I remember my last semester of college pretty clearly. It was a lot of homework, a lot of cramming as much time in with friends as possible, and a whole lot of people asking what came next. By the end of the semester, I was so sick of being asked about where I would live and what I was doing that I couldn’t stand it anymore. On senior night of my sorority’s chapter, my advice to the younger girls was to live in the moment and not worry about what comes next, because no one really has it all figured out.
Flash forward six months, and I had no idea just how true that would be. After taking a teaching job at the tail end of the summer, I moved to Charlotte on Labor Day weekend with my best friend from high school. Charlotte had been a place I’d considered for awhile because it seemed like an easy step up from Columbia, it had a good concert scene, and it attracted a lot of other people my age. I had this idea in my mind of this new romanticized adult life that included a fancy apartment, a new group of friends, and hitting the ground running.
Here’s the thing though: when you’re in college they speak about how a four year degree sets you up for success and you’ll be able to go out and live where you want and work where you want and everything will be great. What they don’t tell you is, your degree may get you a job but it certainly won’t be your dream one right off the bat, finding friends outside of college is much harder than anyone ever thought, and one day you may look around your still not fully-furnished apartment and realize you are lonelier than you have ever been.
If I’m being fully transparent, I hated Charlotte a lot when I first moved here. I spent months church hopping with no success, I’m not a huge drinker so I wasn’t going out, and I became fully aware that all of my close friends lived several states away. I remember one night when my roommate was gone where I broke down in tears because I didn’t know who to text to hang out with. Even more, I was so confused why this idea of adult life that I’d had was so off base and why moving to a new city suddenly seemed like an awful idea.
As time went on, I began leaning on the Lord a lot more than I ever had. My prayers turned into sayings of “please help me find community”, “please help me find people who like me”, “please let me figure out where home is”. A lot of time went on with me praying the same prayers and hoping for the same things. By spring of 2018, I was fully convinced I was moving out of Charlotte in the fall and that I was going to start over somewhere else. Then something crazy happened: I became the leader of my life group and found girls who were truly invested in being there and talking about the Lord. Photography took off like it never had and I found myself overwhelmingly busy with people who wanted to work with me. I had people I could reach out to when I wanted to hang out and who would come when I needed them. Without me realizing it, Charlotte had become home.
Year twenty-two and even twenty-three of life for me were years filled with a lot of change and a lot of loneliness. Looking back now as tough as it was, I count it now as the biggest blessing. In her devotional “Gracelaced”, Ruth Chou Simons says, “Any notion I have of finding comfort and satisfaction in the perfection of my surroundings has simply shown itself for what it is: an idol of the heart that can neither sustain nor deliver.” These words have come to represent my post-grad years of life to me as I realized that’s exactly what I was doing. My happiness had been solely based on my surroundings, and when those weren’t perfect, I felt the effects. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Jesus was using that as an opportunity to let me trust and lean on Him when it felt like I had no one else that I could. Those years wound up building me up stronger than I ever have been and I’m so thankful for the opportunity that they gave me to grow myself and know myself fully.
If you’re fresh out of college, looking for community, in a new city, or some kind of other transitional time in your life, keep going friend. It’s tough, and it gets tougher, but then it gets better. I was very fortunate to have my best friend from high school with me through the tough times, but I recognize that not everyone does. Reach out to those people you “kinda knew” from college or high school if they’re near by and ask to get together. Take classes in skills you want to learn and spend time developing you. Take weekend trips by yourself and explore new places. More importantly, share your experience with your friends states away because chances are, they’re feeling the same thing you are. Seasons of loneliness can be deflating, discouraging, and isolating, but know that in seasons of waiting comes growing, and in growing comes community.