It’s one thing to graduate college, it’s another to move out of the home you grew up in. You’ve never had so much contradicting freedom and responsibilities at the same time before. It’s a bizarre new way of life, and leaving mom and dad’s place can bring to light a lot more challenges than just worrying about not having a job, finding a job, and then realizing you now have to work for the next 40 years.
You’ll quickly learn there’s a reason this process is called a coming of age story. It takes time and experience to learn all the tricks to leading a happy, successful life all on your own.
Case and point: Growing up in Southern Maryland, I concluded that eventually I would have to move away to pursue the writing career I knew my small town could not support. When I was offered my first real job out of college, I packed up my stuff (well, all but a few stuffed-animals) and parked it in the city of brotherly love: Philadelphia. Two jobs later, I’ve found myself moving back to my home town just a year later (in my own apartment, of course).
As it turns out, time and experience have slowly began to show their face. Each month brought a new lesson, and each lesson taught me more than the commonality of the lesson itself. Most things people learn as they grow up have to do with common sense issues. They seem simple, but it takes a little living and learning to crystallize their true meaning. And so it goes –
1. In order to eat good food, you have to cook good food.
This is obvious, yet still difficult to swallow. All those years you took your mother’s cooking for granted will remind you how hard it is to actual prepare a decent meal, every day of the week. Even when you’re tired. And sick. And starving. With some patience, creativity, and the help of a few recipes (whether it be Pinterest or a hand-written explanation from mommy dearest), you’ll notice you’re not bad as you once thought.
2. Don’t put clothing that says “Dry Clean Only” in the washing machine.
It’s not like you put it in the dryer, right? It should be fine. It’s not fine. Only buy expensive, and/or Dry-Clean-Only clothing if you intend to take it to the dry cleaner, because it will get ruined otherwise. Yes, even that Cashmere sweater you had to buy because it was just so soft. Dry cleaners!
3. Learn from your grandparents as much as you can.
When I first moved to Philly, I lived with my 87-year-old Nana for the first month and a half before finding my own apartment. The amount of knowledge, stories, and experience floating around in the head of someone who was born back in the 20s is amazingly overwhelming. Let them share it with you before they can’t anymore.
4. Don’t fall asleep while holding hot chocolate in your lap.
Or any hot, liquid substance for that matter. This one I learned the hard way. It will spill, and it will look like you pooped your pants when you go into a bar afterwards.
5. Measure couches before trying to move them into your new apartment or house.
Some doors are tiny, some doors are large. Some couches are tiny, some couches are large. Don’t waste people’s time (especially those helping you move heavy couches) by trying to squish a large couch through a small door.
6. Your first job out of school is only a stepping stone to your second job, or third job, or fourth job (recession probs).
Learn as much as you can from any employment opportunity you are given, because in the end it’s only teaching you what you need to know in order to move forward with your life.
7. Save money.
Speaking of first jobs, layoffs happen. Parking tickets happen. Surprise trips happen. Help yourself out by being proactive about the unknown and saving a little money from each paycheck. That’s what your savings is there for, to save you from the real world when it bites you in the ass.
8. When dating, avoid anyone who gets jealous easily when they’ve only met you in-person three times, or the opposite: commitment-phobes.
Dating in the real world is a whole new ball game – except the players are the same. Don’t be afraid to ask someone out, give people a shot, or feel real emotions, however be weary of those who aren’t as brave as you.
9. Have faith in the saying, “Winning in the beginning is bad luck.”
You may not feel inexperienced and naive, but you are. Don’t forget that you’re still only in your early 20s (as compared to a whopping 80+ years of knowledge). Your personal life, career, and character are all very vulnerable right now. As long as you embrace that vulnerability, you will be able to fully grow and learn from any mistakes or tough times. Just as your first job is a stepping stone, your 20s are a stepping stone to a very important part of your life. Have fun, but learn what you need to now in order to be where you want to be later.
10. It’s OK to spoil yourself, but remember to pay your bills on time.
For the first time in your life, you can go out and buy that $300 bag and nobody can say shit to you. That money was hard-earned and only YOU gets to decide how to spend it – just don’t splurge stupidly. With the exception of student loans, getting in debt young is setting yourself up for failure when you’re older. Use that smart, college-educated brain of yours to manage the money you have and refrain from giving your rent money to Marc Jacobs.