One year ago, I was standing under the lights of Pauley Pavilion, my robe swishing behind me, my decorated cap on my head. A nervous energy was bubbling up inside of me as I was surrounded by likeminded individuals who were all here for the exact same reason as me — to graduate from UCLA as the Class of 2016. The pent up excitement released and drowned my nerves as I turned the tassel on my cap to the left. From that moment, the rest of my life began. Since then, real life has shown its true colors and provided me with its fair share of life lessons outside of the classroom. Although I owe a lot of what I know now to UCLA, here are some of the life lessons that I learned and cultivated in my first year as a post-graduate that I would have never learned as an undergrad.
1. Invest in yourself.
College institutions can be draining and exhausting, both mentally and physically. But with college done, you can really spend time to use that mental and physical energy and focus on yourself. Take time to reflect and think about what you want to do now to make your present and future self happy. What are the areas in your life you want to nourish or improve on? Personally, I invest in myself by following a morning routine, practicing mindfulness and doing hot yoga. Whatever it is that you want to do to invest in yourself, just remember that the next couple of years should be all about developing yourself into your best possible version.
2. Do what brings you joy and eliminate the things that don’t.
This life is too short to not do things that bring you joy. If you don’t know what sparks joy inside of you, here is a simple exercise: write down everything that makes you happy and joyful, then write down the things that don’t bring you joy. Deep down, you know what you love and what brings you joy, but it takes recognition and acknowledgement to understand them. Ultimately, those will be the things that fuel you throughout the rest of your post-grad days, and will empower you to use your gifts and talents to share to the world. As Marie Kondo said in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
3. Mistakes are meant to be learned from.
Just because you have a college degree and four years of college experience under your belt doesn’t mean you won’t make more mistakes, because you definitely will. And that’s completely fine. As long as you do not dwell on it and instead use it as a lesson in your life, it is perfectly fine to make mistakes. Stephen R. Covey said in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment. It is important to immediately admit and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again.”
4. You will always be a student for life.
Learning never stops outside of the classroom. There is so much in life to learn, and luckily, we live in an era where education is at our fingertips. Just scroll through the millions of YouTube tutorials that are out there. I personally owe a lot of my knowledge to the internet, and I constantly use it as a resource to learn about things I’m interested in that I couldn’t learn as an English major, such as graphic design and brand building. Recently, I completed my first UCLA Extension course on Design Fundamentals, and it was all for free since I graduated from UCLA. There are tons of resources for free online courses besides YouTube, such as Lynda.com, Udemy.com and Skillshare.com. There are so many resources and different opportunities to take advantage of, so soak it up as much as you can in this life.
5. Friendships are no longer “convenient.”
You truly have to make an effort. Sometimes we may be lucky to see some of our old college friends every once in awhile, but the truth is, you are no longer part of a college bubble where your friends are easily accessible. Convenience is no longer something you have when it comes to those friendships. If you want to foster relationships, you have to make a true effort to see and talk to them. It gets more difficult when you start a full-time job and start investing in your life because that means less chances of seeing your friends. As a result, you will most likely not be as close to your college friends as before. To prevent complete erasure though, carve out time out of your week or month to catch up with an old friend and grab dinner to continue building those relationships. It may be hard to find time that works best for both parties but even without the convenience, it’s not impossible to keep those life-long friendships.
6. Reflection helps create clarity and reach goals.
The future is not constant, and sometimes things don’t go your way. However, reflection really allows you to step back and take a look at what you have been doing so far in your life and how you can adjust and improve. Making reflection a daily habit has been known to develop a clearer sense of mind and self, improve productivity, and lead to a higher rate of success. For 2017, I started practicing monthly reflections in my Passion Planner and have always found it helpful to look at myself from the inside out and dive deep into how I can better myself.
7. Find time to live new experiences.
Life can get mundane once you’re in the work force, so make sure that you spend time to travel and live new experiences. Go to Coachella, check out the free concert series at Santa Monica, be a tourist in your own city, fly out to Portland or Seattle for the weekend. Work should not be meant to only pay the bills and make a sustainable living. You should also use the money to color and enrich your life with experiences and memories. When you think about this long term, carving out time for new experiences refreshes your mind, improves creativity and work ethic, and inspires you to try more new things and explore new passions.
8. Save, save, save!
This is something that I still struggle with, but saving is such an important facet of adulthood. You can no longer rely on financial aid every quarter to uplift your bank account every time you’re in a rut. When you get your paycheck, make it a habit to put 10-20% of that money to your savings. Have saving goal buckets so that you have something to pool from when you need it for a specific reason. My paycheck automatically deducts 20% of the money to go towards my travel fund and emergency fund. It’s a bit of a pain, but your future self will send you lots of love for it.
9. Sometimes serendipity comes out to play. Enjoy it.
As much as we can plan for our day, our week, our lives, life can still throw curveballs at you and unravel your plans. They can be annoying and discouraging, but sometimes it can be a beautiful addition to the value and meaning of life. Besides, what is life without the struggle? We would just be stagnant and lifeless without anything to learn from. So enjoy that serendipitous moment when it comes and appreciate the fact that it’s happening and enriching your life.
10. You can live day by day, but don’t forget to think of the bigger picture.
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily 9-5 and just go home and mindlessly scroll through social media or watch Netflix without a care in the world. Take time during your week or month to sit down and make a plan of what you want to do in one year, in 5 years, and even 10 years. For me, this has always been a difficult thing to do since I can barely plan my week, but it’s so important to think about the vision you have in your life and to not forget about what you truly want out of life. Simply writing down where you visualize yourself in 5 years is enough to help you think bigger picture.
11. Community is out there, as long as you ask and seek for it.
Community was the biggest thing that got me through college, so when I graduated, the biggest transitionary struggle I faced as a post-grad was the lack of community. I used to have spaces where I felt grounded in solidarity and comfort. It was a place of belonging. I spent a good deal of my first year of postgrad seeking communities in alumni networks, camp counselor sessions, dance classes, yoga classes, blogs and YouTube channels. Eventually I found a sense of community in places I never thought I would — my old friends and my work team. Community is out there if you are looking for it, it just takes more effort to put in those same community values you’ve learned from your experiences into new spaces.
12. We have time. Take advantage of it.
Be proactive and take initiative of your time. It’s hard to believe this, but our twenties are filled with time and space to learn something new, to find a new trajectory for our life, to find and grow new passions. All you have to do is start now. So go out there and show the world your worth! Remember that adult life doesn’t have to be a perfect, one line trajectory. It’s filled with zig zags, roller coasters and life lessons like these.