Graduate college they said, it’ll be fun they said.
It is, but it’s not. Okay that sounds pessimistic but life after college takes a lot more brainpower than I would have thought. And that’s a crazy idea saying as college seemed to suck the life out of my brain, especially during finals.
One day you are in college, embracing every single opportunity, not thinking twice about much. You know that you have deadlines to meet, but realize that some of them are flexible. You know that you have friends down the hall who will meet you out every Friday night. Cooking your own food? Never. That’s what dining halls are for. Doing your own laundry? Pfft. that is what weekend trips home to mom are for 😉 College is sweet. College, in retrospective, is easy.
The real world is bat shit crazy at times, but it is also cooler than a popsicle 😉
Being someone who has been in the ‘real world’ for over a year now, here are a few conclusions I’ve drawn:
- You’ll never figure it all out. For example, these conclusions I’m drawing about figuring out life, I’m sure will change in just another short year. But for real, this is one of my biggest downfalls (and I’m figuring out that I have many), trying to figure everything out, all the time. Being twenty-something seems old once you get there, as soon as you get that diploma you feel like you’ve aged 10-15 years, or at least I did. And when you feel older you are already pressurizing yourself with feelings of having to figure everything out. Figure out tonight’s dinner, next week’s plans, next months budget, this summers vacation, your job, your friends, your family, your home, and soooo onnnn. Sometimes it’s hard not to. But why? At 23 years old I have 100X more things on my mind, more responsibilities that I feel I need to figure out than I did just 5 short years ago at age 18. The media publicizes so many opinions now-a-days, making you think you need to be this size, have this much in your wallet at this age, be ready for kids by now, blah, blah, blah. It publicizes people who have their shit together, or so we are led to believe. Like get real, Taylor Swift who Time Magazine has called the highest paid celebrity in 2016 is only 27- TWENTY SEVEN. Kendall Jenner, worth $18 million dollars, age 21. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson, $300 million, age 30. These celebrities are our age, us twenty-something year olds, and the media publicizes them as people who have made it. And maybe they have, maybe Taylor Swifts extreme talent and the way she cares about her fans motivates me to dream BIG and never lose sight, but her, or their net worth doesn’t mean they have everything figured out, it’s just money. Which leads me to my next point
- Your wallet doesn’t define you. I’ve had $200 in my wallet and I’ve had $0 in my wallet in any given month. Have I had nervous breakdowns when my wallet and my bank accounts get low and my credit card gets high? You bet. Does it take me awhile to realize how ridiculous this is and convince myself to be better next time, oh yeah. Do I do better next time? Eh only about 25% of the time. I feel old, and I feel like my wallet is small in comparison. But why? I DON’T KNOW. For goodness sake, I have no idea why I have all of these nervous breakdowns. I’m here right now telling myself that my wallet doesn’t define me, only 3 short hours after nervously checking my bank accounts wondering how I’m going to make ends meet. Finances are tough, for everyone. But guess what you are TWENTY-SOMETHING years old and most likely in student loan debt at the least, SO WHAT! They are just short term finances, and I’m learning that it’s better to feel in control of them, no matter how small they are, then to let them control you. You are not defined by money, and when you make millions someday, I hope you remember this.
- Don’t let your ego stop you from gaining work experience. I‘ve had many duties in my workplace already, many have been the exact things I want to do, few have not. But those duties that you might not want to do, aren’t the ones to say no to, because those duties are the ones that give you experience, real experience. Trust me on this. Applying yourself in a different way than you are comfortable, stepping out of your comfort zone, being humble and doing a job below you teaches you something about your work ethic, and it lets you reflect on your true career goals. Plus, sometimes these jobs are the ones you make the best connections with, you might find your next job reference, or someone who knows someone to get you into that dream job. You are TWENTY-SOMETHING years old, don’t let your ego hinder you. Being an intern is okay, starting small in a place where you can grow is okay. Work an underpaid job for a few months to appreciate the big job when you get it. But you have to be smart about your time-management with these jobs, which brings me to my next point.
- Jobs come and go, real experiences with friends and family don’t. I’m learning, and this is one thing that I can proudly say I’ve already gotten better at, is that over-working yourself and missing out on real life fun leaves you with nothing fun to look back on. Work hard at your job, appreciate it, and try to make strides in the workplace, but know when to stop, to clock out for the day and go home. You are TWENTY-SOMETHING years old, don’t waste it at your job. Being young in the workplace it is easy to be looked down on, to be viewed as an “intern” even if you have the same experience as your elder coworkers. If asked to go above and beyond your job duties, or hours, know when to say no. You are asked to go grab coffee for others, think about this. Am I going to get coffee for myself? If so, be kind and get others coffee. Am I already nose deep into reports and don’t have time to go to the bathroom? Say no, kindly. You are asked to pick up another shift, and then another, and then another. Know when to say no. Sometimes it’s right to say yes, you just need to. Sometimes you say yes because you absolutely love what the specific shift has to bring– and that is okay! But know that next time if it comes around and you have cocktail night planned, that it is okay to say no. Saying yes once, doesn’t mean saying yes all the time. Clock out early today, go spend time with loved ones, and do not feel guilty about it
- Your friends matter, your family matters. This is a short and easy one. These are the people that have always been there for you, and who will always be there for you, regardless of your place in the world. Use them for help, use them for shoulder to cry on, for an ear to listen. Have fun with them when the world feels like its hitting you hard. Don’t push these people away, they are your people, and they get you.
- Dive into recreational activities. This is one thing I am working on. Most likely, many of us are no longer athletes who have a coach and a team to report to 3-6 days out of the week. No, we are TWENTY-SOMETHING year olds who feel old. But we’re not! Find a rec volleyball league, basketball league, kickball league. Go painting once a week, join a book club (and this does NOT make you old, it makes you wise). Find something to immerse yourself in when everything else seems to be moving at top speed. These are the things that can slow your day down, put a smile on your face, and even introduce you to new people. Because let’s face it sometimes fresh souls are good for our own. They could be great new friends, future references, the person who knows someone who knows someone, or someone you actually don’t get along with, which is a learning experience in itself. Plus, it’s good for your health to stay active, go find a rec league, take a load off.
- Appreciate your elders. If not for anything else, but because they won’t be around forever. But these are also the people who you likely look at as ‘wise’, and how do you think they got wise? Listen to their stories, their personal experiences, listen to what made them the wise person they are and why. We won’t find that at our age, we just won’t. Being a TWENTY-SOMETHING year old gives us a lot less time for personal life experiences. Plus, sitting back and listening to their stories can put your life into a lot better perspective.
- You will fall flat on your face sometimes. You have to get back up. Every. Single. Time.
So one day you’re in college, but you know what, one day you are also in the real world, and that is pretty fricking awesome. You might not be able to meet your friends out on Thursday nights every week, but you can meet them out for cocktails on Wednesday night without a fake ID, because that is just the cool thing to do. You can stay at home on Friday with a glass of wine and watch your puppies run around, instead of watching school equations run off the paper you’re studying. You can buy a new vacuum and feel like an absolute rock star because of it, instead of feeling like a millionaire when you finally fill your tank all the way up (oh the typical college kid move, we all did it). Being in the real world has responsibilities, new experiences, new people, new stresses and excitements, but these are what shape your life, that shape you. Embrace them all. They’re your future.