the never-ending tournament, or why it’s so hard to make friends after twenty-two

Last night, I was sitting in an Uber with two friends of mine on our way to a concert. We were talking about unimportant things, but we were laughing so hard that it actually hurt and I think the Uber driver got a little nervous. It made me think–these were the first post-college friends I had been able to do that with. Maybe they were just my first post-college friends, period. Full stop.

It is so sad that right at the moment we need friends most (read: right at the moment we’re cast out into the cold and lonely world), our friend-making opportunities simply dry up. What happens instead? Happy hours, work bake sales, and (in grad school at least), lots of talks with free luncheons. I don’t know when the bait-and-switch happens, but we suddenly all become people who ask things like, “What do you do?” and “What are you working on?” and “How’s ‘x’ project going?”

No one cares about what you do or what you’re working on or how ‘x’ project is going, and usually, they’re really bad at pretending they do. I mean, it’s hard for me to value someone’s work before I get to know them as people first. Not that your marketing campaign or dissertation or whatever isn’t cool, but like, I could just read your CV. Thanks.

Maybe it’s because we all become insecure? I get this odd feeling that everyone is playing a game and we all abide by these arcane rules that make literally no sense, but everyone is afraid of being the one to puncture the bubble.

I’m all for puncturing bubbles, which is exactly why I’m gifting you–for free!–with my top five rules for making friends after college. I feel pretty well-qualified to hand them out, since I have (as previously noted) made two whole post-college friends.

  1. Join some kind of club. It can be literally anything. A book club, pickup soccer, one of those weird geocaching groups that I still don’t understand what they do (look under rocks for stuff?). It doesn’t matter. Some kind of structured environment outside of work automatically begets conversations beyond work, which is a good thing.
  2. Do not start any conversation with “So, what do you do?” Just no. Lots of people work, and you don’t get a cookie for also working.
  3. Remember people’s names (Yeah, I know, but it’s important).
  4. Listen to good music. “Good” here  just means music that you’re passionate about–I’m not trying to be hipster-elite or whatever. Almost everyone likes music of some sort, and connecting over music (or just your love of it), can spark bridges.
  5. Stay connected to yourself. This sounds super vague, but it isn’t. Like crime novels? Don’t stop reading them. Are you into new languages? Keep plowing through levels on Duolingo. As long as you don’t forget your best qualities, it makes it easier to detect other people with qualities that are complementary to yours–or for those people to find you.

Any other ideas? Is making friends after college impossible, or is that just me? Probs just me, I know.

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So, I quit my job.

As the patron saint of perpetual comings and goings, I started getting antsy in DC about six months after I arrived. But it was more than that—I’ve never been able to hold down a job that doesn’t fit into me as a person, as an extension of me instead of just a part of me, as a reflection of what I want to take from and put into the world. I don’t compartmentalize well. I get distracted easily. I’m claustrophobic.

This is kind of frustrating, because I’m also hyper-analytical. I have a strange, probably inbred need for security, and although that doesn’t necessarily include a 401K account, it does encompass a steady paycheck. Also, I’ve seen numbers related to  the millennial underemployment crisis. I read the NYT every morning and sprinkle in a little WSJ to keep me honest. I am very, very grateful for the job I had and the opportunities given to me.

But unfortunately, I just couldn’t continue to hack it—yawning in my dark cubicle at two in the afternoon while pouring over Excel spreadsheets. I mean, I could have kept waking up and getting on the metro every day—like clockwork, it required little to no effort once I got the gears in motion—but I did not see the woman that I’d like to be as I gazed further along that path. I don’t really have a lot of her form down yet . . . she’s vague, and sometimes seems too far away. Nonetheless, I don’t think she inhabits M St NW in DC.

Now let’s be clear. I deeply, profoundly admire friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers that  do those things, that are laboring intensively to build their credibility and their career as parts of all kinds of organizations. I’ll admit that sometimes I’m more than a little jealous of their  endeavours and I wonder why mine has to feel so different. Am I just undisciplined? Unwired? Occasionally, I’m tempted to chalk up my resignation to some moral failure. I do well at something just long enough to decide not to do it.

I don’t know. I think when you’re doing something that doesn’t fit right, the gnawing in your stomach makes it pretty difficult to think of anything else. I want to view myself as brave and self-assured and independent, maybe even defiant, but I’m not there yet. Right now, I’m just a little excited, a little curious, but mostly scared and unsure.

Faith is believing in what we cannot see.

I’ll be traveling for the next couple of months and then hitting that #gradschoollife again, so stay tuned.