No matter what changes happen in my friendships, I still look back and cherish the moments of my friendships that shape who I am today.

Navigating Post-Grad [Part 2: Evolving Friendships]

Disclaimer: This article is based on my experience and interactions. The categories below by no means are to dictate your friendships. They are primarily created to best explain the shifts and changes in friendships after graduating.

A few months after graduating from UC Irvine I started grad school, moved to NorCal, and started a new internship. I was in the midst of adjusting and figuring things out to find my place.

That’s when it hit me.

I haven’t spoken to people from undergrad in a while. I never meant to avoid sharing what I was up to, but I got caught up in what we call life.

When I was living in Irvine, the physical proximity and college environment invited the culture of constantly keeping in touch.

But, once you graduate you are taken out of that environment immediately and thrown into the next life stage regardless of whether you are mentally prepared for it or not.

This is where people begin to share a variety of sentiments.

I personally went off-grid for months and didn’t socialize within my close friend circle let alone other friends I made. This threw quite a few of my friends off.

For one, I used to be that friend in the group to message everyone and get everyone together to chill. I moved back home first after graduating and as I mentioned in my last article, Navigating Post-Grad [Part 1: Feeling Lost]. I took time off to re-evaluate myself. Part of that was letting go of being the initiator for a while because it took a mental toll on me.

So when everything picked up in my life after that summer, my friend circle felt a bit unsure of what role they held in my life.

This is where you realize your friendships are not the same as you may have previously thought and I want to emphasize — that is OKAY.

There are a few different paths and I’ll break each one down.

The Constant

  • your best friends / your “rock”
  • these are people who you’ve generally known the longest and who you can talk as often or as little but you pick up right where you left off and are there for each other when it counts
  • you are not afraid of what they’ll think because they have your best interest in mind, that also means they’re not afraid to call you out on bad decisions for the sake of your well being
  • you always make time for them

The Inner Circle

  • your friends, maybe some best friends
  • these are your typical group of best friends you check in or message frequently with
  • you will make an effort to have some sort of plans that you all look forward to

Emerging Regular

  • these are new friends you have discovered fairly recently
  • you may speak with them on a more frequent basis and slowly realize that they are leaning “inner circle” and possibly “constant” in the future
  • you’ve clicked with them on some topic or matter that you both value very closely

The Distant, yet Reliable

  • these are friends who you’ve formed a great close connection with at some point in time and could have been a “inner circle” or “constant” in the past but you’ve simply haven’t socialize with each other as frequently
  • they are always supporting you whether or not you’ve spoken with them in months
  • you always touch base for big news and random check-ins
  • you’d be open to seeing them occasionally when your schedules align

Social Media

  • these are friends that you are still connected with on social media mostly but you don’t really talk or message each other anymore
  • there’s mutual respect and you may have gotten to know each other in school somehow, but you just don’t really interact except maybe commenting on social media every now and then

The one who got away

  • a friend who were previously was one of the above and because of some difference in opinion or perspective, you’ve grown distant and don’t associate
  • this may make you feel sad knowing that person is not in your life anymore, but it’s important to realize that this is part of life

Experiencing the shifts

I learned that many of my “Inner Circle” friends were turning into “Distant, Yet Reliable” friends and some even “Social Media” ones. My friend from my circle I mentioned earlier actually reached out to me about the distant feeling. After talking we came to understand that we had different focuses in our respective life that created this natural shift that was not forced. I shared my perspective on how taxing it became on me to continuously be the person who rallied others. I wanted to build connections where others would do that for me equally. By being honest, our friendship recovered from almost becoming “Distant, Yet Reliable”, stuck as “Inner Circle”, and now is basically a “Constant” because they decided to make the conscious effort which encouraged me to reciprocate.

Living in the Bay Area prompted me to connect with friends who may have been “Distant, Yet Reliable” friends before even graduating and today, I’d go as far to say they’re pretty much a “Constant” at this point.

This all happened because we related on so many topics that we didn’t have before. We understood tech culture and held similar values to grow in our respective careers.

I’ve also enjoyed rekindling memories with people who I haven’t heard from in a while because it’s an interesting change of pace. There’s something new about each other, especially from not speaking with them in a long time, but also something nostalgic about the memories together.

I sadly also dealt with friends who may not agree with where I’m at and that is okay. It may come off a bit of a shock depending on how close your relation with them was.

While it may be difficult to process this when it happens, I hope you remember that at the end of the day you deserve to be with people who uplift and empower, no matter in what capacity it is.

That may be frequent check-ins, hangouts, or a simple like or comment on instagram.

A New Experience

For the first time, I found a community of people who understood my frustrations AND ambitions about my career aspirations — being a product manager. This by no means doesn’t mean all my other “Constant” and “Inner Circle” friends weren’t supportive.

It’s just that none of them were in my exact situation.

My journey on LinkedIn led me to discovering people and communities, like Product Buds and Wonsulting. To be completely honest, I didn’t expect to understand people there till I started having coffee chats.

I had real conversations. I had conversations that went over an hour with strangers I met for the first time and I was amazed.

I never felt so heard and validated.

A small empty space that rested inside me finally felt whole. I am so grateful to find these friends (“Emerging Regular”) because within such a short amount of time, during a pandemic, we just clicked. It makes me a bit excited to see them on their journey and what will happen next.

Final Thoughts

The college environment envelopes us in a community to easily sustain our friendships. After graduation, life throws us a new set of curveballs that changes our perspective and shifts our priorities.

As we navigate life, each of us as individuals are touched by different experiences and interactions by our surroundings that shape us.

Our values, mindset, and perspective grow at different rates. Our friendships evolve and transform in different ways. Some we plan for and some are unexpected. It’s important to remember that the shift does not mean that the friendship in the past was in-genuine.

I think we often get hurt from these transitions because you begin to question whether you were even friends and the times you spent together. Instead, I choose to appreciate and cherish those times because they are meaningful to me in that moment and for making me who I am today.

Also don’t forget that no one is ever stopping you from picking up the phone and sending a text. If you miss someone you haven’t talked to in a while, message them. If they don’t respond, accept and find the people who do because they are out there.

Those are the friends in life you always want and I wish for you all to have that, while living your life unapologetically and authentically.

This article is a continuation of my post-grad series

My name is Ami Patel and I’m an incoming PM at Microsoft. You can find me on LinkedIn (follow me and #AuthenticAmi) posting regular content on my experiences and lessons or on Instagram sharing more of the behind the scenes.

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Ami B. Patel

Ami B. Patel

Incoming Program Manager @ Microsoft | persevering in life one day at a time 💫