How Do I Choose Who to Stay in Touch with After College?
Life after college is tricky to navigate. You’re constantly having these questions thrown at you like, “What’s next?” or, “Where are you going to live?” or, “Do you have a job yet?” These are big questions that are really hard to answer, especially if your life is feeling like one giant question mark.
And on top of all of the pressure to have some excellent answers to all your relatives’ questions, you’re dealing with the emotional burden of leaving a place that you’ve begun to really view as home. Trust me when I say that there is never another time in life like college. Never again will you get to live down the hall or across campus from your closest friends. Sure, you may have a roommate or two after you graduate, but with the exception of those few people, your friends from college will be scattered all around the city, state, or country. And after graduation, you go from seeing certain people every single day to once or twice a month at best.
Whether you move back into your parents’ house or move across the country for grad school, your friendships will look very different after college.
Even though I was bracing myself for the change, this was a big shock for me. After graduation I really wanted to keep in touch with as many people as possible, but that didn’t end up being as easy as I thought it would be. It’s hard enough to maintain a lot of friendships when you’re all on the same campus, let alone once you graduate and are all across the country. It became pretty clear pretty fast that there were some people who I was going to stay in touch with more naturally than others. This was hard to accept at first. I found myself struggling to justify how this was okay. After being used to seeing all my friends almost every day, why was it now easier to talk to some of them almost every day and others once a month, if that?
On top of all of that, I found myself keeping in closer contact with my Christian friends and talking to my non-Christian friends less. It felt easier to process the transition from college with my Christian friends because they were encouraging me to pray and seek the Lord through the difficult parts. But that realization left me feeling even more guilty and selfish. Why couldn’t I just balance it all and keep in touch with all of my friends equally? Was it okay to rely heavily on my Christian friends for support while seemingly neglecting my non-Christian friends? Who was reaching out to them and caring for them?
Naming My Need
These questions ran through my mind on a loop. And I had to remind myself of this: God created us as human beings to be in community. God’s intention for the world was that his people would not be alone. We were designed to live together in community with him and with one another. Because of sin we became separated from him, which means there are people who don’t know him. He has tasked us with sharing the good news of Jesus with those who don’t know him, and that is extremely important, but so is God’s original design for community with others. This can be a tough balance to strike. Ideally, we are able to both be in Christian community while also sharing the gospel with our friends who don’t yet know Jesus. That was certainly true for me while I was in college, but that’s not always the case.
After college, when my whole community was scattered around the country, I felt lost. And I was reminded that sometimes we both desire and need to be in community with other believers. We need to be built up and encouraged so that we can be sent out to do God’s work where he has planted us.
This doesn’t mean that I purposely ignored my friends who weren’t Christians or stopped praying for them to know Jesus intimately. It just meant that I didn’t call them when I was in my feelings about leaving college and needed someone to encourage me and push me to rely on Jesus.
Taking My Cue from the Greatest Commandment
Truthfully, I don’t know if there’s a formula for who to keep in touch with after college and who to let go. I like to look to Scripture for these types of questions but sometimes find it hard to get a clear answer. I love what Jesus says to the man who asks him what the greatest commandment is, though. He says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:8-40). Jesus makes it clear that we should love him first and foremost and then love our neighbors. We should love and serve both him and others before we seek to serve ourselves.
Post-grad, I needed my Christian friends to help me love Jesus more than myself. I needed them to encourage me and walk with me while I needed some direction. In this command, though, Jesus also instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As I navigated life post-grad I realized that I needed to also love those who didn’t know Jesus and were living right around me. Yes, I still needed and wanted to love my friends who had moved far away, but I believe that the greatest commandment is also to love people where we are planted and invest significant time in them as well.
Like I said before, there’s no formula for this. What worked for me—remembering that (1) I can’t keep in touch with everyone, (2) it’s okay to pay attention to what I need and lean into my friendships with Christians in a season of transition, and (3) it’s really important to invest in my new community—might not work for you. Pray and seek God’s will as you navigate maintaining your friendships after college. But please remember to give yourself grace as you learn.
Life after graduation is hard, plain and simple. There are so many tough things to navigate and maintaining friendships is just one of them. I pray that you seek the Lord in all aspects of your life post-grad and that you experience his blessing in all that you do.
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Laura Li-Barbour.
Erica Young Reitz helps college seniors and recent graduates navigate the complex transition to postcollege life. Drawing on best practices and research on senior preparedness, this practical guide addresses the top issues graduates face: making decisions, finding friends, managing money, discerning your calling and much more.