1. Don’t expect to have everything figured out.
Some of you know exactly what you want, some of you have no clue, and some of you are probably somewhere in between. The thing is, no matter where you are on that spectrum, chances are, life isn’t going to go completely as planned. For better or for worse, when you graduate with a degree, you don’t automatically graduate to “Functioning Adult” status. Growing up is hard and you’re going to have to learn a lot before you begin to feel like you’re getting there. But don’t expect to know it all, for you will be sorely disappointed.
2. Save your money.
If you didn’t have a savings account in college, get one now. No, stop reading this right now, and call your banker. In fact, whether you have a job or not, call your banker, a family member or mentor with great financial knowledge, etc., and set up an appointment. Whether you have debt or not, are going to just be getting by or not, figure out a plan for how to save (and possibly invest) money, even if it may not start immediately. Also, get a realistic budget and actually force yourself to follow it, even if it means hiding money you put away in secret accounts only your mother has the password to. And above all, stay the hell away from unnecessary expenditures. Questions to ask yourself before purchases: “Do I need it? Can I afford it? How much would I have to work to earn it? Would this money be better spent or saved for something I want in the future?”
3. Be intentional about your friendships.
You’re probably going to find out very quickly that you were friends with a lot of people because of close proximity. Ah, such is life. It is the tale of how networks, work. That being said, time, as you will find out, is your most precious resource. If you’re keen on your solid friendships, you’re going to have to make the time for it. Also, get used to the fact that your friends are going to change, as are you. And you may find that you need to let some of them go. Hopefully, not too many. But don’t be afraid to make new ones. Be that person who actually meets people at a bar, gym, event, etc. and CALLS them to hang out. Yes friends, it’s back to that awkward first day at a new school.
4. Don’t take anyone’s advice on what you should do with a romantic relationship.
A lot of people are going to tell you what to do about YOUR relationship (if you have one). In the end, do what’s best for you (in the long-run). End of story.
5. Don’t settle into your life.
It’ll be easy for some of you, especially those of you who got “the job, the apartment, the city” to think that you have arrived. But you haven’t, not yet. In some ways, if you don’t get everything (or anything) that you want, you’ll be forced to pick yourself up and make something out of nothing. And yes, it’ll also be easy to get caught up in everyone else around you, and believe that things are just “falling into place” for them. Firstly, I want you to know that you shouldn’t believe everything you see – even the things with perfect Valencia filters and the most witty captions. Secondly, I need to you to ask yourself ever so often, “Is this what I want? Do I want more? Do I want different?” Because yes, you can change at any time. But right now, I think, is when you can do it with the fewest scars.
5. Read a lot.
Oh, the things you could learn! Read about things, and places, and careers you’re interested in. Read for fun. Read to improve yourself in any area of your life. Read when you have the time. Read the views of those who you disagree with, and read about the most obscure topics. And you’ll find yourself engrossed in hobbies that you didn’t even know you liked (or existed).
6. Ask lots of questions.
It’s always better to ask than to not ask, no matter what the topic is, and no matter how foolish it may seem at the time. There are people who know so much more than you do, whether it’s about travel or spending or saving, or how to meet people, or just about anything. This doesn’t mean that you have to take every single person’s advice. But you can always listen and you can always learn. And don’t forget to ask if you can ever help someone, and actually mean it. (Fun fact: my first job out of college – once law school went to the dungeon of failed dreams – came out of an email to a blogger I followed in Chicago. I simply asked if she ever had any time to meet and if she needed any assistance with her upcoming event. I wasn’t expecting anything and in the end, got so much. And she still remains one of my best mentors and a good friend.)
7. Take lots of chances.
You might be moving across the country or the world, where you don’t know a soul and you’re not even sure what the next thing is. You might just be driving a few hours to a place you’re familiar with. You might even be staying put. But wherever you are – do something different. Because, guess what? You’re probably going to fail a little (or a lot). But you might as well fail from trying something new than not trying at all. And I assure you, the most wonderful things come from the most unexpected places. So let life throw you a curveball or two and show it what you’ve got. (More fun facts: That job I got with my first boss, well the startup failed as many startups do, and guess who had to go back to the drawing board? This girl! Trust me, failure is not the worst thing that can happen. And I wouldn’t give back any of those disappointments for a life that was easier. It’s made me have thick skin, determination, resourcefulness, and unceasing gratitude to so many people who are behind me.)
8. Learn to stand up for yourself now.
The thing is I know you’re scared. And you’re going to be in a lot more situations that will make you scared. But you can’t let people run all over you. Sooner or later, you will either be the person who takes crap from people or you won’t. But if you do, it will manifest itself in so many ways that can build resentment. Better to live with the consequences of standing up for yourself, than to continue being in the shadows of life. Because the latter will always will lead to regret. But also note that being assertive, is not the same as being an asshat.
9. Never forget and always remember the little things.
Don’t forget a lot of things. Like calling your mother (and father) to ask how they are doing. Don’t forget the simple lessons that college taught you, whatever they may be. Don’t forget the lessons before that, in your hometown, in your childhood, when you were just a young child. Like being kinder than you think is necessary even though adulthood will show you just how unrewarding that can be. But do it anyway because you are making the world a better place. And always remember that if you’re lucky enough to have a place called “home,” you’re luckier than scores of people on this planet. So make a home with new strangers wherever you are.
10. “Always believe that what is meant to be, will happen.”
I vividly remember the last day I walked across my campus. It was about a week and a half after I graduated and I was getting ready to move to Chicago, supposedly for the hope of law school. But everything was still uncertain. I ran into the provost at the time, a student favorite, who I had got to know over my four years. I must have looked how I felt that day – confused, uncertain, and afraid. And she said to me in the way she always did – calm and confident, with an encouraging smile that would turn into a laugh; she said, “Always believe that what is meant to be, will happen.”
It is a cliché and an awful one at that. But in the many confusing, uncertain, tear-filled, anxious, dark, and fearful days I’ve had; in the many that are still to come after you leave a certain security with which college affords you, I’ve found these words to be awfully, terribly, and thankfully, true.