When the leaves fell from colors in the sky to colors on the ground, three years ago, I realized that life would always be different from outside of the collegiate Christian community.
See, just a few months before, my girlfriends and I whipped the Barney-purple graduation caps (mortar boards for those who are interested) into the air. We were a streamline of celebration: complete in adulthood. All grown up, all set and all-knowing.
But the zeal toward life, particularly life as a Christ-follower, began to simmer as soon as our diplomas were hung on the walls of our childhood homes and graduation checks stopped coming in congratulatory pieces of mail.
And a few of us were convinced that the pictures in our graduation albums wouldn't have been littered with such dazzling, hopeful smiles if we knew what was going to happen just a few months later...
We soon realized that college was what the word "nostalgia" was invented for. Because, just like the Friends theme song: no one told us life was gunna be this way.
We were a lonely, newly-graduated community. And we were dispersed in communities and workplaces that didn't grade our papers. We traded in our collegiate stressors for "real-world"ones.
We didn't just get Fs on papers, we got fired. We didn't just stress about having enough money on our respective dining cards, we worried about having enough money to keep our lights and water turned on. We didn't just worry about our majors–whether or not we were taking the right courses–we worried whether or not we were on the right course all together.
And the bonds we had formed with the Christians we had grown close to in the secular campuses? Dispersed.
Still present, of course, in our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds. But the flesh of those bonds were gone. Only the skeletons and fading memories remained.
We know this because conversations with these once close sisters are sometimes challenging to maintain when we see them at weddings, and bridal or baby showers. We can comment on a meal a friend has had, or a trip they've taken because we've seen pictures of all of this.
They've been so close this whole time–just a foot or two in front of us, displayed like a painting or an electronic mirage on our computer screens–we know where they've been, but we've forgotten who they are. And those sorts of conversations make your bones shake with loneliness.
Freshman year of college, we were all practically attacked by little 3x5 fluorescent invitations from Intervarsity, CRU or even DURAG (Divine Unity Righteously Applying God, my favorite). At my college, there was even a Christian a cappella group that I diligently auditioned for (twice), and was (very thankfully) admitted into.
These girls became my best friends. My sisters. We were a stronghold. An army of believers in a party-school. Bringing Rice Krispy treats to keggers, singing worship songs in stairwells and cafeterias.
We prayed fiercely for each other. Holding each other's burdens. Having mental/emotional break downs in front of one another.
Together, each of us walked through parent's divorces, break ups, and addictions. And what a luxury it was to be able to completely lose it. To be able to relish in a community of Believers.
We didn't know how rare this community was at the time. We didn't know what we were leaving when we donned our gowns and walked across the platform.
We didn't think that we'd miss holding hands and praying. We didn't think we'd miss emailing each other in times of personal crises, when our term papers were deleted from our computers, or when we had two exams on the same day.
But, we do.
Three years later, we're all still searching for the same sisterhood. Still searching for the community that looked like it used to: when we would circle up at the drop of an email, text or phone call.
All of this time, our eyes have been shucked like corn. Always open, always exposed, always looking for blades of a grasslike community. Always looking for moments of friendship like we had in college; moments that echo nights of the same worship and prayer.
You will find it, again. In your new place. In whatever the "real world" looks like for you right now.
You may have recently graduated. And you may believe that this community doesn't exist any longer.
But, I promise, you will find the people. You will find those who you thank God for every time you remember them. Just like your college girlfriends, the girls who even three years later will mean the absolute world to you.
Even now, three years later, we are all, still, just getting started. Wading in the edge of the sea. But our struggles have changed. We're foraying into Motherhood. Wifehood. Careers. The publishing industry. The music industry.
We email, we text, we call, we cry and we pray.
But we also step into the communities where we've been planted: hanging on to the people who will care for and love us in this stage of life, too.
Maybe we won't go skinny dipping in Ithaca, New York's gorges. Maybe you won't link fingers with them while you pray; symbolizing strengths folding over weaknesses to make a group strong. Some of those things are reserved just for college.
A few months out of college, you may wonder if that season is behind you forever. You'll wonder if you'll ever make connections like you had before.
You will. I promise.
I promise you'll cry the day your coworker's daughter is born. You'll join writer's groups, or church groups that share the same love for the same God.
These people will mean as much to you as your college's Christian community. But, they'll turn up all over the world.
They'll be sprinkled into your workplaces and churches. Your coffee shops and grocery stores.
No one may have ever told you life was gunna be this way–three years later, I can tell you that it's going to be full and rich. It's going to be full of communities of people who love and support you. And you will love them right back.
That it's going to look a little different than college. But that it will be powerful all the same.
Talk to me, sisters. Did you ever go through a bout of loneliness post-college? Are you submerged in a community that you feel welcomed in? How are you dealing with the "real-world" transition? Leave me a comment below!
photo credit: davidwallace via photopin cc