My life since college graduation has been the most wonderfully uncertain, bumbling, transitional, fun, flailing, cacophony of experiences and existence. In learning to stay afloat and eventually gain enough composure to progress as I imagined I would when I was young, I’ve had a real shift in how I relate to life and its sense of humor. I try to look at everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything offers a lesson, if you know how to extract it, and if you realize that every lesson doesn’t need to be profound. They eventually add up, and you can look back on a year that you fumbled your way through and realize that you’ve gained a lot. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
Failure is inevitable, and funny. Laugh it off and live by the wise words of the late great Aaliyah, “if at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again.”
A To-Do List is not an accomplishment. Writing “make a to-do list” on the to-do list doesn’t count either.
1. Learning what you don’t like is as important as learning what you do. Process of elimination!
2. Good ideas are like the elusive “other sock”… you have to sort through a heap of other stuff to get to it. Don’t necessarily throw away those ideas—or socks—though, because roles shift, and circumstances change, and YOUR trash can become YOUR treasure.
3. What’s more elusive than a good idea? The determination and consistency required to accomplish it. Things take time and commitment. Don’t be afraid to believe in a goal, but take the time to decide what you want to commit to because you can’t commit to it all. If you’re like me, half the time you feel like you’re not capable of committing to anything. That’s not true; or at least it won’t be forever. Hopefully. If the idea that it might be true scares you, then you’re making progress.
4. Keeping in touch with people is easier said than done, but so important, and you never know what connections can lead to new opportunities or discoveries or friendships. Network, and then maintain the relationship. Even if you see an opportunity in getting to know someone, don’t forget that you’re still getting to know a person. You don’t want your only communication with someone to be favor requests. Look for the humanity in people; they may not know your story and you may not know theirs, but you both have one.
5. Coffee and wine are acquired tastes, and you should acquire them both.
6. Decorating is hard. Try not to let other people’s amazingly welcoming and homey apartments make you depressed about the unloved abandoned warehouse you call home. It’s probably not that bad.
7. Heels are as much a mental game as they are physical. You have to get yourself in the right mindset. It’s also definitely worth investing in a cheap, portable pair of flats for the post-club agony that your feet, calves, and thighs will inevitably be experiencing. This coming from someone who wears heels like three times a year.
8. Winter is not a fun season anymore. It was great when it meant cancelled school, sledding, and then fuzzy socks and hot chocolate in front of a movie. Now it just means a colder, wetter, and more slippery commute to work, which is almost never cancelled.
9. Eating out is expensive. But it’s so fun. If you can, factor it in to your budget in a real way so you don’t go broke, but so when you do eat out, it’s a guilt-free experience.
10. Randomly drinking tea in the evening is so soothing. Do not underestimate the unassuming power of tea.
11. Do all unpleasant chores while listening to music. A chore soundtrack changes everything, and singing while washing dishes is a lot like singing in the shower. This is also a great time to just think, which I’ve learned can be a really productive way to spend your time, simple as it seems.
12. Giving up your seat on the subway to someone who needs it more is the only thing that feels better than snagging the seat in the first place. Spread love.
13. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing. That’s part of the fun, and affords the flexibility to discover new resiliencies and capabilities within yourself.
14. Do not, I repeat DO NOT go grocery shopping while you’re super hungry. Have a granola bar and apple, then go. Especially if you’re shopping at Whole Foods. Don’t even have lunch at Whole Foods when you’re super hungry. You WILL overspend and then cry the whole way home.
15. Trying to be cool is not cool. It’s hard enough—and cool enough—trying to be yourself.