Someone asked Amy Peterson recently what advice she would give to people navigating the transitions of the first few years after college. How do we live well in this season of our lives? In this series, Amy writes about physical, relational, and vocational wellness.

This is part 2 of a three part series on Thriving after College. Access the rest of the series here:

Remember, You Are a Body | Follow Your Friends | Understand Your Calling


 

 

People say follow the money. Follow your dreams. Follow your nose. Follow your heart.

 

Why not follow your friends?

 

I’ve been teaching English to international students for a decade now, and I’ve learned from my students that people from different cultures approach decision-making differently. Americans tend to value mobility, progress, and independence. When we decide where to study, we base the decision on finances and reputations and programs. When we choose where to live, we move for jobs. We consider ourselves successful if we are fully independent and self-sufficient.

 

But people from some cultures value interdependence. Children live with their parents until they get married (and sometimes after!), not because they can’t afford to move out but because they value the family connection. Adulthood isn’t defined by achieving self-sufficiency, but by understanding how you fit into the group, what you can contribute to the community.

 

Lately I’ve been thinking that we ruggedly independent Americans might have something to learn from our friends in communally oriented, collectivist cultures. After all, it was God who said it is not good for humans to be alone. God seeks relationships with us, and we were created in God’s image. We were created to seek relationships.

 

What would it look like to value our relationships and communities in our decision-making? What if, as we decided what to do after college, we didn’t just consider salaries, career goals, and benefits packages? What if we didn’t just consider adventure, travel, and our own dreams of doing big things? What if we also prayerfully considered our friends and families?

 

I asked several of my friends, now in their mid-twenties, what advice they would give to recent college grads about navigating the transition to post-college life. Several of them mentioned prioritizing relationships. Martyn said two of the most helpful practices for him were continuing to live with his college buddies for a couple of years after graduation and prioritizing church. Briana also suggested living with friends (or gaining a spouse) after graduation, and staying in the same area, which minimizes the number of changes happening all at once.

 

Diana, a friend who moved across the country for grad school after college, said loneliness was the most difficult part of the transition for her. In college, she wondered how she could find some alone time, or who she would choose to hang out with. Now she wonders whether or not she will find people to hang out with at all.

 

She went on (and this is wisdom!):

 

What I mean is that I’m learning that I have to work for community. This has been especially true with finding, and becoming part of, a church. You just have to embrace the fact that it’s lonely and awkward and hard. And once I did settle on a church (which I think it helps to do as quickly as possible), I showed up to everything I could. I signed up for a Lenten book group. I asked questions. I was, consistently, the first to stick out my hand and introduce myself—sometimes more than once with the same person.

 

Basically, I just decided to act as though I belonged until I did belong. But I think it matters that I offer to bring a salad when someone invites me over to dinner, and that I write thank-you notes when people have done something nice for me (the deacon made me an Easter basket), and that I am willing to ask questions and admit I don’t know. As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that I’m describing vulnerability.

 

You have to make the community you want and need, or find community/ies you can be part of and contribute to that will allow for that. But that takes time, and so I guess part of my advice—other than relentlessly showing up and being the first to stick out your hand—would be not to give up.

 

Follow Your Friends | Off the Page

 

It also really helped me to lean on past communities for advice and support as I made the transition. I think leaning on them helped me remain rooted enough to not give up (on finding a church, on making close friends, on grad school etc., etc.) in medias res. Not that I’ve arrived, by any means—but truly, having a church community to belong to and serve with has been the best part of my year so far, and I feel a lot more settled than I did a year ago.

 

Whether you end up with your friends after college or alone in a new place, put a priority on relationships. Make the community you want and need.

 

Follow your friends.

 


 

 

This is part 2 of a three part series on Thriving after College. Access the rest of the series here:

Remember, You Are a Body | Follow Your Friends | Understand Your Calling