When I was 14, I went to Paris for the first time. My parents paid for my entire undergraduate education at an expensive private school. I still owe my Mom thousands of dollars for all the traveling I did when I studied in Rome. This isn’t to say I’m entitled. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. My parents came to America in their late teens with a smaller suitcase than I would use for a weekend getaway. Both put themselves through college and beyond. Their hard work and support however, gave me a luxury – the opportunity to be anxious and disillusioned.
Perhaps because I know they will be there to catch me when I fall, I’ve developed a fear of trying. It’s pretty cowardly if you think about it. I frequently open 40 Safari tabs of jobs I’m going to apply for…later. I later bookmark these tabs, you know, just in case my computer crashes. I later do nothing.
When I was 16, I was under the impression that if I studied and worked hard, I would get into a good school. This would translate into a great job. Along the way, my life would be a romantic comedy that would end with a proposal and a puppy. Eventually I’d have 2.5 kids, though I swore I would never drive a minivan. I would love my wonderful career with my favorite coffee cup and fabulous heels to match my equally fabulous outfits. I was wrong. I frequently trip soberly in even a low heel. I’m more comfortable in jeans than a suit. I’ve dated a series of poorly chosen men and I have no idea who I want to become.
I did everything right. Right? I studied business at a top private university. I had three internships at well-known reputable companies. I dated what I considered at the time to be older and wiser men.
While I try to live my life with no regrets, I’d like to share some wisdom I accumulated over the years:
1. Pick a major you like.
I have a business degree. I took accounting, finance, and operations even though what I really wanted to study was advertising or creative writing. Most of my classes were a requirement. There were, maybe, a handful of classes I actually liked. I graduated with honors but even two years later, I don’t remember much. I studied hard and learned how to get an A on a test but not how to apply concepts to the real world. I have a bitter habit from blaming my university for my unhappiness but the truth is – why didn’t I leave? I knew I wanted to do something creative. I wish I had the courage to switch majors or even switch schools. So when I see positions like copywriter or graphic designer, I wouldn’t feel so under qualified. I have news for you – your friends that studied English because they like literature or communications because it didn’t require math? Yeah – they’re going for the same jobs you are and they are just as likely to get the job you want. So pick a major you like. The hours you spend at the library won’t seem as dreadful and you’ll be happier overall.
2. Stop trying to find love in bars.
As soon as I turned 21, I started frequenting the bars of Boston. I thought this could be MY version of How I Met Your Mother. I’ll be female Ted and all the lovable hijinks will lead me to “the one.” Here’s what I discovered – It’s really hard to find a meaningful relationship somewhere with loud music and copious amounts of alcohol. I could rarely hear what the other person was saying. At swanky bars, the men all dressed exactly the same. If not in a suit, the rest all had the same matching Ralph Lauren button down and haircut. Amongst the hipster set, there was always one guy who tried to be different. He’s so sensitive I thought, with his argyle sweater, beret and mustache. Wearing a beret to a sports bar doesn’t make you more interesting than everyone else. It makes you the asshole that wears a beret… to a sports bar.
3. Leave a dead-end job sooner rather than later.
There’s nothing wrong with working a retail job or serving coffee at a local shop, if that’s what you want. But if you have a college degree and you want something more – what are you waiting for? My first post collegiate job was working for a technology retail giant. When I started, I sipped the proverbial Kool-Aid. When I was told I was a unique delicate snowflake that was hand picked from the masses to assist in the greater good, I believed it. But when I started coming to work feeling like a robot and my promotion felt more like a punishment, I should have left then and there. Don’t waste time in a job that you don’t like and don’t believe in. You’ll never know what you want out of a career if you don’t try something new.
4. Sometimes your parents are right.
There will come a point when you realize that your parents aren’t just parents, they’re people too. Hopefully this won’t be because you walk in on them having sex. That’s unpleasant for everyone. But when they give you advice, you should actually listen. They may not always be right, but they’ve lived and experienced more than you have. My mother told me I’m staying too long in retail and I could have saved myself months of unhappiness. She also warned me about the boy that would break my heart. Do yourself a favor and hear them out. If nothing else, it’ll give you a different perspective.
5. Don’t date your co-workers.
It’s rarely ever worth it. It’s unpleasant to see your ex at work every day and even more unpleasant when you have to work with him and his new girlfriend, together. People who know will give you pity stares. Nothing ever stays secret so unless they’re the one, stop it at flirtation. Make friends, not lovers of your co-workers. You’ll thank me later.
6. Get off Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.
What could possibly be so captivating that when I’m talking, you are relentlessly checking your news feed? Life doesn’t happen in your phone. I’ll sum it up for you. 25% of your friends are getting married. 25% are having babies. 25% are out partying and taking hundreds of pictures to prove it and the remaining 25% are putting up inspirational quotes because life is a blessing and they are about to burst with happiness. At least that’s what it’s going to feel like to you. So next time you’re eating a Halloween size bag of candy, think again, and stay off the media sites. They won’t make you feel better and neither will inspirational quotes. Go for a jog, read a book, or apply for a job you’ve been thinking about. Start living your life outside of social media.
I often wonder how my life could be different if I knew then what I know now. However, I also recognize that we think the grass is always greener on the other side. Who knows where I would be if I switched majors or started my job search sooner. Regardless, it’s time to get my shit together. My dream job won’t just fall in my lap. It’s called trial and error for a reason. The life I want won’t start unless I do something, ANYTHING about it. There are only so many TED talks I can watch, naps I can take, and excuses I can make.