Friendships change after college – it’s OK

I think it is a profound thing to be with a friend you don’t see often and feel that nothing has changed.  Relationships with our friends always change during life transitions, whether it’s changing schools or moving to a new city after college.  As I reflect on my time at school (all 16 years of it) I realize that usually when one friendship took a turn, a new one filled the void soon enough.

However, friendships after college are a very different situation. I have found that maintaining relationships post-college has been the most challenging of any other transition.  One reason is that our friends are going down different paths: getting married, moving, or dedicating time to a career – the list goes on. It could also be that in this time of our lives we value friendship more than we ever have, so it is harder to let go of friendships that have a history and not a future.

If you think back you will find that you have constantly been in and out of friendships your entire life.  Some of your broken friendships from elementary school may have rekindled during middle school and some of your friendships from high school have been replaced with new ones from college.  Friendships come and go and that is important to accept as we go through the transition from a life contingent on school to one so concentrated on independency.

Since college,  I have learned to embrace change instead of pushing it away. Let yourself change and let your friends change too.  When I moved away for college I was unaccompanied by any friends, so reconnecting with them when I got back wasn’t always easy.

Throughout my years in school, I rarely had alone time. Between having roommates and living in student housing or apartments, it seemed absurd to do something by myself.  So when I moved back home from school I didn’t understand why I wasn’t hanging out with my friends every day like I used to.  Turns out most of us have full-time jobs (or are busy finding one) and have other priorities besides making it to happy hour.

Another difficult thing for me to fathom was the fact that my friendships were different. For various reasons of course, like living in different cities, going to different schools and being around different influences during some of the most defining years of our lives.

Sure, it’s depressing when I call my best friend whose across the country and we run out of things to talk about. But it’s not then end of the world.  I don’t need to go find a new best friend – I need to just accept that we don’t know all the same people anymore, or do the same things. Do I still care about her? Duh. Do I still feel deeply connected? Hell yeah. She will always be the first person I call after something big happens – like quit my job, get engaged, or have a mid-life mental breakdown.

Just because things are different doesn’t mean that a friendship is over. The phrase nothing has changed shouldn’t be taken so literally with friendships.  Although you may have the same best friend for a lifetime, the type of friendship you have will always be changing, simply because you both are always changing.  Use your different experiences to learn from one another and grow.

What bonded two people four years ago might not be the reason for their bond today, but that is what makes long-lasting friendships so special. There is no good to come from being judgmental towards others or running the opposite way when a friend has changed. Embrace self-change and accept when your friends change too.

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