When The Real World Is Lonely
When I was in college I lived with 5 other dudes on a street lined with identical bungalows all providing roofs to college kids. And over the course of our 3 years in that house we became friends with nearly everyone on that street. That means at any given time we had access to 50+ people on our block who were down to hang. The dilemma was never if we had people to hang out with, it was deciding which people to hang out with.
That’s one of the coolest things about college. Community is everywhere. If you want to go to the Rec, there’s always someone down to get swole. If you don’t want to study alone, there’s always someone willing to hit up the coffee shop. If you want to make a Whataburger run at midnight, there’s always someone craving a honey butter chicken biscuit. It’s the best. But there’s something you need to know about college. It’s a tease. It gives you this incredible taste of community and deceives you into thinking that’s how the real world works. And it’s nothing short of jarring once you graduate and realize that the real world can actually be pretty lonely.
The biggest problem is that we live in a culture that doesn’t like to admit loneliness. We put our best foot forward on social media to prove we’re not lonely. We wear busyness as a badge of honor so we’ll always have an alibi for what we were doing last weekend. We’re terrified to admit that we have moments where we’re just lonely.
Can I tell you something? Postgrad life can be lonely. And it’s ok to admit that. It’s not a secret. And we know this because we see five common stages of post-grad loneliness among young adults.
Stage 1: I’m in a new city and I don’t know anyone.
When you move to a new city you know you’re not going to know a lot of people at first. That’s a given. So for the first couple weeks you’re cool with going home after work and watching Netflix by yourself. You don’t feel all that lonely at this point because you’re not supposed to have friends yet. You’re still new. But there’s this feeling that sets in after you run out of House of Cards episodes. And it’s not curiosity over what Frank Underwood’s next move is going to be. It’s that gnawing feeling that whispers, “You know you don’t have any friends, right?” It’s called lonelieness.
Stage 2: All my friends are dating.
Let’s say you’re blessed enough to be in a city where you already have friends. Let’s say that you even have a solid crew of friends. You all hang out on the weekends. You celebrate together. You throw epic parties. You’re actually the epitome of Squad Goals. If that’s you, the loneliness you may experience is the feeling that comes when some of those friends start dating.
You see, once you graduate this weird thing happens where people just start pairing off. People who were “just friends” are now weirdly attracted to each other. People who swore they would be single forever are now shopping for rings and creating secret wedding boards on Pinterest. On top of that, you find that you have to schedule time to hang with your best friend instead of calling them up like you used to. You start seeing them less and less. And the times you do see them it just feels like their relationship is the only thing you talk about. And if you’re not on that dating train you’ll inevitably feel lonely. Because it is.
Stage 3: All my friends are getting married.
If you thought it was tough to see your friends when they were dating, just wait until they get married. All of a sudden they disappear. You start to wonder if they may have moved to a new city so you call them and get a voicemail that says, “Hi! Thanks for calling. We’re currently spending the next six months focusing on our marriage. See you in 2017!” This is also lonely.
Stage 4: All my friends are having babies.
Imagine the previous two scenarios with the addition of a small human life.
Stage 5: I know people but I don’t really know people.
This is probably the most prevalent stage of loneliness among young adults. Most people end up getting to know people once they’ve been in one place for a while. But it’s not uncommon to wake up and realize you know people without actually knowing people. It’s not uncommon to realize you have friendships but those friendships lack any sort of depth. And it’s one of the loneliest places you can be.
So, the question is: What do we do with feelings of loneliness? If we all experience loneliness, what do we do? Do we just accept it? Do we fill our calendar with busyness? Do we sign up for Tinder? What do we do?
I think we do a couple things.
We need to understand that we serve a God who is never distant.
We’re told in Deuteronomy 31:6 that we serve a God who will never leave us nor forsake us. As Jesus ascends to heaven at the end of Matthew 28 He tells us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Scripture is clear that our God is a God who is near. He is never distant. In our loneliest of moments, the God of all comfort is near. We need to understand that truth. But we also need to be reminded of that truth when we forget. That’s where community comes in…
We need to take advantage of opportunities to be known.
One of the things we strive to do as a church is provide opportunities to be known. We understand that loneliness is part of being a young adult. And while certain seasons will undoubtedly produce loneliness, loneliness doesn’t have to mark your twenties.
That’s why we have Home Groups. We wanted to create smaller communities of believers who can walk alongside each other, speak truth, and be known. There are opportunities to combat loneliness. Let’s take advantage of those opportunities.
For more information on how to join a Home Group, click here. https://myccbc.ccbcfamily.org/default.aspx?page=3735