By Kelly Rodgers
It was 8:40 a.m., as I rushed frantically around my apartment on a warm morning in May, fumbling over my lace and cork wedges while searching for stray bobby pins to keep my polyester cap in place. I was supposed to be standing in line for commencement ten minutes ago but was running late, which came as no surprise to my friends and roommates who were already in their assigned spots.
Like many of the other hundreds of graduating seniors, I was not ready to walk at commencement to receive my undergraduate degree. Not because I was unsure of what the future held – though that was certainly in the back of my head when the commencement speaker read my full name aloud, signaling for me to walk across the stage to grab that very expensive piece of paper.
I was not ready to graduate because college had been a big turning point in my search to find a place where I had belonged, and felt happiest to be myself.
High school nostalgia did not resonate much with me, having grown up in a small town where my place on the social hierarchy had been established since I was ten years old, when I was teased on the playground because I didn’t use curse words. At the age of 22, I have retained less than ten close friends from high school, most of which did not even go to my school. Going off to college was my chance to create the person I wanted to be.
College gave me more than just a space to create myself, it offered me something much bigger: a community. Multiple communities, actually: roommates, sorority sisters, a cappella friends, classmates, and eventually, best friends. When I graduated I knew I would be starting a new life, but it did not occur to me that would also mean surrendering a community where I had grown and grounded myself for the past four years.
Since May, I have begun to settle into my new “adult” life. I pay my own rent and cable bill, work a nine to five Monday through Friday in addition to working a part-time waitressing job, and I even get excited about grocery shopping. I am slowly, but surely, figuring out life post-graduation.
With this change, there is still one thing I cannot wrap my head around: how to create a new community. Not just a community, but one where I can be myself and create meaningful connections and relationships. How do you make friends as an adult?
I work for an incredible organization where my fellow colleagues are laid back and easy to talk to. However, I am the youngest person on my floor by at least five years; the majority of my colleagues are well into their late 20s, and are either married or married with a family. I am fresh out of college, and I can barely remember to lock my door before leaving the house. I am in a very different stage of my life.
Most of my social life is built around old college friends who still live in the area – primarily ones I waitress with – and my roommate. Though I always have fun when I am around those people at work, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. It feels like part of my past life, and brings me back to how much I enjoyed my time in college. More often than not, it leaves me feeling sad that I am no longer a student rather than enjoying the newest chapter in my life as a working adult.
What happens when I am not working, or my roommate goes away for a weekend? I find myself at a loss for something to do that won’t make me feel alone. Even worse, I feel dependent on this one group of friends, when I know I should have a larger social landscape like I had in college, and even high school.
When a best friend from college came to town, we discussed how lonely it can be as the youngest person in the office, and how hard it is to build a social life post-graduation. “I feel like I go to the office, and come home. I have no one to hang out with – and I’m not about to ask my friend from work who has a family to come out to the bars with me after work Friday,” he said.
Being alone doesn’t come without perks, however. I feel more free to take care of myself and do things I enjoy – like staying in on a Saturday night and watching a rom com, rather than forcing myself to go out and spend money I do not have on cheap mixed drinks, just for the sake of saying I did something social.
The mystery behind building a social life post-graduation is one that I hope to solve in the months to come as the transition into adulthood becomes more normal. Until I am able to say “case-closed” my old friends Ben & Jerry will keep me good company on nights where I get to spend some time alone, and work on my post-grad, “adult” self.
Though her first name is actually Kathryn, Kelly has been never felt that her formal name was a good fit for her personality. Having just graduated from Catholic University with a concentration in Media & Communication Studies, her three favorite things in the world are writing, traveling, and eating cake. Now that she lives full time in Washington D.C., Kelly is trying to navigate her new life as a semi-adult, while trying to not spend her entire paycheck on Margaritas.