The 20-something years are an awkward stage of life. These years are usually the transition from young adulthood into real adulthood. From your parents’ house to your dorm room to your own place. From college jobs to your first real job and hopefully into a career. Any of these transitions can be hard to navigate.
The 20s can be even more awkward if you’re single.
It’s a time when many of your friends are getting married and having babies. And others are finding jobs, starting new lives and moving away. Between jobs, commitments and busy schedules, even those friends who are nearby can be hard to spend time with. Finding friends to connect with for good, meaningful fellowship can be difficult and frustrating.
I’ve pretty much just described my own recent experiences.
This summer I turned 25 and finished my master’s degree. I officially can’t call myself a college kid anymore or say that I’m in my early 20s. I’ve lived in the same town for 12 years and attended the same school for seven. So I’ve seen quite a few friends come and go. I’m searching desperately for a real job, which may or may not require me to relocate.
And I’m one of those people who could accurately be termed as perpetually single.
It’s not that I have to get married right away. Long ago I came to a place of contentment (usually) with my singleness, and I’m currently focused on establishing a career before seeking a wife. It’s just that, as long as I’m going to be single, I’d prefer to have a good group of friends — wise, Christian friends — who are in a similar place in life to where I am. But, with me not getting any younger or getting married anytime soon, finding those similar friends can be easier said than done. How can a single, slightly introverted, slightly jaded 20-something like myself … still find good, like-minded fellowship?
For instance, a year ago my church started a new college ministry. I went to it once or twice, but as a nearly 24-year-old graduate student, I was one of the oldest ones there and I felt a little out of place among all the freshman girls. Conversely, when I went to the men’s prayer meeting, I was probably the youngest attendee and the only one without a wife or children. For a while I attended a small group Bible study with a few other single, post-college 20-somethings, but I was the only male other than the group leader. Then, within months of each other, all the other attendees — including the leader and his family — started other jobs and moved away, leaving me behind and stuck there for at least another year.
It’s not that there are no other 20-somethings at my church. There are. But sometimes it seems like most of them are 22 and newly married while I’m still 25 and single. While I know at least a few other young, single guys at church, there’s not really a concentrated group of us. Of course, I’m still friends with those married couples, and no one is intentionally excluding me, but there’s just naturally a different dynamic between their lives and mine. Our lives are just not quite at the same places, which can make it hard to relate.
While it’s good to have friends who are like us and who we can relate to, we should be for other kinds of fellowship.
Recently a new couple at church introduced themselves to me. I quickly learned that they were a few years younger than me, still in college, and, of course, married. I could have gotten frustrated and said, “Oh, great, another young married couple to remind me of how old and single I am.” But I didn’t. Instead, I began to befriend them and sat with them at a church picnic since they didn’t know many other people yet (and I didn’t have many single friends around either). And I realized that, even though it’s tempting to see myself as in an inferior position, we can both help each other meet our needs for fellowship. I might feel isolated and lonely as a single, but this couple is also a little out of place by being at a new church. Just as I can learn and benefit from having married friends with different life experiences than mine, they can benefit from befriending me, a longtime member of this church and a two-time graduate of the school they’re still attending.
Thankfully, I have recently found some good groups to connect with, too.
There’s a small but stable new fellowship group of mostly single 20-somethings, that I’ve been going to for the past year. I had a friend recently invite me to a large group comprised mostly of students — college and even high school. Being in our mid-20s, my friend and I are among the older attendees, and yet we both agreed that coming to this group has been beneficial for us. We may have a few more years worth of wisdom to offer the younger believers, and they have a passion and energy to their faith that is encouraging and inspiring to us. Just because we’re different ages and at somewhat different places in life doesn’t mean that our fellowship is insignificant, and we shouldn’t let ourselves think that it is.
We’ve all probably been through transitional periods of life when, for a variety of reasons, finding a place to fit in seemed hard. But if you’re in that place now, then there’s no need to despair. Look at the relationships you do have and consider whether or not the people are in the same stage of life as you. Focus on your similarities instead of your differences. Be willing to reach out to others and to let them reach out to you too.
You’ll find that friendship and good fellowship can be easier than they seem!