During college, I did not have the best experience with friendships. I know many people in college meet their best friends that will soon become their bridesmaids, or enter into relationships that will turn into marriage. I did not have this experience. Though I made friends, it was clear that these were just circumstantial friends—we were only friends because we were co-workers, in the same classes, or attended church together. Once we were not in the same city anymore, these people did not try to remain friends with me, nor I with them. Looking back, there were many friendships in which I made the majority of the effort—I was never anyone’s best friend, but just a side friend (which I know says a lot about me, because I wasted time on friendships that were not fruitful). Overall, college was a pretty lonely experience for me, and post-graduate life has not been any better. (side note: I did not have any boyfriends during college, nor do I currently have one).
I still follow many of my former college friends on social media, and I have seen that many of them are getting engaged and married. And I have not been invited to any of these weddings. Which I understand; why would you invite someone that you haven’t talked to in two years to your wedding? It’s hard for me to not be filled with jealousy, because I am sitting at home, single and alone. I find myself stalking their feeds and visiting their wedding websites multiple times to find any updates. I have even searched people’s names on the RSVP section of the wedding page to see if any former mutual friends are invited to the wedding—which makes me more jealous if I find their invitation.
It’s hard because I recognize that this is a part of the journey of life—many people follow the steps of going to college, getting married, and having kids. So how do I get over this jealousy? I know I need to do a better job of making friends in my current, post-grad life—but there is no guarantee that these friends will last or that there will be wedding invites in my future. And no one is obligated to be my friend, or invite me to their wedding. I want to be happy for these former friends and move on with my life, but I find myself feeling jealous and disappointed in my failed college experience and lack of long term friendships. Any advice?
—Party of None
A:Dear Party of None,
It really sucks to compare the way you expected life to go with the way it actually turns out. Luckily for you, the story isn’t over yet. I know it doesn’t feel like it as you watch people pair up and marry off, or settle into cozy decades-long friendships, but you have loads of time ahead of you to find a partner, to seek out friendships that are truly mutual, founded on compatibility and commonality instead of circumstance.
The early-twenties are a weird time. Some folks are doing just what you describe—finding their partner or their permanent career path or like, buying houses and making babies and stuff. While other folks are still figuring it out. And which spot you’re in, whether settling or sorting, that’s just a matter of chance. There’s nothing defective or deficient about you that’s leaving you uninvited to these weddings, or not planning a wedding of your own. That’s the first thing I want you to focus on. It’s fair to be disappointed that you haven’t found people to invest in just yet. But make sure you’re not mingling your disappointment in that situation with doubt in yourself.
Then? Quit the scrolling. You’re just torturing yourself. You don’t have to unfriend these people, but maybe mute or unfollow for a stretch until you’re no longer hate-reading. (It’s okay to cut out any social media that leaves you feeling badly about yourself, no one needs to know!) And while you’re at it, remind yourself that social media is and always will be the shallowest indicator of what’s going on. Yeah, maybe your classmate is invited to this wedding and you aren’t, but who even knows why. It doesn’t necessarily indicate the deepest (or healthiest!) friendship.
Focus that scrolling energy, instead, on making some friends now. You said yourself that those people from college were circumstantial friends. Find some pals who aren’t. What are you interested in? Where can you meet people? Who do you already know that interests you? You learned a lot about friendships in college, about how much of yourself to dump into a relationship that isn’t reciprocal. Take that knowledge and apply it to finding new, healthier, mutual relationships.
But realize that the cultural idea of “best friend” is kind of weird and flawed. Some people do find a terrific soulmate they can call about everything. Most don’t. Some people aren’t even wired that way, and instead have a close core of several friends, or even a wide and varied group of great people who fill different roles, bond over different specific things. It can be intimidating to set out on a search for The One True Friend, so don’t set your bar so high. Just allow yourself to meet and get to know people.
You’re totally right. There are no guarantees. You put your time and energy and care into a person, and maybe it doesn’t work out, maybe they’re not the BFF you had envisioned. It’s still worth it. Just like dating the regrettable duds. Sometimes you gain a great person in your life, sometimes you learn a ton about yourself, sometimes you just walk away with a good story. But the effort, the experience, is worth it.
When you look back on your time in college, maybe you’ll still feel a little sad that you don’t have any lasting friendships to show for it. But hopefully you can also say that it paved the way for the next phase of self-knowledge and lasting relationships. First, you have to ditch the FOMO and the scrolling.