I attended a Catholic college where every dorm had a chapel, the church bells rang out the hours, and it was normal to see priests strolling across campus. Dorm Mass, campus ministry retreats, and deep talks about God were as central to my college experience as dining hall dinners, staying up far too late to write papers, and running across the quad to make it to class on time.
When I left college to pursue my first adult job, I panicked. Suddenly I was living alone, far away from my best friends, in a city I had visited once. Instead of leaning on God, I tried to figure it all out on my own. And I had no idea what to do.
Not everyone had the same college experience I had – some of you might have been at public schools, some of you might have been really involved in your Newman Center or Campus Ministry, some of you might have entered the Church during your time at college, some of you might have not gone to any church service these past four years.
Whatever the case, prayer life after college is a whole new mountain to climb, and it can be both a great adventure and a huge struggle.
Here are four quick pieces of advice I received post-graduation that helped me as I transitioned from college student to working adult:
Remember it is going to be different.
I constantly compared my new life to my old college life. I grieved not living with my best friends. I missed nightly Mass. I missed the feeling that I belonged in a place.
A good friend reminded me that it was okay to be freaked out by change. But change is part of life. As you encounter life’s changes during post-grad life, don’t be discouraged if your prayer life changes too. It should! As we mature and encounter new experiences, our prayer life should mature and change along with us.
I might not be going to daily night Mass in a dorm with my friends anymore, but I have gotten to read some amazing books, I’ve gotten to have conversations that have taught me more about God, I’ve gotten to witness God’s love in the people I work with. It’s different, but it’s just as good and challenging.
Join a church.
I traveled for my first job and would go to whatever church I could make it to each Sunday. I knew I should join a church, but I didn’t really get why.
About a year ago I finally joined a church. I wish I could say that it totally transformed my life, but honestly it didn’t. What it did do was encourage me to start financially giving to the church, to gradually get to know people’s names around me, to notice areas of need that I could fill.
I started to feel like something bigger than myself. Unlike in college, I was surrounded by people of different ages – elderly people, middle-aged people, kids, babies, young families. I could look around and see the vastness of the Church, and see the small role I could play in it.
So take the plunge. Register to be a member. Try to go to the same Mass every week. Get involved, and see what happens.
Dig into a community.
Community is so, so important. But it’s also hard to find. Two pieces of advice here:
First, keep up with your old friends that encourage you. Becoming long-distance friends is a tough transition, but technology makes it so much easier. Some ideas on how to do this:
- Read a book together (I recommend I Believe in Love by Jean C.J. d’Elbee, or anything by C.S. Lewis) and have a weekly or monthly call about it.
- Make a group text – on Mondays, you ask how you can pray for each other during the week, then on Fridays share how your week went
- Find an app that connects you – I’ll throw in a plug here for Hallow, where you’ll find guided prayer and meditation sessions, and then talk with your friends about how God is working in your life.
Secondly, find a community where you are. As tempting as it is to cling to old friendships, we need to interact with people in person. Join a young adult group, volunteer at a Catholic Worker, push yourself to talk about God with others. And don’t be turned off by someone who isn’t Catholic – one of my best friends is agnostic, two of them are Protestant – and all three have helped me grow closer to God. So invite that coworker you click with to coffee, no matter what their faith background is – you might be surprised by how you can encourage each other in your faith journeys.
Set aside time each day to pray.
We hear this a lot, that prayer takes discipline. And it really, really does. Just as we take care of our mind and body, we need to take care of our soul.
One simple way that has helped me set aside time is to consider my mornings as coffee dates with a friend. Spending fifteen minutes reading the Gospel, journaling, or just being with God while I sip my coffee sets my whole day on the right track.
Other ways include stopping by a chapel on your lunch break, going to daily Mass, turning off the radio and praying on your commute, praying as you run or go for a walk, or winding down your day with prayer before bed. Check out spiritual books, download an app, start a prayer journal, and seek out a spiritual advisor.
Try a few things out one at a time, and see what works for you. And remember that it might change! I’ve found that some seasons of life I’ve loved morning prayer, other seasons I’ve leaned on daily Mass, and other seasons diving into Scripture through Lectio Divina has nurtured my spirit the most.
Let God lead you in this, and have fun with it, knowing that you are delighting God simply by your desire to spend time with Him.
To close, know that you are not alone. Transitions are incredibly difficult, but God meets us where we are. He wants your life to be full of His joy and peace. But His plans and timing might not look like what you planned. Trust Him, enter into prayer and relationship with Him, and let Him take the lead. I promise you that you will never regret it.