I have two pictures taped to my refrigerator: one of an otter, and one of a bulldog doing yoga.
When a friend came over and peered at them, raising an eyebrow at me, she seemed to understand when I gave her my one-word explanation: college.
On the day that I moved out of my college house, I sobbed. I struggle with goodbyes. When a moment is good, I want to hold on to it forever. And, college was good. That day after graduating, as I packed up my books and my bedding, I also felt like I was packing away everything that had made me happy the last four years. I was saying goodbye to parties, to creative projects, to coffee dates, to show tune sing-alongs. I was saying goodbye to those life-changing conversations and to those late night runs for cheese fries. I was saying goodbye to the nights spent laughing in the kitchen with my three best friends, replicating the poses of the animals in our silly wall calendar. As I packed up my books and my bedding, I flipped through the silly wall calendars. At least those pictures were pieces I could actually hold on to forever, and so I packed up two of them: one of an otter, and one of a bulldog doing yoga.
I’m not going to lie to you; the months right after college graduation require some adjusting. It’s a big shift to go from constantly being surrounded by friends and prospective friends all your age to, what happened in my case, living with your parents in the suburbs. Life becomes a bit slower, a bit quieter. And I was afraid of that.
It’s been a year since I graduated from college, and, yes, my life is a bit quieter. But, I made the choice to lean into the quiet, and the fear of it. I took a leap and moved to a brand new city, to live all on my own. The learning and growing doesn’t stop after college, and I’ve realized that the quiet is not actually something to fear, but rather something that makes you stronger.
Of course, there are still days when I miss college, when I indulge in the endless Facebook photo scroll down memory lane. I remember the parties, the creative projects, the coffee dates, the show tune sing-alongs. A year later, the things that stick out from those memories are not the flavor of coffee I was drinking, or the names of the buildings we were in. It’s a bit of a cliché, but only because it’s so true: what made college so special was the people. And those people are still here.
Even in the quiet post-grad moments, there are still the group texts, the Snapchats, the surprise email from a friend with a link that just made her think of me. My close female friendships are all still around, and if anything they’ve gotten stronger. My support network has made it possible to survive and thrive during this first year in the real world; they’re there to lean on and I’m there for them. Knowing that we still have each other has made it all okay.
I now live in a brand new city, with best friends who were once neighbors now scattered around the country. But, every time I see that otter and that bulldog doing yoga on my refrigerator, I remember that the important friendships are not going anywhere.
To those of you about to graduate, it’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to sob. It’s also okay to be thrilled to be leaving your campus. But no matter what, know that the stuff from college that matters will last.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.