1. That you need to have everything figured out.
Part of the hardest transition from college to that magically weird place known as the “real world” is that there’s no cushioning period — no more summer vacation to temper the new season; you’re just spit out and have to take off running. And such a transition often makes it feel like we have to have it all figured out immediately — what your career is going to be for the next 40-odd years of your life, where you’re going to live, everything. Even if you pick up and move to a new city, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck there forever. Even if you think you love the job you have now doesn’t mean you’re going to feel that way forever. And that’s okay. What you want out of life is supposed to change as you grow — it means you’re evolving.
2. But conversely, that these years don’t matter.
Go backpacking for six years if you want to. Find yourself in Tibet if that is where you think you’ll find yourself. Work a few odd jobs if you want to avoid the workforce for a little longer (or entirely). But do something — anything! — during this time. And make sure you do it right. The skills you earn as a bartender or barista or even a receptionist at a gym (hey, girl) are just as important as any other job where you learn how to multitask, provide customer service, and god knows what else. The ability to make friends halfway around the world help you hone great people skills, and makes you an altogether more interesting person — but only if you let those lessons seep in. Convert these experiences into something you can use to your advantage. (And yes, the advantage is always there.)
3. That everyone has it “out for us” because they already think we’re entitled.
It always seems like older generations have had it out for the younger generations ever since there have been younger generations to rag on. A lot of this has to do with change — people are averse to it, and so they resist and discount anything they think is out of their norm — but just because someone calls you entitled doesn’t mean you should throw a fit and grow embittered to what you believe is their prejudice. You know what works better? Proving them wrong.
4. That just because you’re not some 8 year old YouTube virtuoso, the glory years are behind you.
Look, I know it’s depressing to watch another child prodigy make the first of their millions doing something you could have made millions on if only you had that idea first, but just because you haven’t accomplished anything yet doesn’t mean you never will. One of the problems with our society is that we look at the concept of who was successful first to mean that they will also be the most successful — and that isn’t always the case.
5. That nobody is looking for a serious relationship.
Most of my friends in their 20s are in relationships, and this isn’t because I’m only friends with anomalies. The thing of it is, we believe that nobody’s settling down because we’re told that nobody’s settling down and that everyone is sleeping around, so we buy into it, only to perpetuate the belief. If you want to hold out for an actual relationship, hold out for an actual relationship. It’s easier said than done, I know, but the best way to actually find what you’re looking for (if an actual relationship is what you’re looking for) is not to settle for anything less.
6. That because we grew up in a world of ever-evolving technology, it means that tech is the only (and the best) way to do things.
Send an actual (use a stamp and the post office and everything) thank you note after an interview. Call someone if you’d like help with something. (It’s weird that we live in a world where a phone call is considered less of a technological advancement than a text message or email, but here we are.) You don’t need an app to remind you to do absolutely everything, and while our smartphones are meant to make our lives easier, they are by no means supposed to become our lives.
7. That being an adult means not needing your parents.
I mean this in more of an emotional sense than anything else, because if you’re 27 and your parents are still helping with your rent, you might want to consider either downgrading your digs or starting to look for a job that does fund your wild lifestyle. But sometimes you need to call your parents and ask for emotional support. And that’s okay. That’s what they’re there for. You’re going to spend a lot of time in your teenage years pushing away from your parents, but just because you’re suddenly independent and have your own place to go home to doesn’t mean you don’t have to call them — or even a parental-type figure, be it a mentor or just an older friend — and seek the kind of comfort they’re there for. That doesn’t make you any less mature. It just means you know where to go when you need that very special kind of support.
8. That there’s a timeline during which you have to check off x milestone by x age.
People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t get married when you’re 21, or that you should be married by the time you’re 25 or 30, or that you should start having kids at a certain point, and you know what? The best time to do any of these huge life decisions? Is when you’re ready to do them. You might not be ready to actually get married until your 30s, and that might not be because you haven’t found the right person. It just means you haven’t taken vows and that crazy big leap yet. And that goes both ways: if someone genuinely thinks they’re ready for marriage at 22, then let them go on that journey. You don’t have to judge them for it.
9. That being a mess is endearing.
Full disclosure: I can be Citizen Number 1 about this. There are so many weak jokes I could fire off about my haphazard existence that it’s amazing I get anything else done. And laughing at yourself is fun (and a known coping mechanism) so go ahead, turn the ketchup stain on your shirt into a punchline. But you know what? Being a little messy is perfectly fine (and even normal, who is honestly perfect 100% of the time?) as long as you’re competent in other areas of your life. Be a klutz. Be adorakable. Have 500 awkward things happen to you on your morning commute to work, but also be able to hold down that job when you get there. Be a really bad flirt and a cringingly single person — but have a core group of friends with whom you can have solid conversations and strong bonds. You don’t need to be a mess about 100% of your life; it’s only going to make people think you’re trying to resist adulthood, and willingly regressing. (And nobody wants to spend their time with someone who cannot hold it together.)
10. That these are the best years of your life.
They can (and should) be the best years of your life so far, but I sincerely hope they’re not the best years of all time. It would mean that everything else is downhill from here, and really, wouldn’t you want to live the kind of life that is constantly moving upwards? Just set a ridiculously high benchmark now, and then beat it in your 30s and your 40s and so on, until the best years are the last years — because (this is cheesy, but bear with me here) that means that every year was better than the one that came before it.