I recently graduated from college, and I'm incredibly lonely. I'm struggling to adjust to my post-graduate life.

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By RACHEL BERNSTEIN
 
I've reached an age where I've started to resemble the characters on a TV show trying to "find themselves" — the ones that impulsively move to a new city for a new beginning or cut their bangs and say that it's a step forward.

I know I'm an adult because I now have a decent-enough skincare routine. I pay my credit-card bill on time. I buy floss and don't lie to the dentist about how much I use it. Like some good writers in movies, I get my best ideas at night, sit at my desk with my glasses on, and then wake up an hour later in a cold sweat and decide I hate everything I've ever written.

You see, I graduated from college in May 2022 and have entered the "adulting" phase. I just didn't expect loneliness in my postgrad life.

For every good thing about being in my early 20s and for every Girl Scout medal I've given myself for being a semifunctioning adult, there's this curtain that I pull in front of the "bad stuff."

I knew my friends would go here and I would go there, but the actual emotion didn't set in until I hugged my last friend goodbye that summer after I graduated. It was night when I left, and as I drove back home to my family, I realized it felt like a coming-of-age movie montage. Like, this is when things could really start.

Since our disbandment, every conversation I have with friends dances around the topic of loneliness. It's interesting because everyone a couple of years older than me often tells me how tough it can be, but I didn't hear about it until the "good old days" were done and the tassel was turned.

I felt anticipatory loneliness when some college friends came to town for a weekend — all of them long-distance friends, as many of mine are.

The days were packed with spontaneous detours, surprise guests, and the exchange of information that wasn't relayed over the phone or voice messages. The long drives on narrow canyon roads made everything feel special. But we had several conversations about loneliness. We talked about how it could be lonely in "real life" and how postgrad wasn't exactly what we'd expected.

These days, I often find myself suffering from a serious case of "inability to shut up." I'm on the edge of my seat, ready to spill my opinions, theories, and woes to the friend who picks up the phone. My thoughts are all dammed up until I finally talk to someone, making me feel like a golden retriever waiting by the door. Whenever I meet someone my age in person, they're quick to tell me that they're lonely as well. We're all the golden retriever at the door.

Adjusting to that new normal takes time
I'm not as lonely as I was in my first months out of college. It was a shock to the system then — like being thrown into the cold waters of the deep end of a pool. But it has lessened with time. It has lessened with joining volunteer cohorts, going to yoga classes, and scheduling regular phone calls with those close long-distance friends.

I've also learned there are great parts to being lonely. I have learned more about myself, have gotten to catch up on all the best TV of late, have remembered why I love my loved ones, and have met wonderful new people.

I've come to the realization that this isn't a unique experience. It's one that we all go through, whether we're graduating from a four-year university, entering the workforce straight from high school, going into the military, or doing something else. So much of the world is lonely, but the bright side is that if so many people are lonely, they're likely amenable to making friends.

Of course, there's also something to having those long-distance friends. It's not ideal to have people scattered around the country with different priorities, jobs, and schedules. But there's something to the whole "absence making the heart grow fonder" thing. I've started to appreciatethem that much more when I get to see them — virtually or in person.

I don't know who in my life is a prime-time player and who's just first-string for a season, but I know that my heart aches for them. We're all a little sad, but it's still a little beautiful.

RACHEL BERNSTEIN fiesta published this on Business Insider  and can be found HERE

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