Words by Elli Manoogian-O'Dell
One day, I woke up and all my friends were gone. It wasn’t a bad dream – it was adulthood and I wasn’t a fan. After college, my friends left – chasing new experiences after graduation. My job brought me back home, moving me closer to my family. But soon after, loneliness set in. Weekends were uneventful, and free time after work felt like a burden rather than a gift. I quickly became a permanent fixture in my mom’s living room and found myself going to coffee shops just to hear the chatter.
Armed with my diploma, I had the expectation that a new network of friends would appear. In college, the further I progressed in my major, the more I had in common with my peers. The longer I shared a house with my friends, the more they began to resemble family. Suddenly, the spontaneous hiking adventures, late night sugar expeditions, and conversations about everyday dilemmas disappeared. It was time to take action. So, I got to work.
Leave the House
Intramural sports and clubs were a staple throughout college. Being with others who had common interests and goals (like developing kick-ass quads) allowed us to bond. One night, I started browsing local Facebook groups, which eventually led me to join a running club. I got to hang out with new people– chatting as we ran and grabbing a bite to eat afterwards. Socializing became part of my weekly schedule, and it made a difference. If running isn’t your thing, consider a yoga group or an art class at a local community college. Many of these opportunities are scheduled in the morning or evening, and are easy to incorporate into your work-week. After several workouts with my running club, I realized that many of us were new to the area and were there for the same reason. The endorphins were also a perk.
Loneliness has a way of increasing your screen time. I started following a local artist on Instagram and even bought a couple of her pieces. Through commenting and encouraging each other in our creative pursuits, we became friends – well, internet friends. This is where making friends can get tough. At some point, I knew I had to put myself out there. “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane bravery” or at least that is what Benjamin Mee said in “We Bought a Zoo.” The next step was making my internet friend my real-life friend.
One thing that college did not teach me is how to use my free time. Every day there was a paper to write, a chapter to read or a project to complete. Free time was never free. Once I began an eight-to-five job, I discovered what it was like to truly have free time – it was lonely. So, I picked up paint brushes from high school, started growing houseplants, and bought books to read. Being stuck in loneliness can be tough, but if you turn that captivity into creativity, you discover a new activity that may bring you joy.
Throughout this process, it’s important to remember not to be too hard on yourself. Building a social network doesn’t happen overnight, especially once you leave a college campus. In fact, many say it takes at least four seasons to make it work. My social life is a work in progress and I still spend some nights in bed watching Netflix. But that’s okay as long as I still feel motivated to get out the door and make something happen.
Elli Manoogian-O’Dell is a multimedia content creator based in Corvallis, Oregon. She enjoys hiking, cooking and photography. She just might have a few friends to join her in those activities soon.