The Reality of College Friendships Post-Graduation

Flash back to August 2017. I had moved into my college dorm at Meredith College, which I am a proud alumnae of and LOVE to brag about on my Instagram (follow me @_thepinkchickadee!) and met A TON of people, all of which I considered to be my besties. Overwhelmed with excitement and giddy about how fast my social life had blossomed and tremendously grown in the blink of one night in my mattress pad-covered dorm bed, I couldn’t wait to make more and more besties the next day. These besties of mine that I had met at college, whether through Facebook (yes – I was THAT girl who introduced herself to and added EVERYONE on Facebook from my incoming Freshmen class Facebook group the months before moving in), socials arranged by on-campus organizations, orientation, or simply in the dining hall, I saw myself as becoming besties with my brand-new besties and remaining besties forever. Flash forward 5 years to summer 2022. I am oh so grateful for the relationships and friendships that I have established. BUT, my list of besties from college is nowhere near what I thought it would be one year out of college.

In college, we meet ALL kinds of people. I met people from small towns in North Carolina, big cities in North Carolina (such as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston Salem), other Southern states including Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia, and everywhere in between. My eyes were truly open to the vast diversity of people within the state of North Carolina and the South as a whole. A few weeks after I moved in my Freshmen year, I went on a trip with other Meredith College classmates of mine to Savannah, Georgia. My Sophomore year a group of us went to Washington, DC. My Junior year, a group of us went to Charleston, South Carolina. I also studied abroad in Sansepolcro in Tuscany, Italy and London, England and even San Ignacio in the rainforest region of Cayo, Belize. I was able to see the world around me and learn from it right with my Meredith College classmates. I met several people from several different backgrounds from all across the globe. Many of those folks became my besties and played a strong role in my college experience, too.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my college social world felt as if it was over as I then knew it. Pre-COVID-19, I hosted multiple dinner parties each month. At one point in time, I even had over 30 people and a dog in my tiny tiny tiny apartment at once on a Wednesday night. I went out to lunch, breakfast, dinner, coffee, and all of the above ALL THE TIME. I participated in ALLL the Meredith College committees, events both on and off campus, and even local Raleigh events. I even spent HOURS each week in between my classes sitting at a table in the Student Union helping to sell shirts for both class and club fundraisers as well as events, alike. I saw everyone, socialized with everyone, got pictures with everyone, and dressed to the 9’s in my good olde Katie preppy style. Life felt good and then when COVID-19 hit, it wasn’t. I had LOTS of friends that I saw day in and day out, many of which I lost touch with and grew apart from during the pandemic.

To my surprise, the pandemic was the first of many waves of distancing from many of my so-called besties. During the COVID-19 pandemic, my apartment roommate moved back home, so it was just me in our apartment. I feared being alone, but once I faced that fear, I *surprise* actually LOVE and embrace being alone from time to time. When I faced my fear of being alone, I also started to truly work on loving myself. I treated myself with better care and kindness and continue to to this day. Working on myself so much made me realize that some of those friends of mine were not truly friends of mine for the long haul. Many of my college friends would call me only to ask for favors or check-in’s (for context: I regularly checked in on college friends during the pandemic that I rarely saw) would only come from me and not from them as well. On the flip side, I had several college friends who we would only use our memories for show aka for the social media post, but not much for the friendship. Looking back on some of my college friendships, I felt stressed around some of those I’d hang out with in ensuring I got the perfect picture to post, had the perfect outfit, and went to every social outing. There was NO foundation to our friendship and many of those friends I couldn’t even think of one reason why I was their friend than for social outings and social media. It made me realize that I deserved more in the friendships that I invested in moving forward.

They say the more you work on yourself, the more people you let go. That rings true to friendships of ALL kinds. When I broke up with my abusive ex and got out of that toxic relationship and ultimately chose myself, I lost many of our then-mutual friends and those in our community that supported and admired our relationship. Only a few people stuck around and made sure I was okay after the breakup. I had a lot of support from those in my community who truly cared for me and wanted simply the best for me. The rest left and the break up truly was one of the first experiences that made me realize who was truly in my corner at ALL times. Similarly speaking, when I moved to Washington, DC post-college graduation, many of my then-friends became a distant memory. Some friends checked in and others didn’t. To some friends, I left and wasn’t coming back to Raleigh, so I was a distant friend from a past world, and to others, I was still their friend that they checked in on and wanted to see when we were both in the same city. Some of these friends just moved on like I left and never looked back. I realized that I deserved and do deserve MORE. Others made the effort to check-in and reunite when we were together. Those are the friends that I still have in my corner. We have travelled together and some have even come to visit me. They are also the ones the I see whenever I come to Raleigh. Friendships are a two-way street. I realized that if I want to maintain a friendship with someone that I deserve a friendship where both parties make an effort to keep in touch for more than just a tag in a post on Instagram.

There were some college friendships that I felt heartbroken to loose and eventually grow apart from. I grieved. I was distraught. I fought hard to keep those friendships alive even when I knew that I was better off without them. These were the people that I never wanted to loose. They were the friends that I envisioned at my wedding, baby shower, and planning college reunion trips with decades down the line. I envisioned having these friends in my life for, well, life. Looking back at some of these friendships though, a lot of the friends that I am not in touch with to this day from college, I didn’t turn to them when I needed them most. Instead, I turned to the college friends that I still am super blessed to have in my life to this day. But, I instead, decided that the friendship was not worth saving. College friendships are HARD to maintain post-graduation. When everyone is dispersed in different cities, working jobs at different companies in different industries, and simply living lives very different from one another and not within an elevator’s or hall’s reach to one another, things change. More and more effort takes place when we live farther apart from each another. It’s life and it’s NORMAL.

Although some college friendships don’t last far out of the college years, others will and others will even grow more after college, too. I’ve learned over time to focus on those that DO care for me and the friends that I DO have. There’s so much joy that I have for the friends that I DO have to this day from college and beyond. We can look back and laugh on our college memories and grow together, even when we live far apart from one another. I have also grown connections with those from college that I wasn’t as close to during my college years, especially in recent times. It’s funny how the stars align that way sometimes. Sometimes we drift apart from those that we weren’t meant to have in our lives, but we grow closer to those who are meant to be in our lives long term. Those bonds are such a special thing, too. Even more special than those bonds once there but not anymore.

While my Freshmen year college self would LOVE to see a whole wedding guest list full of my besties from college of group chats in my text messages to this day, I truly have friendships that I can focus on more so and make it worth the time and investment, too. I have grown as a person and so have all of my besties from Freshmen year of college. Remember, that while you may fear and feel sadness towards loosing some college friendships, you also will gain so much more from the one’s that will remain and are to come.

XOXO – Katie <3

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