Congratulations and good luck to all the young adults taking their first uneasy steps into The Real World during a season marked by graduations, job changes, break ups, promises and moving trucks. Unless you are one of those Ivy League prodigies with a six-figure travel dream job already lined up (which to you I say Congratulations and You Suck), I have some unconventional advice that can best be illustrated by the My Little Pony Bicycle Dude.
I met him at the St. Louis Arch during a girl’s road trip. He sat in our Star Trek style galactic space pod that shot us to the top of the arch. Wearing a My Little Pony t-shirt, he enthusiastically asked if we’d ever been to Pony Con (he was baffled by our ignorance of such a thing) and explained how he was bicycling from Washington D.C. to Dallas, TX. Mind you, he was no more than 19 years old, travelling alone with no more than his backpack and laptop. He didn’t even have a cell phone, just Facebook to communicate when he found wifi.
Yes he was weird, reckless, irresponsible, nerdy, and sure, athletic. Who knows what got him to that point in his life, but clearly he didn’t follow the prescribed blueprint for “Life 101”. And thank god. Can you imagine the stories, experiences and possibilities he gained from that journey? I hope when he reached his destination he got a place to crash, a job or school lined up, and laid. But I don’t worry for him- life gives everyone what they need.
That brings me back to all the young adults just starting to “adult”. Above good grades and decent paychecks, aim for experiences. Don’t always play it safe. Be dynamic. Be weird. Make mistakes, get your heart broken, take that trip. Not all of it will be pretty. You will disappoint people, and that’s okay. Just don’t disappoint yourself.
I promise you, a moment will sneak up in your future and make you think, “how in the world did I make it through all that? If I could survive those crazy years, then surely I can make it through my struggles now.” It’s at that point when this “adulting” thing will be reflexive, easier, gentler. By then you’ll learn five major lessons that move you forward into the rest of your life:
1. Grace. The ability to forgive yourself for all mistakes, stupidity and embarrassment. You’ll look back on the regrettable times with acceptance and humor, not shame.
2. Confidence. The ability to stand by your world view and all decisions based upon it.
3. Humility. The ability to receive counsel from your parents, advisors and bosses. You may not agree with them, but you will respect and consider their opinions concerning your well being.
4. Communication. The ability to speak up for yourself with integrity and without pissing off other people.
5. Security. To be sure of yourself and not chase after anything. Relax, trust yourself, have fun and know what is meant to be will be.
I promise you’re on the way to that point in your life. But for right now, live it up. Because you can never be old and wise if you were never young and crazy. Cheers.