Graduated cubicle

Dr. Daley on Sex and Relationships

Graduated cubicle

photo / Jon Collier 

Dear Dr. Daley: I just graduated college, and lately I’ve been feeling like my whole world is coming apart. My job sucks (it’s a terrible office job), money is an issue, but most of all, I feel like the people I once considered my best friends – both the ones who are still in school and the ones who graduated with me – aren’t who I thought they were. The little things they do are really starting to add up: They cancel dates at the last minute, they take days to return my calls, and they just seem so different. Is this just what happens? This feeling of being able to count the reliable people I know on just one hand is really tearing me apart.

Oh, dear. You’re asking the world’s worst correspondent about people who don’t return calls in a timely manner. I myself need at least six months to return calls, but that’s just me. Why, only yesterday I tried to get the nice young man from Grande not to send someone to fix the phone before the end of the month. He insisted they must come tomorrow. Do you see how I suffer? While we are at it, I would like a moratorium on change. I’ve had it with adjustment in all its forms.

But about you. You say you feel like your whole world has been coming apart. How astute of you. The great cognitive theorist Jean Piaget said that in order to take in new information, we must first disassemble everything we thought we knew on the topic to make room for the new stuff. So you are right: Your whole world is in pieces, and it will take years to reassemble. Who knows what pieces you’ll keep and which you’ll throw away? College is over, and it’s time to make a life.

Your job sucking and money being an issue are pretty standard stuff. I finished my PhD in 1991, and I still can’t get used to the idea of going to work practically every day even in the summer. Whenever people must pay for things like food, rent, a car, and insurance, money is an issue. Unless you win the lottery and we call you lucky, or you find some wealthy superannuated lover to pay your bills for you, in which case we call you, well, a whore.

When you hate your job and your measly salary enough, you will raise your tear-stained face from your sad little desk and decide to investigate professional development. You’ll figure out how to get a raise, a promotion, or a new career. Weary of the sound of your own whining, you will get busy and prepare for a job you won’t hate quite so much. (This is the best I can offer. Although I have known people who return from vacation sighing, “I was really looking forward to getting back to work,” this remains an alien concept to me, sort of like paying off your entire credit card balance each month. If I could do that, why would I need a credit card? On my last major vacation I managed to dislocate my ribs from my sternum, an injury that entailed eight solid weeks of intense discomfort – not to mention a terrible fear of sneezing. And I would still rather be on vacation than go back to work.)

photo / Peyri Leigh Is it 5 yet? 

Although my alumni magazine makes it sound like all the Right People remain chums from freshman year to the grave, most of us must actually move on to other lives. Not always easy. In college, you saw each other frequently, socialized in the same intersecting circles, and never had trouble finding someone else who was bored and ready for a stroll to Cain & Abel’s. Now, people are establishing new lives and new social circles. Getting shitfaced at new bars. Cheating on new partners. (Or doing all that stuff with the same old college crowd. Is that what you really want?) Developing new friendships takes time. It will also require a willingness on your part.

May I be so rude as to inquire as to whether you have bothered to ask any of your dear college pals why things seem to be deteriorating between you? Is there even the remotest chance that they find you a dreary nudge who has become too tedious to be around? Look at it this way: If they are rude and simply oozing about in their kissy-kissy aren’t-we-wonderful circles, you are not one of them and they are letting you know it. Move on to better things and more interesting people. If, on the other hand, you are coming across as a little too needy and miserable, it’s better that you know that, too – at least you can fix yourself.

P.S. If you think you may be depressed, you can always seek out counseling and/or some medication to help you through this coming year. Be careful though, as these may not be necessary and you don’t need some professional turning a normal difficult adjustment into Bipolar Disorder.

As a person who is somehow allowed to teach university seniors, I am amazed at how little they teach you about life after college. Not that you’d listen. But someone should at least clue you all in to the realities of your world coming apart.

P.P.S. If you “can count the reliable people you know on one hand,” consider yourself very fortunate. Start with them and build yourself a social world with people you can actually count on who actually like being around you. It feels a lot better than banging your head against an array of brick walls.

About the author Dr. Nancy Daley is a licensed psychologist and adjunct assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at The University of Texas at Austin. If you would like to submit questions for her to answer in this column, please send them to drdaley at thatotherpaper dot com.

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