How to Find and Maintain High Quality Friendships Following College.
Many lament following college, how much more difficult it becomes to “find” and thus, make friends. It’s true that during this particular life phase, we have easy access to multitudes of potential friends. People with widely varying interests, temperaments, and all of whom are in the same situation as ourselves. This providing a unique incentive and bonding scenario with everyone newly free from the constraints of high school and living under our parents roofs.
For the first time, we are responsible for ourselves, able to choose our own bedtime, with whom we spend time, what we read and study, all of it away from the immediately present eyes of our care takers. Thus, bonding with others who are in the same exploratory, novel scenario is almost effortless. Sometimes to a degree though that results in our pairing off with certain people too quickly, later to realize that we chose without nearly enough careful thought or information prior.
Following college, finding and making friends becomes a more purposeful pursuit. People after graduation might remark things like “man, making friends after college is impossible. It’s so much harder.”
In college, a plethora of people are available almost everywhere one might look or spend their time. This makes for forming social connections, many of which may be more tenuous and shallow than we think at the time, relatively undemanding.
However, simply by means of the excess of available social connections does not necessarily make them great matches for us as friends. Sometimes it does. Just as often though, the connections form because they are simply “there.” A matter of being in the right place at the right time kind of thing.
So, how does one find, as well as grow quality friendships after college? On leaving the petri dish of almost endless social opportunity that particular life phase provided, how do we access a similar level of social possibility outside of that scenario?
Part of this is in how we look at it. We need only view this new life phase with different eyes to see that just as much opportunity is there.
Being out in the “real” world is a situation in which just as much friendship potential lies. There are possible friends everywhere. At work, on meetup.com, through the friends we already have, in taking a class at an adult education center, on sports teams, our neighbors, at the gym, even just on our daily commute.
Any one of these people is, in theory, a potential friend.
That is the first step. Shifting our way of thinking into one that embraces such a mindset. Prospective friends are everywhere.
Now, how to choose the right ones? I’ve written many articles on this very topic, which you can find on my Medium page. In short though, there are innumerable great people in this world, and there are people who are those to keep a safe distance from. A significant number of people are kind, emotionally healthy, loyal, open hearted, interested, and inspiring humans. Another significant number of people are closed, emotionally immature, not trustworthy, emotionally unhealthy, and are generally best avoided.
We have a problem in our culture with jumping into relationships, both romantic and platonic, way too quickly. We meet someone, sense a click, like what we feel in a handful of moments with this person, and boom. We are either boyfriend and girlfriend, or BFFs.
This is not how to get to know someone in a mindful, healthy, or thoughtful way. It’s also not a great method for picking carefully whom we let into our lives. And it’s one that, as a result, can lead to emotionally devastating consequences.
The quality of the people with whom we surround ourselves determines the emotional health and quality of our life. Therefore, choosing with whom to be close is not a decision to be entered into recklessly or lightly.
An initial click is good. Liking someone is a great indicator to continue spending time with them. However, use the first few months of getting to know someone as an observational phase. This is when you should be experiencing and watching them, in a variety of situations and scenarios. Enjoy being with them. Slowly open your heart to them, bit by bit, not all at once. Get to know someone over a period of several months before deciding that yes, this is someone with whom I want to pursue a close connection.
And once you have found the people with whom a close relationship is desired? This takes time to build. It takes priority and effort. It takes many, many hours spent with this person, talking, doing a variety of interesting things together, learning about one another, and forming an open, real, authentic connection. This doesn’t happen in one month, romantic or platonic. It happens over several months, even upwards of a year or more.
You do not truly know someone with whom you haven’t spent a multitude of hours with. You do not deeply know someone in the first few months. It simply isn’t possible.
Once having established those select few (because a close friend to many is a close friend to none- emotionally deep relationships take a lot of time. Thus, we can only truly select and invest deeply in a small handful) with whom you want to invite into your life and heart, this takes continued nourishment and effort in order to maintain and sustain.
This is a tough one for many to understand fully, and often, difficult for people to learn without a significant loss which teaches them the lesson first.
A significant number of people do not place this degree of priority on their close friendships, and later on, regret it. Establishing a close connection with someone isn’t enough.
Reaching the level of “close friendship” is not a conclusion.
Relationships are fluid, and are living, breathing things. They require frequent watering, attending to, and investment in to keep them going. In order to stay close with someone, no matter how busy your life gets, you must make and extend the efforts.
If you do not, the friendship will die.
Whether either or both people intended or wanted this, or not. Many a quality love and connection have died within lack of effort.
Life gets and is busy for everyone. None of us are excluded from or unique in that regard. Whether it be with the arrival of a new child, or someone accepting a job promotion which entails far more hours, or in the process of writing a book, or in a phase of renovating their house, or choosing to travel for significant periods and thus, being away for huge chunks of time. We all get busy.
However, the people who maintain their most important relationships carve out time to feed, nourish, and maintain the close relationships of their lives. Those who have a continued handful of poignant, quality, truly close friendships, and over the course of their life, place a high priority on these connections.
That includes even when it might be more difficult to do so.
At times, this means making sacrifices. At times, this means putting aside another “top priority” and making it the friendship in that moment. At times, this means going out of one’s way. At times, it means extending oneself.
The people who do not do this, who do not make the time and put in the effort, their friendships will fade. Great friendships do not grow on trees. We must first grow them, and then give them continued attending to.
To unearth, create, and finally, maintain poignant, fulfilling connections with others (both during, though ultimately following college), one must choose mindfully and carefully, and then place a high priority on the maintaining and caring for those relationships.