans (move to New York City, meet that handsome guy, get my dream job…) I’ve had to put them away in the back of my head in favor of actually getting a job and, more importantly, getting out of my parent’s spare bedroom.

Right now my biggest problem that I’m surrounded by people who are either younger than me by five or more years or older than me by ten or more years. My same-age friends have either moved elsewhere, gotten married and blown me off, or live in different places, so I am constantly spending time by myself or trying to fit into age groups that I can’t fit into.

I don’t want to change myself to fit into different social groups, but how do I cope or make friends in that awkward, post-college, pre-long-term-plans phase?MissMarga

When it comes to making friends, we’ve got some BIG advice for that. When it comes to coping, we’re guessing your fellow Homies have some great thoughts…

Comments on How do you cope during that awkward, post-college phase?

  1. In terms of coping, join those volunteer groups or clubs and go even if you don’t make any out-of-club friends. The social contact will help. If you go volunteer, pick something you can really get into, so it fulfills you a bit even if you don’t make “friends” from it (although you will probably make “connections”).

    Take up an activity that you enjoy doing alone that helps you forget that you don’t have a lot of local friends: think bike riding or an art or craft that you can’t easily do in a group.

    Find a local coffeeshop you like and go there a lot – become a regular. Even if you don’t make *friends*, they’ll get to know you and greet you when you come in, know your favorite drink, exchange pleasantries, and who knows, you might just make a friend or two. It helps to keep the social juices flowing, at least. That’s what I always did when I landed in a new city and didn’t know anyone – I’d find a local place I particularly liked, go there often, and just smile and chat a bit with the people I always saw there. It helped keep me from feeling isolated.

    If you can afford it, pick a skill and take lessons. The practice time, the time with your teacher, the actual lesson time etc. help take up brain space, keep you thinking, give you something to do which helps you cope and just seeing your teacher once a week or so will give you some social contact. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to not have friends if there are at least people around who know who you are.

    I did that in Taipei: landed here, didn’t know a soul, found out quickly that I didn’t like my coworkers very much, had no other easy avenues for making friends, but started Chinese language exchange. Doing that was a way to have something on my calendar besides work, something sort-of-social to do (we’d always meet in a coffee shop), a way to feel like I belonged in a tiny way in this city.

    Finally, explore things you never thought about looking into when you were living there as a younger person. I grew up in New York State’s Hudson Valley. I thought it was pretty, but also the most boring place on Earth (I now know that’s not true). It never occurred to me as a teenager to climb the Lemonsqueeze, to actually go to all those old robber baron mansions because I *wanted* to and not because I was being dragged on a school trip, and you’d be surprised at the number of foodie options (farmer’s markets and farm stands in fall yo!), cool old architecture (Olana, and Locust Grove where I got married, the Wilderstein), interesting old neighborhoods (Saugerties, Rhinebeck, New Paltz), hiking and walking, river activities (it never occurred to me that I could actually take a boat out on the Hudson…I know) and other interesting things going on that there really are.

    Because I was a cynical “you all SUCK! Life SUCKS and nobody UNDERSTANDS ME!” angry teenager, I never thought to look for, let alone do, these things. I haven’t lived there since I was 17, but when I visit home I now have more interesting things to do than I ever imagined I would.

    I used to joke that once my parents passed on or moved away that I’d never go back. Now I’m not so sure. My husband has also said that I’ve done the same for him re: his hometown. He never considered all of the interesting stuff there was to do in the Bangor, ME area until I started looking up things to do online and suggesting them so we could get out of the house.

  2. I feel like I am just coming out of this phase after three years post-college. I moved in with my parents in a town I had never lived in (they moved while I was still in school), and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t find a job, I didn’t know anyone, and I was just so disappointed to be back under my family’s roof.

    You say you don’t want to change yourself to fit into a social group. What I had great difficulty in coming to terms with was that I HAD changed. I wasn’t a student anymore, and so much of what I held to be at the core of my identity was suddenly in flux. It’s a scary place to be, as I know all too well. Give yourself time to feel what you feel – loneliness, confusion, anxiety all seem to be a pretty common part of transitioning to post-college life. Hang out with people you feel you don’t have anything in common with. It’s uncomfortable, but do it. But ultimately, you will find that there is a tremendous amount of freedom of being in transition. As so many others have said, take this time to do all the things you didn’t do in college. Spend time with your family and learn to have an adult relationship with them – that will last a lifetime.

    You never know who you will connect with, either. A friend who helped me through a tough time at my first teaching job is the same age as my mother, but I realized quickly that our age difference didn’t matter. She became a great confidante with whom I found I could relate on so many levels. I waited tables for a couple of years before going back to school, and while at first I felt like I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone, after all this time, I’m still in touch with most of my coworkers. I even helped one of the younger girls when she wanted to teach English abroad – now she is in Spain, and we are planning to meet up in the next couple of months (I now live outside of Amsterdam). The parents of the kids I nannied (clearly I have been a jack-of-all-trades lately!) are still frequent contacts of mine as well, and their support over the last couple of years has meant so much.

    Clearly these are anecdotes, but I hope that the point is evident. It’s hard and uncomfortable, but once you start opening up to people and stop worrying about fitting in, you’ll find friends in the unlikeliest places. Know that, while you might feel isolated now, you aren’t alone. What you need at this time in your life is support, so make sure you look for it in the community you already have, but know that there are so many new people waiting to come into your life, and they will change it for the better. This last point is what I try to remember when I am stressed out about meeting new people.

    I hope this helps even a little bit, and good luck on this new journey.

  3. People have given great advice already, but I just wanted to add: Don’t rule out someone straight away. I took a French class in preparation for xmas with my husband’s family, and I COULD NOT STAND one of the girls I met. I actually went home and complained about how awful she was to my husband.

    At the end of the 10 classes, she suggested the 3 of us girls in the class go out for a drink. At first I didn’t want to, but I thought “Just go, it’ll be nice to spend some time with other girls”. Turns out, she comes across REALLY differently in social situations, and only one year later, I would consider her amongst my closest friends. And turns out she has an awesome partner who gets along with my husband too, so we do lots of couply stuff!

  4. I love all the OBH ‘making-friends-as-grown-ups’ posts! Although I’m a bit older than the OP, I live in a pretty quiet rural area where lots of people I spend time with are 20+ years older than me.

    I took a woodwork evening class recently, which was made up of me (female, 28) plus 10-15 retired men. I was a bit of a novelty at first, and I felt a bit out of place in the first class, but we ended up having so much fun together. I got (and returned) SO much teasing, but by the end of the course I’d made loads of new friends, had more giggles than I’ve had for ages, and really enjoyed the completely different dynamic of a new ‘type’ of friend. It was genuinely the most fun I’ve had in ages.

    Edited to add: I completely agree with channamasala’s point above about looking for ‘connections’, not just new friends. The people you meet don’t have to become your new besties, but just spending time with people helps you feel more involved, and less isolated.

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