Since coming to Boston, I’ve cried a few times, laughed plenty, gotten on the wrong train only once, and have consumed more “Welcome to Boston!” drinks than my liver and my exponentially tighter jeans can handle. The adjustment has been a little difficult, especially when I have to alter the sanctity of the pronunciation of my hometown to give anyone the slightest idea of where I’m from (it is LOO-uh-vul. Not LOO-ee-ville. Not LOO-is-ville. Not whatever the hell else you call it. Embrace the muted vowels; LOO-uh-vul), and especially when I sound dreadfully out of place when I say “wicked,” or anything with an R in it.
And I’ve finally put on my big girl pants (when I wear pants; do you even know how liberating it is to live alone and wake up knowing that no one is privy to Victoria’s secret except you?) and learned a few lessons (some the hard way) on how to function as a struggling graduate student, ripped away from suburban comfort and dropped into the fast paced world that takes no prisoners. The transition into adulthood isn’t formulaic, but I’ve tried my damnedest to prescribe the right steps to get me there, and maybe imparting them to you may save some poor soul who, like me, still hasn’t gotten her shit together.
1. Be On Time.
Probably the most important rule of being an adult. If you have an obligation, whether it’s a really dry Powerpoint lecture on the history of radio, an appointment with a helpless undergrad who doesn’t know the difference between a thesis sentence and hoagie, or even just a first date that you think is going to be super awkward but turns out to be more than you ever expected; Be. On. Time. I leave my apartment at least an hour before I need to be anywhere. Yes, I know this is a little anal retentive, but if you know Boston, you know the green line is as predictable as the weather in the Midwest. Being on time makes people take you seriously and gives the appearance that you’re dependable and organized (even if you’re far from it). It also makes people want to hang out with you more. No one likes to be held up on Ladies’ Night, due to that one friend who is constantly running behind (you all know who you are…). When it comes down to it, would you rather be known as That Girl Who Is Always Obnoxiously Early or That Tardy Fuck. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
2. Dress The Part (day edition).
There is a distinct difference I’ve noticed between undergraduate students and graduate students. Graduate students look like they knew they had to go out in public. Undergraduate students look like someone kidnapped them in their sleep and dropped them off on Commonwealth Ave. I’ll admit, I had my fair share of days when I refused to brush my teeth or put on a bra to go to class. I’m at fault there. My bad. But now that I’m forced to leave the confines of a college campus and trot around a major city to get to class and actually make an impression on my professors so hopefully they’ll hook me up with a sweetass job when I graduate, there is no time for morning breath or boobs bouncing out of place. And overall it creates a sense of pride about how you look. Believe me; I’ve been tempted to take selfies more than ever now that I actually put effort into how I look every day (don’t worry, I refrain. Most of the time.) If you look halfway decent, people will give you a little more respect than they would if you were in your UK Mom sweatshirt and a pair of inside out boxer shorts.
3. Dress The Part (night edition).
I no longer shop in the juniors section for a reason. That reason being that I wouldn’t be caught dead in a neon crop top or shorts that show off my colon. Don’t get me wrong, I love to go out on weekends and hang out at bars until all hours of the night and get drinks (I don’t think that’s a huge surprise to anyone), but there’s no way I’m going to be that classless broad on the dance floor or sitting at the bar who leaves little to the imagination. You don’t have to go out looking like a 16 year old with chlamydia to look good (I’m sure some people would beg to differ, but clearly that’s not my target audience here). Clean it up and don’t look like a slut (by all means, if you’re a slut, go for it, own it, work it, I don’t know your life, but just don’t show it), because it’s hard to take you seriously if a complete stranger can tell that you have a dimple on your left asscheek and a birthmark right above your nipple.
4. Take Responsibility.
I am the queen of excuses. I love to blame other people for everything. Because obviously, nothing is ever my fault. But what I’ve slowly been learning since graduate school started is that usually, most things are my fault. It is no longer my printer’s fault that I didn’t turn in an assignment. It is no longer my alarm clock’s fault that it set itself to the wrong time. It is no longer Starbucks’ fault that the line was so long that it made me late. And it is no longer every single one of my friends’ faults for being so goddamn interesting that I don’t have time to get any of my work done. Just the other day, I mixed up some dates and didn’t show up for an entire shift of work. Was it my supervisor’s fault for not e-mailing me to remind me? No. It was mine because I’m incapable of being organized enough to write down anything correctly in my planner. Step up, own your mistakes, and learn from them. And don’t blame me that you’re wasting time reading this blog post when you should be doing work. Caught you there, didn’t I?
5. Smell Nice.
A small, yet very crucial point of being an adult. My advice: invest in a nice perfume. And no, that doesn’t mean keep wearing that cheap, alcoholic sugar water you bought in 7thgrade from PacSun. When you have your own “scent,” you become recognizable and memorable. And it also covers up all those pheromones and other weird shit your body involuntarily produces (hey, we’re all human). I have people who know when I’m around because of the perfume I wear daily (which could be potentially precarious if I’m trying to avoid someone or become the target of a stalker/serial killer), and it’s always nice to know that you’ve branded yourself in some positive way. After re-reading this paragraph, it seems really stupid. But I’m going to keep it because I like to let everyone know that I smell nice, and want to urge everyone else to smell nice, because the world would probably be a much better place.
6. Read Up.
“Ignorance is bliss” doesn’t really apply anymore. Sure, when you were 17 and didn’t know the first thing about your government or social graces or corporate etiquette, it may have been acceptable, maybe even endearing; “oh, look at her, how cute, she thinks socialism is about how many friends you have.”But in the real world, that shit doesn’t fly. Pick up a newspaper. Read something. Make your brain work. When someone asks you about a current event or a movie or a book or even your opinion about something so inane and remedial like Miley Cyrus’ VMA disaster, you shouldn’t have to say, “oh, well, I don’t know how I feel about that,” as an excuse for not having the slightest clue what to say. Make yourself knowledgeable and in turn, make yourself marketable. The more you know, the more people want to know about you and the more people value your opinion. Unless you’re Miley Cyrus. Then the inverse is true.
7. Shut Up.
Remember that phase when you thought everything was about you? When you would tell awesome stories about your awesome life and how awesome your breakfast was and how awesome your outfit was and how not awesome that girl in your philosophy class was and how not awesome it was when she talked in class because she never had anything awesome to say because it wasn’t as awesome as what you wanted to say, and how awesome it was to hear the sound of your own voice until it became sickening? That phase is over. Shut your mouth and start listening. This has maybe been one of the hardest things for me, because I naturally tend to be a longwinded storyteller and naturally think that everything I have to say is the most revolutionary thing ever, like, “yesterday, I ate this really good burrito.” People have stories. Stories I can learn from, if I only take the time to shut up and listen instead of centering things on myself. It’s about learning from others and realizing that maybe there are some pretty awesome people with some pretty awesome stories that don’t involve you and your now, only semi-awesome life.
It’s okay to fall apart every once in a while. Catharsis, I think is an appropriate word. When you realize that you’ve just moved into your own place, and your shit is all over the floor because your classes have been so busy that there’s no time to tidy, and your suitcase isn’t even unpacked, because you’re still trying to assemble a dresser by yourself, because you refused your parents’ help when they were still in town, and you almost give your dog that you have grown to love with entire heart away because you feel that you’re physically and emotionally incapable of giving her the attention she needs, and you’re sweating through your clothes because your apartment doesn’t have central air and Boston is experience some weird heat wave conveniently as you’re moving in, and your TV doesn’t work because you forgot the remote at home, and your sink leaks and your toilet doesn’t flush, and all you can bear to do is sit on the floor in your underwear and cry and cry and cry and dwell on the fact that no one is making you do this, and that you made this decision and you’re the only one who can make it better. Crying is probably one of the most adult things you can do. When you realize that you’re not invincible and you understand exactly where you’re breaking point is and that you’ve finally reached it, that’s when you are the strongest.
Take it all in. This is what becoming an adult feels like. It’s hard as hell, especially when you don’t know where to begin. Take a breath, and realize you’re not alone. The first week I was here, I stood on the platform at Kenmore station. I boarded the first train that came, which—surprise—wasn’t the train I needed to take. Of course I panicked. I’m in this new city and I’m on a train headed to who knows where and my phone is about to die and I have no idea how to make it back to my apartment. I’m going to die. I am going to die on the street because the stress is too much to bear. I will wander around, looking lost and lonely and someone will find me and take me home and I will never see my family again. I got off at the next stop, and Googled my apartment right before my phone shut off. I had a slight idea of where I was going, but I wasn’t quite sure. I knew that I would make it back to my apartment somehow, as I confidently stepped off the train and looked like I knew exactly what I was doing. And that’s when I realized you don’t have to know where you’re going to walk with purpose.