Four years of adulting* experience isn’t much, so take my guide for what it’s worth, but several of my friends introduce me by saying, “This is Ellie. She has a real job and is a real adult…like she is very put-together.” I’m actually a mess, dressed in work clothes with a killer work ethic, but I know more than I did on my first day in the real world, so there’s that.
*The term adulting is one used in text messages I send occasionally daily. One may read “#adulting” while another may be, “adulting is hard” and I’m going to stop there because I’m disappointed in myself. But it’s in the vocabulary of young adults taking on the adventure of becoming a glorified adult.
Step 1: Give yourself a break.
- There is a surmountable pressure brought on by moving out of college life. You need to “have it together.” You need to miraculously know how to create a budget. You need to make enough money to pay for necessities and you need to understand what exactly those necessities are. It’s a lot, guys, and it’s important to know going in you will not always get it right. You will probably learn the hard way that every time someone asks you to go out to dinner, you can’t always afford to say yes. And you may have to learn that when you can monetarily afford it, you may not always be able to mentally and emotionally. So you learn to do the best you can for yourself because at the end of the day, you are independent and taking care of yourself should be a top priority.
Step 2: Give others a break.
- When I graduated college, I wanted very little about my personal life to change. Obviously I was a working woman, but when Friday rolled around, I jetted out of town to visit my college best friends. I probably owe that routine to my sanity, but I soon realized I needed to “bloom where I was planted,” as the cheesy saying goes, so I vowed to begin staying in town on the weekends. I met two of my best friends in college and it was really hard to not feel abandoned, and to not feel like I was abandoning them, when we all decided to start making our lives more fulfilled in our different cities. We didn’t see each other as often and our friendship was stretched and, at times, it was uncomfortable. We made it through it and you will, too, but you have to learn to accept, forgive and show some grace.
Step 3: Budget.
- As a business minor, I had my share of accounting classes. Even still, a personal finance budget wasn’t something I learned in college. I may be a rare breed because I enjoy budgeting, keeping track of money spent and seeing a nest egg in my savings account, but just because I enjoy it doesn’t mean I knew how to do it. It’s different for everyone I assume, but I make an index card every month and keep it in my wallet. You can access a previous blog about simple budgeting here. You will want to neglect the savings part of fixed expenses, as it seems optional. It’s not. Trust me, there are all types of surprise expenses you can’t plan for and they don’t care if it’s a good time or if you have money to address the issue.
Step 4: Self reflect on the reg.
- I wanted this step to be: Spend time alone. But spending time alone isn’t always beneficial unless you capitalize on the given time by getting to know who you truly are.* This sounds very yogi-like, I know. And believe me, 21-year-old Ellie would have overlooked this step, no doubt. But I didn’t handle my emotions in a healthy way, mostly because I didn’t handle them at all. So I began regularly self-reflecting on my thoughts, reactions, relationships, happiness and the list goes on. This isn’t something that has an end date. It is ongoing. It doesn’t miraculously fix anything, but when you really get to know yourself, your ability to find resolve multiplies. And the benefits are endless.
*don’t mistake me, a night of bad TV and zero thought are absolutely necessary and I can share my list of terrible TV shows with you later.
Step 5: Embrace this phase of life.
- In elementary school, you dream of middle school. In middle school, you can hardly wait to be in high school, and the trend continues forever if you let it. When I graduated college and started my job, it was exciting and new for a minute. Then I started thinking about what’s next. When will I get married? When will I have children? When will I buy a house? When will I get promoted? What is my 5-year-plan? Maybe this is just me, because I’m a super-planner, but many of my friends experience this lack of contentment in different ways. I always want to dream and push myself to become better, but I also want to be thankful for where I am in the current. One of my best friends is newly married and I am single. Some days, on a particularly hard day of marriage, she may say while she loves being married, she envies me for being single, free and unattached. On other days, while I genuinely love my life, I may say I’m sick of feeling alone in every big life decision I’ve made thus far. The lesson here is while you wish for someone else’s situation, they probably wish for yours at some point. So until the next phase of life comes, choose to embrace the one you find yourself in at this very moment.
This I know for sure: no amount of college or good raising is going to prepare you to be an adult. It’s all about trial and error. I mean I have friends who have become parents who actually admit they have no idea what they are doing and most of the time, they still feel like children themselves. The comforting thing to take away from this training is we are all in this together. What tips do you have for taking on the real-world?