Remember when graduating from college meant we could stop preparing for life and actually start living it? When we could take a break from the suffocating stress of academic life to breathe and finally reap the rewards of all of our hard work over the past 22 years? Remember when graduating meant freedom, money, and happiness instead of debt, months without seeing your best friends, and living at home again while the constant nagging voice of your mother tells you to “clean your room” “eat your vegetables” and to “not stay out too late.” If you’re like me and you’re stuck in this “in-between” stage of life where you did everything right in college — got the grades, landed the prestigious internship, and networked the hell out those career fairs — but still ended back at home living under your parent’s roof, saving money, and waiting for the day when you can truly call yourself an adult, then I’m here to tell you to wake up, get up, and start living your life.
Here are 5 things you should definitely start doing RIGHT NOW.
1. Quit volunteering your time, and start getting paid for all that freelance work you do.
When you’re in college, it’s fine to work for free so you can build a portfolio to show potential employers, but enough is enough. If you’re a good writer, developer, designer or [insert marketable skill here] then start getting paid for your work. Look, you’ve earned an $80,000+ diploma and your student loans aren’t going to pay for themselves. This is the best way to make more than minimum wage and keep your skills sharp while you’re still looking for a more stable job.
2. Decide on a workout routine and get fit.
Didn’t have time to exercise in college? Well, it takes 21 days to form a habit and you’ll thank yourself later in life if you if take care of your health now. It only gets harder to work out as you get older and you know you have at least 30 minutes in your day to do yoga, go for a run, or pump some iron. You didn’t make excuses when it came to school while you were in college, so stop making excuses about getting fit.
3. Read a book you actually want to read.
You want some peace and quiet? Then pick up a novel. Your mom may constantly be yelling at you to wash the dishes, pick up your laundry, and to take the dog for a walk, but I don’t know a single mother in the world who will make her child stop reading a book to do a household chore. Problem solved. Plus, reading after college is a hundred times more enjoyable than reading for a class and this might be one of the few opportunities in your life you’ll have the time to do it.
4. Confront your fears: take a trip by yourself.
This is important. Traveling by yourself is one of the most terrifying experiences, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. If you always do what’s comfortable, you’ll never know what you are truly capable of accomplishing. We all fear the unknown: what if I get stranded in a city I don’t know? What if I never find a real job? What if I’m the only one of my friends who never gets married? The funny thing about traveling by yourself is that you will be forced to overcome your fears and discover that you are strong, courageous, and adventurous. You won’t fail; you’ll find out you are alive and well and free.
5. Find someone younger and mentor them.
We all have people that we look up to and odds are someone invested their time into you when you were a kid. Well, it’s time to pass it on to the next generation. You probably don’t realize how much influence you have over a high school or middle school student, but it’s a lot. Find someone younger than yourself and ask them about their lives (sometimes a simple conversation can make a world of a difference), take them out to lunch, or encourage them to “dream big” and help them accomplish their goals. You’ll be surprised how rewarding it can be to give back.