On transitioning to the real world: 11 things to keep in mind

Remember how I said I was starting over from an older blog?  I found this gem while going through the posts there and have found it to be frighteningly accurate in the 6 months since I’ve graduated from University of Maryland.  Also…it’s been 6 months.  What the hell.

College is a fantastic time in life-that fuzzy grey area between childhood and reality.  Because even though college comes with its own set of responsibilities, for 99% of us it isn’t anything like the rest of our lives will be.  Sure we have to be responsible for getting to classes and internships on time, finishing our work without parents or teachers breathing down our necks, and balance academics with a social life, but there is still time to act like a teenager.  By no means am I saying when we graduate we have to be mature for the rest of our lives-anyone who knows me knows I love building blanket forts and jumping in rain puddles as much as the next kid-but there are a few things we should have down by the time we earn that coveted diploma.  Here are the eleven responsibilities (and total opposites) I’ve found most true so far:

1. Polish your resume and get a professional email address

Clearly this is on the “responsible” side. Putting your resume together in a professional manner will help with number two on this list (and later getting a job) and let’s be honest, emailing a potential employer with “rainbowluver93” or the equivalent in your email address is just embarrassing. They want to know they’ll be hiring a young professional, not a seventh-grader

2. Get an internship that you end up despising (or loving)

You may think you know exactly what you want to do, but until you find yourself in a real work environment—outside the world of academia—you will never truly know. In London I had a marketing internship in a theatre and, even though I was unsure whether I would enjoy it or not since I had never considered marketing before then, I loved it. The people and the atmosphere were incredible and although I’m still focused on performance I know I wouldn’t mind working in marketing again if I had to.

3. Go to the movies or a restaurant or somewhere alone

So many people are terrified to be alone, which is where serial daters and clingy relationships come from. Going out alone once won’t cure this, but it can help so much. Learning to do things independently and in public-beyond grocery shopping, going to the bank, all that-will help you grow in ways you never imagined. Plus, you can finally go see that cheesy rom-com or gritty adventure film nobody else wanted to see and make your favorite popcorn-sour candy mix all your friends judge you for. A win-win if you ask me.

4. Search for your dream apartment/condo/home—then find one for probably ¼ of the price

Aim high, but be realistic when looking for your first place. Unless you shoot to stardom or get a six-figure job offer right after graduation, you’ll probably be living a little smaller than you imagined to start with. But that’s kind of a blessing, since it’ll help with number 7 on this list.

5. Buy a plane, train, bus ticket to anywhere just because

Admittedly I’ve had an insatiable travel bug since living in London, but I promise this is a good thing. As children we fantasize about incredible places and as young adults we can scour the internet for images of otherworldly destinations, so why not actually go? It doesn’t have to be expensive—MegaBus tickets start at just a few bucks and airlines have deals all the time—but go to that one city you’ve always wanted to explore, that countryside home of extended relatives you’ve always wondered about but never reached out to. Experience the world, don’t just look at it.

6. Go back home

Go back to your roots, to where you grew up. It might not be full of just happy memories, some scars may be agitated but it’s worth it. Without this place you wouldn’t be who you are today and trying to erase it is tragic. Besides, it’s a fantastic reminder to appreciate the present and realize how quickly things can change

7. Do spring cleaning—with your closet and relationships

Alright, this one may sound a bit harsh but cutting ties with some people may be a good idea. Do you really need to stay Facebook friends with those middle-school friends you got into a fight with in ninth grade and then stopped talking to one another but decided to give it a shot in junior year and more drama ensued and followed you to college and…get it? Bad idea. Obviously don’t cut out everyone you haven’t talked to in a year or so, but if there are any toxic relationships holding you back as you move onto the next stage of your life get rid of them. Why surround yourself with more negativity than necessary? Oh, and throw out those used-to-be-trendy-but-aren’t-anymore shirts you know you’ll never wear again but hold on to for nostalgia. Unless you’re going to use them for working out they’re just taking up space. You’re moving on to a new part of your life in this crazy wonderful world, so why not travel light?

8. Learn something about finances

I got lectured by my mom on stocks for about an hour two nights ago and it was the most frustrating and enlightening hour I’ve had in a while. I’ve had stocks since I was born but didn’t know a thing about them until she gave me a crash course (thanks, mom) and now I feel like I actually have some control over them. You’re going to be the one handling your paychecks and income taxes and mortgages and all those other terrifying financial aspects of adult life, so why not educate yourself about them?

9. Get a minimum-wage job

It’ll make you appreciate that entry-level job that pays less than you were hoping, that’s for sure. Added bonus: getting a job that involves tipping or gratuity. You’ll learn to deal with jerks and brighten a few peoples’ day along the way. And it will make you appreciate whatever job you get after graduation that much more.

10. Have a night you don’t remember—or two or three

Remember what I said about some not-so-responsible things on this list? Here you are. Please don’t get hurt doing this, but if you manage to have a night (or week, thanks spring break 2013) where so much happens you can’t possibly recount it all, that’s pretty successful. Live in the moment, don’t harbor regrets, and have fun.

11. Your time is valuable.  Don’t waste it

While editing this post I realized just how long it’s been since I walked across that stage and received my degree.  Of course 6 months is hardly anything when looking at the bigger picture, but which is more frightening?  Realizing that part of your life is over? Or having the mindset of “no big deal, I still have plenty of years to make up for it.”  Steve Jobs said it the best: “‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”  Of course we’ll have days where we have to get through something we aren’t thrilled about (hello dentist appointments) but living your whole life never truly satisfied?  That’s no way to live at all.

Anything I missed that you’ve found helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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