All Your Friends Have Graduated, But You're Still in School: How to Cope

It can be really tough to cope when one or more of your close friends packs up for college, and you're left behind to finish high school and make fun of the principal by yourself. Trust me, I get it. When I started my junior year, one of my very best friends left for the University of Minnesota, and before I knew it our clique had disbanded and we were all more or less on our own, each of us going our separate ways. My friend and I had spent so much time together that I felt lost for months after he graduated, and even when I finally settled into a new (sub-par) routine, it was still really hard being away from the people who used to be around me every single day.

There are a lot of ways to deal with changes to your social support system — some of them will help you grow into a better, more mature person, and others are harmful and have the potential to stunt your future (i.e. drinking, drugs, getting super into wrestling... stay away from all of these). It's important to make positive choices. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I didn't handle the shakeup to my circle of friends as well as I could have — but I did learn a lot along the way. So for those of you finding yourselves in a similar situation, left behind while your friends run off to college, know that you are not alone. Here are nine tips for how to deal when your friends move away, and you're left in what feels like a locker-lined solitary confinement. But chin up, don’t worry — you’re going to be just fine! Here’s how to get started:

1. STAY IN TOUCH

Just because you're not at the same school anymore doesn't mean you can't be friends. This is the 21st century — we have planes, trains, and automobiles, not to mention Twitter, texting, and Snapchat. There are plenty of ways to keep in touch, both in person and remotely. Keep your inside jokes current via private Instagrams, catch up on the latest gossip via FaceTime, and, for god's sake, visit each other. Because as fun as it is to catch up via new-fangled technology, nothing beats face time IRL.

2. JOIN A CLUB

Yes, your post-school afternoons may feel desolate without your old posse, but they don't have to stay that way. There are loads of extracurriculars that are the perfect fit for your athletic, mental, or dramatic prowess. Whether it's volleyball, math league, or the school play, joining a club will help you meet new people, stay active, and keep your loneliness at bay.

3. PRACTICE POSITIVE THINKING

I know this sounds hokey, but being an optimist is scientifically proven to help you cope with big change. Having a positive perspective helps you identify more possibilities in your life, and will keep you from feeling stuck.

4. VOLUNTEER

OK, don't volunteer for the Hunger Games, but do volunteer for something less deadly. A recent study shows that weekly volunteering can leave you happier and healthier than your fellow classmates. Not only does volunteering feel good, but it could help you get into college, or even earn you a scholarship, and, most importantly, you'll build empathy toward others' experiences — which will help put your own misery in perspective.

5. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY

UGH, they are so lame! My thoughts exactly when I still lived at home. But as hard as it is to believe right now, eventually you're going to miss every single way your family annoyed you. And one day you might move far enough away that you'll have limited opportunities to see them. So help your mom unpack the groceries and give your brother a noogie while you still have the chance — they'll be honored you shared your time.

6. MARATHON YOUR FAVORITE TV SERIES

What better excuse to veg out in front of the TV than loneliness? Wasn't TV founded on the basic principle that it would inform you, entertain you, and keep you company? During my last breakup, I marathoned the behemoth nine-season American redux of The Office, as well as all the Parks and Rec and Girls episodes to date, and by the time I finished watching both chronologically, I'd had a lot of laughs and felt considerably more zen. Namaste, Netflix.

7. GET A PART-TIME JOB

Benefits: Money! Distraction! Work friends! All good things... so start filling out those job applications now.

8. LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Do you live somewhere warm enough to try out your green thumb? What about taking a crafting class through community ed, or starting your own dance team? Not only would a new skill look great on college or fellowship applications, but it would also feel great, which is obviously more important.

9. MAKE NEW FRIENDS

Remember the old nursery school adage: "Make new friends, but keep the old... One is silver, and the other's gold." You're going to meet new people in every new phase of your life, and that doesn't take anything away from the deep friendships you had before. And while making new friends may seem scary, it's just about putting yourself out there — the risk is definitely worth the reward.

Images: HomeAid Northern Virginia/Flickr; Giphy (9)