Becoming a Real Person
Hi folks! Telly here.
For those of you that don’t know, I recently celebrated the Big 3-6-5 here at 834 Design & Marketing. It’s been a year of learning, challenges, oopsies and triumphs both inside and outside the office. Transitioning from college to “the real world” isn’t easy. In fact, it’s not supposed to be. Here’s seven things I’ve learned to make easing into adulthood a little bit smoother.
If it scares you, it’s because it should.
Despite popular belief, there is no Lena Dunham book or Thought Catalog blog that can get you through your early 20s. Truthfully, there’s no right or wrong anecdote. Some people ease into adulthood like they’ve been doing it their entire lives (yes, I’m calling out the “I’ve-been-drinking-coffee-and-balancing-a-checkbook-since-high-school”-ers); others (cough, me, cough) are still roaming the Earth 18 months after graduating college questioning if they’ll ever learn how to cook for one or why cable is so expensive and how the hell does a 23-year-old woman actually make friends? In the short, it’s scary. For too long we’ve been told that if something is scary or different or challenging, we should call mom and devise an easier path. Let yourself be scared. Let yourself walk into unfamiliar situations. Let yourself think on your own two feet for perhaps the first time in your life. You might be good at it.
Don’t be frivolous, but don’t be a cheap-ass either.
Here’s the lowdown on post-graduate life financials: you will have none. I don’t care what anyone says, you cannot and will not walk out the doors of college into a first job or career that will enable you to buy a new car, rent a loft straight out of an Ikea advertisement or do all that traveling you feel you “deserve because you’re young and why not.” I know people like this. We all know people like this. It’s okay to want nice things for yourself — real things — but it’s also important to live within your means and learn the difference between wants and needs. Splurge on the things that matter like quality professional clothing, a new computer program to help you do your job better or a knife set that actually cuts the food you’ve decided to take a stab at cooking. Be smart and save up.
Create your own routine.
College was a magical land of flying by the seat of your pants. While the structure exists to help students create a routine (and many do), this structure is still more of a suggestion and less of a requirement. Do you have to go to class? Yes, but not really. Do you have to go to work? Yes, but Catherine said she would pick up my shift so not really. It’s four years of prolonging the inevitable responsibilities you will have to assume in the real world — planning time to clean, cook, grocery shop, exercise, work and play. The sooner you find your big girl (or boy) beat, the easier transitioning from zero structure to creating your own will be.
I’m not going to tell you the obvious reasons you need to join professional organizations, sit on a committee or serve on a board. Just do it, okay? Yes, it may be uncomfortable. Yes, you will be probably be one of the youngest people there. And yes, it may suck up some of your “you” time. However, these awkward moments also present the opportunity to find a mentor whose career mirrors your aspirations; to provide experiences your current position may not; and to help you meet other young people facing the same challenges you are. Friends are important; friends that get it are crucial.
Learn basic life skills.
Once you’ve entered the real world, there is no excuse for not knowing how to cook a meal, maintain a clean home or do your laundry without everything bleeding or shrinking. That’s what Google and YouTube are for. As a generation, many of us have been incredibly fortunate to have parents who provided much more than those before them — I know mine have and for that I am eternally grateful. This has also created a set of “I don’t know-isms” that we cannot seem to maneuver our way around. If you can learn how to create the perfect top knot or paint your face like an animal for Halloween, you can learn how to clean a shower. No, I don’t want no scrubs.
Distinguish dreams from reality.
Our entire existence has been built by dreamers — men flying kites in lightning storms and women fighting to cast their own vote. Fantastic. Great. As a young professional, one of the best things you can do for yourself is separate your long-term goals from your short-term needs. Aspiring to own and operate your own floral shop or marketing firm one day is a great long-term goal… How do you plan on getting there? Your first job is not your last job and it is very rarely your dream job. Do not rule out an opportunity simply because it doesn’t fit into the confines of your dream… Just because it’s not what you want now doesn’t mean it isn’t what you need to get there. Experience is experience, good or bad.
You read correctly: be selfish. I have spent my entire life trying to please others and, through conversations with other young people, learned I’m not the only one. We have younger siblings to example for, older siblings and parents to make proud; bosses to impress, coworkers to help lead; friends to grow closer with, acquaintances to gain. Where do you fit in to this mix? What are you doing to make yourself better? Despite entering the real world, you still only have one person to provide for — you. Now is the time to figure out what you love, what you hate and how to make yourself happy… for you.