There are many things I wish people had told me about the period between graduation and finding a full-time job. Like how hard freelancing is, what credit cards are best for young adults just starting out, how to format cover letters and send follow-up emails, and how to navigate the often braggadocios realm of LinkedIn. Yet, these were all things I was able to learn and overcome with time. What I still haven't been able to overcome are the feelings of isolation and loneliness since I left college.
Let me start by saying that I had close to zero friends in high school. I flew under the radar and couldn't wait to go to college where there would be niche communities catered to specific interests through clubs, majors, and even jobs. And when I got to university, I wasted no time finding ones for myself. A theatre club here, a sorority there, a school newspaper position, and even a brief stint on some club sports teams quickly gave me the close relationships I had always craved. For the first time, I didn't feel lost. I felt perfectly found and supported by those around me in our mutual passions.
I was suddenly home again, back in the house where I grew up and feeling more lost than I had ever been. Every friend scattered back to the towns and cities they had originally hailed from.
Graduation fast approached. Everyone tells you that those four years fly by and, in some ways, they do when you zoom out and look at your experience as a whole (though it can feel like it moves at a snail's pace when dealing with class, work, papers, clubs, and so on). When it did finally come, I was ecstatic and proud. I had done everything in my power to get the most out of my four years, and it felt satisfying.
Then, after the confetti finished falling and the celebratory parties were over, I was suddenly home again, back in the house where I grew up and feeling more lost than I had ever been. Every friend scattered back to the towns and cities they had originally hailed from. Most of them were hours away from me and, since I hadn't had many friends in high school, I felt alone again.
It doesn't help that the job search is tough. There are massive amounts of unique cover letters to write, and getting rejections when you might not be used to them after living in a protective bubble of a college town is hard to deal with.
Phone calls and FaceTime help. They allow you to catch up with friends, but they can never replace the ability to just sit on a couch and binge a TV series together or cry in the presence of an actual human when things get tough. Sometimes, I find myself unproductive in my job search because I miss those times so much, but then I kick myself because I know if I get a job, I can find a community again. Thus begins a toxic cycle of binge applying, doing all of my freelance writing jobs at 3 a.m., then deleting every app to try and cut off the images of what others are doing. Social media, as usual, can make the isolation feel worse when you see your friends off doing great things.
One of the hardest tasks these past few months has not been the job applications, but telling myself that my friendship is still important. When the texts go unanswered or the call goes to voicemail because people's lives get busy and you're no longer two minutes away from each other, it can feel like you've been tossed into the unknown to fend for yourself. It can be really hard to remind yourself that everyone is going through their own version of the very battle you're facing, and they might be handling it in different ways. That doesn't mean the love and friendship is gone, it just means it's changing. And that's OK.
I know I'll eventually get to a comfortable place again where I have both new and old friends around me. I'll be able to sit on a couch and binge watch shows with new friends, and enjoy visits with old ones who live far away without dreading the fact I may not see them again for months. We'll all find jobs and land on our feet and establish rhythms with each other. Still, the present loneliness can be suffocating at times. Just know that if you feel alone after graduation, we're all in that together, too.