A Relatively Painless Guide to Making New Friends

Recent college graduate, fellow alumnae, and brilliant blogger Katt wrote me, saying “The thing that worries me the most about life outside of college is making friends. All my life I’ve made friends at school, and my work friendships have never been as strong. I miss my college friends and am worried I won’t ever feel the same feeling of community and friendship that I had in college.

Katt’s clearly not the only person concerned with making friends in a post-collegiate environment.  Over at Jezebel, they had an article today with some tips for making friends once you’ve moved on from dorm rooms and keggers.  Their suggestions:

  • Be a joiner
  • Say yes to things
  • Live with roommates
  • Reconnect with people from your past

I think all of these are great, easy suggestions and are pretty squarely in line with my own post-college experience.  When I graduated from college, I stayed in town but made a conscious effort to expand my circle of friends beyond the college community.  This meant getting involved in town by volunteering, going to as many free/cheap events as possible, and trying to force myself to work through my natural shyness.  It may not be for everyone, either, but spending a night or two at the local watering hole, chatting up the bartender and locals, is a really good way to start meeting people.

Also, from my own experience, one of the best things I did after finishing school was to say yes to everything, as Jezebel suggests.  If coworkers went to happy hour, I said yes.  When a fellow alum wanted a buffer on a first date and asked me to double, I said yes. When one of my first non-college friends asked me to join his poker night, I said yes. Not every time I said yes resulted in a new best friend or the best night of my life, but most of them did!  The key difference between myself, who loved post-commencement life in our tiny town, and my first roommate, who hated it, was that one of us left the apartment more than the other.  Take a guess at who.

Of course, college friendships are important.  Take the time and put in the effort to stay in touch! The internet is a miraculous thing in that regard – in our house, Skype and G-Chat make it possible for my roommate and I to keep up to date on what most of our college friends are up to.  It’s also great to have that support system – everyone is struggling with their first jobs, first apartments, financial worries, relationships, and trying to make it on their own.  That’s the beauty of great friendships – they don’t fade away with distance!

Enough about me. What do you think of me?

Generation Y.  Millenials.  The Why-Worry Generation.  Generation Me.

I have always struggled with generational indicators.  I’m definitely too young to be Generation X, although I think my heavy exposure to Gen-X pop culture at a young age has made me more inclined to want to be grouped that way.  My personal taste in music, movies, and politics skews me closer to Baby Boomers than anything else.  My sister is 3 1/2 years younger than me and honestly, I feel like she grew up in a completely different world – and in many ways, she did.

Irregardless, because of the fact that I am in my mid-20s and have a basic concept of the Twitters and such, I’m lumped into a generational category that irks me.  Generation Me – is anyone else insulted by that?  I’m not exactly a shrinking violet but I’ve never really considered myself self-centered – and I wouldn’t characterize most of my peers that way.

But, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, we’ve earned the title – college students today are 40% less empathetic than those 30 years ago, with significant drops occurring for students entering college since 2000. That’s a pretty depressing statistic, when you consider they’re measuring empathy in terms of consideration for the welfare of others on a local and global scale.

“I’m not surprised,” said Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist and an author of a new book “Born to Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered.” “But I was hoping it wasn’t as rapid a deterioration as this study suggests.”

Wow, thanks Dr. Perry.  I’m not a statistician – if I were, I’d probably be gainfully employed.  I am, however, not sure if it’s a fair assessment of our generation.  So I decided to take the Dr. Drew-created Narcissim Inventory.  The result – I display high levels of authority and self-sufficiency, which placed my score slightly above the average.  However, I scored quite low on the questions regarding vanity, superiority, and entitlement.  Not exactly the profile of a Generation Me-Me-Mer.    Perhaps the qualities that make us the a generation of young leaders, movers, shakers, and achievers can also cast us as self-centered in the eyes of an older, more modest generation?

Did you take the quiz?  Where did you fall?  Do you think our generation is narcissistic or just assertive?  Leave it in the comments!

Dignity. Always, Dignity.

One of my favorite movies in the entire world is Singin’ in the Rain.  I watched it religiously growing up and to this day, it is my ideal rainy weather movie. I just finished a book about the making of the film, which lead me to rewatching it yet again a few weeks ago.

One scene in particular hit me as I continue to figure out what my mid-20s are supposed to be.  It’s the scene where R.F. Simpson, head of the studio, has come to shut production of The Dueling Cavalier down because of the advent of talking pictures.  Cosmo Brown, played delightfully by Donald O’ Connor, has this great moment:

Cosmo: Talking pictures! That means I’m out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.
R.F.: You’re not out of job, we’re putting you in as head of our new music department.
Cosmo: Oh, thanks, R.F.! At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.

O’ Connor’s delivery of these lines never fails to make me laugh but it also made me think.  We often associate the idea of unemployment with artistic or creative pursuits.  Cosmo essentially says If I have to give up the day to day studio job that pays my bills, I might as well be miserable and try to write my masterpiece.  Of course, the real joke comes next, when Cosmo acknowledges that his promotion will end his suffering, thus making it easier to write that masterpiece.  The joke is so well-played because it acknowledges that, suffering or not, Cosmo is most likely never going to write his symphony.

It seems like most of us want it both ways – we want to have the time and freedom to commit to what we love, whether it’s writing a symphony or pursuing painting or creating our first start-up business or being a stay at home mom.  We see examples every day, in pop culture and real life, of people who sacrifice to pursue their dreams.  On the other hand, it’s often impractical, inconvenient, and seemingly foolish to pursue option A.  It’s generally preferable to be financial secure, emotionally stable, and fulfilled at work in order to be in the physical, mental, and emotional state necessary to pursue our passions.

As noted in my last post, I wouldn’t even know what passion to pursue.  As of today, I have no symphony to write and no art to suffer for.  But at least I have Donald O’ Connor to help me laugh about.

Note:  If anyone can find a YouTube version on this scene, I will be your new best friend and credit you in the post!  Email to postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dot com]

A Lack of Passion

I’m going to say the thing most people writing blogs would never say:

I don’t know what my passion is.

The entire concept of blogging is built upon the foundation of passion.  You love the music on the TV show Treme? There’s a blog for that.  You think lesbians who resemble teenage pop sensations are awesome?  There’s a blog for that.  From paying down personal debt to terrible cakes, fashion to fetishes, you can find a person blogging about it.

I would not describe myself as a passionate person.  I am energetic.  Animated.  Lively.  Outgoing.  A dear friend once said that what she liked about me most was the fact that I was interested in and fascinated by everything.  For her, my defining feature is that I have many interests and no singular passion.

Do other people feel that way?  How does one pursue their passion when they don’t know what it is?  I sometimes worry that I lost my passion – that I was perhaps born to love doing something but forgot along the way what that thing is.  Maybe I let teachers or parents or friends distract me with other pursuits or discourage me from certain decisions.  More troubling, maybe I subconsciously stopped myself from cultivating a passion as a means of self-preservation.

Do not cry for me, blog readers.  Do not develop a mental image of a distraught quarter-lifer, sobbing on her keyboard at her bleak existence.  I do have interests, hobbies, and pursuits that bring me happiness, fulfillment, and a means to filling the days.  I occasionally get a glimmer of passion, a feeling that perhaps this is it.

And for now, I think that might just be enough.

The Dreaded Job Envy

O! beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
~William Shakespeare, Othello

My first blog topic request!  Reader Aught Nine Grad wrote with the following question:

How common is job envy?  I find myself constantly checking my friend’s Facebook pages to see where they’re working, if they love their jobs, etc.  It seems like everyone has a better job situation than mine.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us wandering through our 20’s have, at one time or another, been envious.  Despite having heeded the lessons of Othello, I certainly strive to live a life free of jealousy but it’s difficult.  Living in the digital age, with so many people sharing so much information through social networks, it’s easier than ever to get insight into people’s careers and how they deal with them.  When other people are happy, fulfilled, and successful (oh that word…) and you don’t feel that way, envy can breed.

It can be easy to sit at home, wishing you were that girl you went to high school with who now has the glamorous, big city job or your best friend from college who received a prestigious research grant and is going to save the world.  I have friends across the country with a wide variety of jobs and careers, some of wish I’d never want to pursue, but many which get me thinking, “If only I had that job.  If only I was smart enough, determined enough, lucky enough to score that gig.”

The thing is, jealousy is not productive.  Some people may attest that jealousy can spark productive action, encourage you to take a leap.  That sounds like an urban legend to me – reread Othello and tell me how being spurred to action worked there!  A wise group of women taught me that jealousy will get you nowhere. I’m not saying you’ll never be jealous: you will.  I’m not saying that people who get jealous are bad people: we aren’t.  Just remember to keep a little perspective.  I believe, Aught Nine Grad, that the perfect job is out there for you – the kind of job that will stir a little envy in the hearts of others even.  Finally, remember that jobs are not set in stone – if you’re in a job situation that doesn’t work for you, find one that does!