Oklahoma City | Johnson City | Charlotte | Farmville | Indianapolis | Columbia | Milwaukee | CoMo | Radford | Ypsilanti | Lansing | Charleston | Selinsgrove | Boston | Wellesley | Omaha | Clemson | Boca Raton | Miami | Tampa | Orlando | Bloomington | Dayton | Chicago | Peoria | Lawrence | Phoenix | DeKalb | Kirksville | St. Louis | Carmel |
While on my recent visit to Truman State University, I was taken out to dinner by two senior members of the chapter. As a consultant, this is a pretty common occurrence, as women are eager to show visitors the best local spots in town. While chatting over dinner at Take Root Cafe in Kirksville, I learned that both of these women will be graduating within the next month and moving on to pursue graduate school in different cities. One will return home to St. Louis, the other is taking a leap and moving to Chicago. While in the midst of our small talk about Sigma Kappa and my travels, one woman posed this question to me:
“What is the best advice you have for us about life after graduation?”
This one caught me off guard.
I paused for several moments, letting the women know I had never been asked that question before. Meanwhile, my mind was flooding with thoughts and memories from my journey over the past year. I thought of all of the other seniors I have met this year and of all of the advice I received before my own graduation. Common thoughts such as “follow your dreams” and “face your fears” came to mind. However, neither of those seemed quite right for this moment. Then, after a few more moments of pause, I found myself saying three small words:
“Keep in touch.”
I went on to explain to the women that one of my personal goals in life is to hold on to and develop relationships. To some extent I believe this is a goal we all have. However, after graduating college, this becomes increasingly difficult. It’s different from the experience after high school, when you and your best friends might move to different cities to attend school but still hang out on the weekends. After college, most people take the “follow your dreams” advice seriously and leave to traverse the world on their own. Friends fall in love and get married, move overseas, or immerse themselves in their craft. It’s a new kind of distance, one we’re not accustomed to and one many of us don’t overcome. With new cities and opportunities come the idea that we must create a new circle of friends or fight the battle of returning to a lonely apartment each night. It doesn’t have to be this way though. I believe the most special relationships you will ever have are the ones you already have.
I’ll let you in on my secret to success in this area. Several years back, I started the habit of consciously initiating conversations with my friends, mostly via text message. That’s it. Still to this day, every time I think of a friend or loved one, I take that as my cue to text them, with no expectations of a response. Some days, I will text up to 10-15 of my friends, simply letting them know I am thinking about them. Many respond right away, but many take several days or even weeks to reply. Some don’t reply at all. Either way, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean I will stop trying or assume they don’t want to talk to me. I’ve come to learn which of my friends I should catch up with once a month, and which relationships will be sustainable despite months of silence. The way I see it, the ball is always in my court. Instead of waiting for others to reach out to me, I always take the first leap, realizing that my friendships are worth a little extra effort on my end. I’ve found countless times that my text was exactly what the person needed that day, and it opens a window for us to start a meaningful conversation.
As my year as a consultant comes to a close, I think about all of the wonderful people I have met in the last 365 days. Countless friendships have been formed through my interactions with collegians, volunteers, staff members and airport strangers. However, the bonds I have created with my teammates surpass them all. These 16 brave women I started this journey with have easily become some of my closest friends. At the end of this week, distance will be put between us once again. We will go on to pursue different paths in our respective corners of the world. We won’t talk as much, or see each other as much. However, I’m not in the business of severing ties. To all of my teammates who are reading this…expect texts from me. Thank you for an incredible year and for always being there. Keep in touch.