22 Things I Learned in 22 Years (and counting)

One month ago, I graduated college. For a lot of people, that was the end. No more school, no more grades, no more late nights spent partying, no more friends within walking distance. Some people got jobs, some moved away, some stayed put. I, of course, had to be different.

While I did lose a lot of the same things my friends did when they graduated, I’ve managed to retain the same routine I’ve had for the past four years – perhaps with a little more rigor, and more at stake, but much more specialized. However, as this month has passed, and as so much has changed for me in what feels like the blink of an eye, I have come to reflect on my life a lot.

Here’s some of those things I’ve been thinking.

  1. Your high school friends are important. Whether you had fifty friends or you had five, reach out every now and then. For the first year of my college career, I muted my high school groupchat because it was constantly going off – but then I realized how much I was missing out on, and recognized how strong the friendship was that it had lasted so long. Even if it’s something as simple as saying hello or going out to eat once a year to catch up, those friendships will live on and you’ll always have someone to talk to whenever your college friends let you down.
  2. Your college friends are important, too. Don’t get me wrong: you should make time for your high school friends, but your college friends are the ones you have to see every day for the next four years (and maybe beyond). Don’t let boys, drama, or feeling left out every now and then get in the way of that. Keep in touch with them after you graduate, too. It can be lonely out there in the real world.
  3. Read a book. No, not your textbook. An actual, interesting-to-you book that you actually want to read. College really took the joy I had for reading way in the beginning, but every summer I have tried to read at least one book for fun (last year’s pick was Dark Places by Gillian Flynn). Not only will you be entertained, but you’ll probably learn something new and maybe even find someone else to talk about it with.
  4. Study something you love. Like, really, truly love. If you’re just majoring in Business or Accounting because you think it’s going to make you a lot of money, you’re doing something wrong. If sitting behind a desk 9 to 5 is your cup of tea, by all means, do it. But it wasn’t mine, so I didn’t even think about that. It’s not about your parents, or your significant other – it’s about you and what you could actually see yourself doing (and enjoying) in ten years. If you hate the classes you’re taking, what makes you think you’re going to like an actual full-blown job version of those classes?
  5. Travel. Both outside of your city and outside of your country. There’s so much to see and to learn from other places, and you just can’t understand it from pictures alone. Whether you just want to sight-see, eat, or dig on an archaeological site (guilty), go and do it as soon as possible. It’ll change your whole perspective on life.
  6. Get out of your comfort zone. As an introvert, my comfort zone was tucked away in bed with my laptop on and headphones in. But at some point, that comfort zone ends and real life begins. It doesn’t have to be anything big – start small, like saying hello to strangers instead of gluing your eyes to your phone, and work your way to being a real adult. It’ll do wonders.
  7. Do something that makes you happy. We all have that one thing we’ve been putting off forever because of X or Y (aka excuses). Been wanting to work out more often, but claim not to have the time? Or want to see a movie or concert but have no one to go with? YOU CAN. There’s always thirty minutes in your day that you can fit a quick workout in – even sitting in front of your TV in the comfort of your own home – and you don’t need anyone to go to the movies with you. Get out of your own way.
  8. Cleaning sucks but someone’s gotta do it. And once you graduate, it won’t be your mom.
  9. When relationships end, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll get over it, I promise. It may take a few weeks or months, but at some point you’re gonna realize that you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. There will be someone else.
  10. Learn to cook. You might need it to survive (and not go totally broke) someday. Luckily, I learned right at the last minute (aka the summer before my senior year) and have really loved doing it ever since. Start small, Google some easy recipes, and keep a fire extinguisher handy… just in case.
  11. Drink more water. I can guarantee you that whatever you’re drinking now is not enough. Humans generally don’t drink enough – eight glasses of water a day. That’s 64 ounces, which is A Lot. It’s hard to consciously drink enough, but there are ways to get you close to the goal. Carry a water bottle around wherever you go, don’t keep any other drinks in your house, etc.
  12. Planners are a godsend. I don’t know how I survived before buying a planner, but somehow I scraped through. Whether you’re in school or out, there’s always going to be a ton of assignments, meetings, appointments, and outings that you’re going to need to remember, and you’re not always going to remember to put them in your phone. Plus, pen to paper note-taking is proven to help with retention.
  13. Get a job. Ok, I know part-time jobs seem like they’re everywhere and nowhere at once, but having a job is kind of like a twisted rite of passage because while you’re getting lots of experience, you’re also probably working somewhere you hate. Don’t worry if it’s not a place you love – the experience you’ll get will be much broader and more valuable than you first think. Plus, you’re getting paid.
  14. Create a resume. Whether or not you’ve ever had a job, when you do get one, start putting them into a resume. Get someone to look at it and edit it a little bit every year. You’ll never know when you’re going to need it, and it looks a lot better in the real world when you have something to show for all you’ve done than nothing at all.
  15. Get to know your professors. Especially if they’re in a field that you’re really interested in and see yourself working in in the future. They can help you A Lot, will give you A Lot, and are probably pretty cool outside of class. Use those office hours. Go to departmental events. Schmooze. How else do you think I got into my dream graduate school and now have a bookcase full of books?
  16. Not everyone you meet is meant to stick around. It’s easy to get attached to people who are nice to you and who you spend time with on a semi-regular basis (i.e. in classes, at weekly parties, in clubs and organizations). However, a lot of those people are probably only nice to you because they are genuinely friendly people, want something, share a particular interest, or all of the above. The year may end and you may never see or talk to them again. And that’s okay. You’ll figure out who your real friends are pretty fast.
  17. Sleep is really, really important. I’ve never been the type to pull all-nighters, not even during finals week. But I know a lot of people who sacrifice their precious sleep schedules for ‘the important things’ like grades and academics. It’s not worth it. If you’re going to skip out on sleep during the week, at least get some good rest in over the weekend and take some naps throughout the week. Your body (and mind) will thank you later.
  18. Don’t forget about your family. We’re all at a point where we claim to be independent and able to take care of ourselves. Whether or not that’s true, don’t forget about your family. They’ve been with you from the very beginning, and they’re always going to be there. Let them help you. Tell them you love them every once in a while.
  19. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. Just pick up the pieces, apologize, and move on. It doesn’t help anyone to hold on to things that went wrong in the past. Things will get better.
  20. Be grateful for what you have. I’ve spent a lot of my time worrying about the things that I don’t have or things that I had that I don’t anymore. And frankly, it’s exhausting. It’s much more productive to think about those things you do have and to be thankful for having them. You have friends, family, your health… It’s okay if you haven’t gotten your own car or if you haven’t found a job yet or don’t know what you want to do after you graduate. It will come in time.
  21. You don’t always have to have it all together. Even the most put-together people fall apart when no one else is around. Nobody is perfect, so you don’t have to be either. Live your life the way you want to – no one is the judge of you, except you. If you have a hard day, spend some time doing something you like. If you’re upset, let it out. If someone hurts you, cry about it. It’s okay to feel weak every now and then.
  22. Don’t be afraid of the future. Leading up to graduation, a lot of my friends were worried about it all ending. But I never felt that way. It still felt like the end of another year, like we would all be back together again in the Fall. It didn’t really hit me that everything was changing until I was moving 600 miles away and living on my own. I broke down completely. But then I realized that I didn’t need to be upset or afraid. It’s not all happening at once. I still speak to my friends, I have a job interview next week, and I started my summer class today. What happens after all of that will come in time, but I don’t have to have it all figured out today. Being an adult is scary, but just take it all one day at a time and it will all work itself out.

 

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