Life After Graduation: A New Social Landscape Means Making a Regular Effort to Stay in Touch

I’m a little obsessive about checking my phone. I do it every few minutes, always eager to read the next email or make those notification bubbles disappear. It might be because I’m addicted to being busy. But there’s another reason, too: I’m hoping for responses to my latest attempts to stay in touch with friends.

When I was earning my degrees, I spread myself too thin. In college, on top of a full-time course load, I maintained two part-time jobs, an internship, and a position as editor of the school’s literary magazine. I started my master’s program the fall after completing undergrad, and my strategy was to ride out the recession that was still in effect at that time. But when classes began, I kept the demanding full-time job that I initially thought would end with the close of summer. In my second semester of grad school, I signed up for three classes — one more than my adviser recommended.

During this time, I only slept three hours per night (when I slept at all). I skipped parties and social events, which made it tough to build and maintain friendships. Simply put, I had a lot to do and too little time to do it. But I was trying to secure my future, and this was the only way I knew how.

Life After Graduation

After I finished my graduate degree, staying busy became a way for me to keep myself numb, to mask my disconnection and my fear of boredom. Even when I wasn’t busy, I wanted to appear to be — hence my phone-checking habit. Exploring this phenomenon, author and speaker Brene Brown says, “We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”

Seven years after undergrad and five years after grad school, the truth of my life is that it’s easy to let loneliness slip in. As I prepared for life after graduation, I wasn’t taught how difficult it is to meet new people. Suddenly, I was no longer forced into social settings, and packing my schedule with work became the norm, even a source of praise from others. After all, busy people get stuff done.

What Next?

At some point last year, I realized I’d fallen out of touch with my closest friends. In school, we shared common goals and aspirations, but after we took our respective paths and moved away from the city we studied in, those relationships began to fade. It took a long time for us to notice.

We now try to get together regularly, whether to go to dinner, play trivia, or discuss the most recent selection for our multicultural book club. Not everyone can make it every time — we are busy, after all — but we try. What surprises me is that I’m only now, in my late 20s, learning to step back from outside demands and prioritize balance, happiness, and personal fulfillment. I’ll probably always wonder what took me so long.

So here’s my advice, new grads: Have a post-commencement plan. Feed your spirit, and fill your world with love. Maintain connections. Your new adult life will be better for it. And hey, if you want to join our book club, we meet next in July. Bring snacks!

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