And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives
Where we're gonna be when we turn twenty five
I keep thinking times will never change
Keep on thinking things will always be the same
But when we leave this year, we won't be coming back
No more hanging out 'cause we're on a different track

(Does this song give anyone else the FEELS? You're welcome for the nostalgia trip.)

We're at the very end of graduation season, which means we also just passed college reunion season. Some of you have recently crossed the stage for your diploma, others might have returned to campus to reminisce and roam around campus with big ole nametags, or maybe you just creeped the LinkedIn of that guy from your gen-ed science class to see where he ended up now. But wherever you're coming from, we can probably all agree that the first year after college is one of the wackiest of our lives.

Side note: This may sound like I'm making an assumption that everyone subscribed here went to college, but that's probably not the case! This still applies for anyone who went to any sort of school, starting with pre-K and ending with wherever you're at.

The first year out of college involves a lot of decisions — where to live, where to work, how to go to bed on time for your 9-to-5 job, how to budget your money (and time!) for friends, exercise, hobbies, etc. And it also involves figuring out who to surround yourself with and who make the effort to stay in touch with.

The first part were the kinds of decisions that Caroline Kitchener thought she would be focusing on in writing a book tracking a group of women in that first year after college — but it ended up being much, much more about the second kind. I finished reading Caroline's book, Post Grad, right at the end of MY first year out of college, which ended just last weekend (thanks, quarter system graduation schedule).

The book delves into the women's experiences with everything from sugar daddies to church groups to fighting with your family to moving to a new country. Caroline and I spoke about the expectations — and the reality — people have for that first year, aggressive friending and finding your community, and why a pizza-maker was her best investment. 

Your friend,

P.S. What was your best way to make friends the first year out of college? Respond to this email to let me know! And here's an excerpt to get more of a sense of Post Grad.
Note: Our chat has been edited + condensed for clarity. 

Christine: Can you walk me through what you were trying to accomplish with the book and why you set out to do it this way? I was able to follow your own path through the book but I’m wondering what the prologue is. How did you know that this was something you wanted to write a book about? 

Caroline: I had concentrated in gender and sexuality studies in college, so I was really interested in women’s experiences generally but specifically women my age. When I was thinking about writing this book it was right when Sheryl Sandburg’s Lean In came out and Ann Marie Slaughter’s Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, so there was a lot of discussion about women’s status in the workplace and what young women could do to make the best of it, and to achieve all of our dreams, and go to infinity and beyond.

I had this idea with my editor to write a book that followed four women in their first year out of college. The idea at first was to focus on careers and see what is it that happens in this first year: what are women prioritizing, what’s difficult for them in the workplace. But I was making that up when I was still in school. I didn’t know what would be relevant or what I would want to focus on because I didn’t really know anything about the first year of college yet because I hadn’t lived it.
When I graduated and I started to report the book and moved to a new city, I realized for most of us the career was not the priority — not that we didn’t care about it, but there was more of an urgency to focus on relationships, including friends and roommates and parents and boyfriends and girlfriends.

What surprised me in the direction the book took is we had this community for our entire lives because we had school built in and we never had to think about it and then suddenly it wasn’t. That became the priority for everybody:

How do we make connections when we are feeling more alone than we have been before.

Christine: That hits the nail on the head for this newsletter! Tell me about the different kinds of people and paths after college that you were able to observe for this book and how you sorted out who you wanted to follow.

Caroline: I really started talking to maybe 20 women from my class. I tried to steer away from my friends — I wanted to keep it separate. This was a work of journalism and I didn’t want it to be totally intertwined in my friends’ lives. Then I really ended up gravitating toward the people I connected with the most, the people who really were open and honest with me and I felt like I could be open and honest with. We had to spend so much time together so it was really important to have that connection.

Christine: What were some of the examples of connections that people were building after college?

Caroline: Everybody did it in very different ways; people gravitated toward different kinds of communities that made sense for them. Denise was really religious and she found this beautiful congregation right in Harlem where she lived. Michelle was in graduate school for music and she started making really good friends when she started a band. Those became her people. Alex started going out and feeling more comfortable sharing her sexuality with other people. She would go out to lesbian bars all the time and moved to a really gay friendly neighborhood and she kept going out and meeting new people who lived right around her. For me, I was super lonely and I didn’t know what to do.

How do you make friends? It’s really not clear! But I call it aggressive friending. I worked really hard and went out of my way and comfort zone to pool people around me that I liked. I would have maybe a 20 minute conversation with somebody and then invite them over for dinner. That would never be something I’d do before, first of all because I didn’t really have a house to invite them to, but I never had to create my own community before. But it’s really affirming to create your own thing. Then you’re surrounded by people you’ve picked, not just people who happened to be around. That was something we all came to in our own lives.

Christine: What were some of the biggest things that you were worried about when you were leaving college and something that excited you the most? How does it feel now looking back at that a few years out?

Caroline: I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was not at all concerned which I think is very true across the board. None of us expected at all that we would feel as lonely as we did. I was so focused on the job and making sure that everything was in place for the book and that my career was going the way I wanted it to and I did not even spare any time to think about how my relationships would change. Very quickly it became very obvious that that was going to become a big source of stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, I was excited to feel like a grown up person and cook my own food. I was never much of a partier, so I was excited to be able to bring people over to my house and have low-key nights having dinner and drinking wine. That seemed great and I didn’t really have that in college. I was excited to move to a new city and just kind of structure my days in the ways that I wanted to, because I had the advantage of not going right right into a 9-to-5 job.

Christine: What else have you learned about friendship in doing this book and since you finished reporting the book?

Caroline: You don’t need to have a whole ton of people — you just need to have a few you can really count on. The people you gravitate toward might change. when you graduate from college. Especially in those first two years, I changed so much. The things I prioritized really changed and because of that my friends changed too. There were people I felt more comfortable talking to because I was valuing different things and thinking about different things. Some people go through that in college but I didn’t really. I changed much more after, and my friends shifted too.

The best very tangible thing I did toward making friends was buying a pizza-maker. I got it at Williams Sonoma and it was like $120, but it was the best thing I ever bought. Then I started inviting people over for pizza parties. We’d put on a pizza and eat it together, and we’d put on another pizza and share it. The thing makes pizza in like seven minutes! It was awesome. Everybody wanted to come over for pizza. The pizza-maker sets exactly the tone I like and the perfect friend-making tone. We’d have six or seven or eight people over, and that was a big way I made my friends after I graduated. 

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." — Helen Keller
Get a pizza-maker! Just kidding. Think about what sort of community you could build (or join) to set YOUR tone for friend-making. Is it an Instant Pot tone? A trivia-every-Monday-night tone? A dance class tone? A knitting class tone? 

What could you connect with people around?
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:
  • Okay, this actually made me tear up a little: "They asked, 'What are you going to be the Fantastic Five or something?' And I said, 'No, we're still the Sensational Six,'" Delia Jackson said. "Denise will always be here with us."
  • Want to invite people over for, but not sure what to feed them (or what to invite them to cook with you)? Check out this summer cookbook via Girls' Night In!
  • Call your dad, if you can — it's Fathers' Day! Here's your Fathers' Day inspirational read: His daughter melted down on stage, so this "Daderina" joined her. May we all have a friend (and be that friend for others) that come on stage when we are having a meltdown too.
  • Tag, you're it: This new movie is based off a group of friends who have really truly been playing Tag for 28 years. (That sounds exhausting, but good for them!)
  • 18 people on the moment they first felt like an adult: "The first time I felt like an adult was when alone in my new apartment, I dropped an entire pot of mac n' cheese and then immediately lost the same battle with a bottle of cleaning fluid."

Grow the Sow.

Zoom into the full map here.

Wanna share Sown with a pal? Get the link here!
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