When graduation looms, and the hopes and dreams you have for a distant future are suddenly not so distant anymore, it is easy to get distracted by the here and now. In graduation speeches they tell us we will go on to do great things, that by using our education, we will have an opportunity to be the best versions of ourselves. They tell us we will succeed at the top of our fields. About a year and a half ago I sat in an audience of fellow graduates from my major and was told inspiring things about my future. Things that, in the surrealness and ceremony of the event, I believed. So much happens, and between reconnecting with family members, saying goodbye to close friends, and reminiscing on the crazy years, it is easy to get swept up. And it is okay to get swept up, for a little bit at least.
There were a few plans made for after graduation, but nothing concrete. I believed that because I had a degree, I was in better shape to get a job. That by being a “recent graduate,” companies and opportunities would come my way. This was wide-eyed optimism, and things did not play out the way I would have liked.
As many recent graduates do, I moved back home. Back to the safety net of my hometown I went, with a stubborn will and a promise to myself that I would only be there for a couple of months before going out into the world and truly becoming an adult. All of a sudden, the real world hit me like a wave crashing before I had a chance to scramble for air. I had to pay bills before graduation, but when your parent comes up to you and demands not only all future phone payments but rent for living in their house, it can become very overwhelming. I proceeded to get a job at an after-school childcare facility, utilizing next to no knowledge from the previous four years. For a while, the idea of settling ruled my life. I settled for a job I was overqualified and not as interested in. I settled for living with family instead of taking a risk and relying only on myself. I settled in sacrificing a social life for my new best friend, Netflix. I was not “adulting.” I was floating.
Fast-forward a year later, and I am finally getting to a place where I can really call myself an adult. I finally stopped floating, sank for a little bit, and proceeded to build myself a life raft and made sail to the real world. Without the obnoxious metaphors, this means that I am now living on my own in a new city, and pursuing opportunities that relate to my future job goals. I wish to share some things I have learned along the way:
Money management is the most important thing
If I had thought about something as simple as money management a year ago, the stress levels would have been drastically different. Of course, everyone is in a different situation when it comes to money. I was lucky enough to have some support during college, slowly being weaned off so that when I graduated, my family made it clear that every single bill was my responsibility. Thrumming with the excitement of being completely financially independent, I made some choices for those finances that looking back, were not the smartest. Saving is extremely important, especially if you are planning a move. I convinced myself that I would only need to save about $1000 before my move to Portland, and I was SO wrong! I thought that the job search would last only a couple weeks before settling into a job that covered not only rent, but transportation, food, and fun. It ended up taking longer to find a job than I thought.
The money burned through quickly; a couple of mental breakdowns made an appearance, and I finally sat down and made a budget. There are many ways to do this, but essentially, calculate the amount of money you make each month, subtract all bills and necessities from that total, and give yourself a maximum budget for non-essentials. It may be helpful to keep an updated list of expenditures to make sure you don’t go over. Personally, I like to keep a small notebook in my purse and write down my purchases throughout the day.
Cooking at home is the way to a full stomach on an empty wallet
Food is expensive, but infinitely more expensive if eating out is your primary method of consumption. There was a time when I was eating two to three meals out PER DAY. If you factor in the cost (at $10 per meal), that is $20 a day, $140 a week, and $560 a month for food. By buying groceries, you can cut costs between $100-300 per month depending on what you buy and how frugal you are with purchases. I ended up saving upwards of $300 per month by finding joy in cooking and eating in.
The great thing about living in an era where recipes and inspiration are only a click away is that you have an endless amount of resources to help with cooking and eating in. Check out LivingOut.Social’s fun recipes here.
Maintain important friendships
It is easy to tell someone to keep in touch, and it is an entirely different thing to actually keep in touch. This is the period where you find out who your true friends are because everyone is going in another direction. When I left college, I did not have enough fingers to count the amount of people I considered close friends. Taking a look back, I can now say that number has reduced to about four to five close relationships that I have been able to maintain. These are the relationships that matter, the ones where you look back and realize it wasn’t so difficult because you treasure having a person in your life. There is no need to mourn the loss of friendships you once thought important, because even though they were important to you at the time, they were meant to be there for only one period of your life. And with the ample availability for communication these days, there is no excuse not to stay in contact if it is really something you want to do. Even subconsciously, you may begin to realize what you value in relationships and who fits the bill. It also may be time to take a step back and determine those relationships that might not be so healthy, and make a decision to end them. This is the time where you are shaping the person who you will be for the rest of your life, and I hope that you value yourself enough to keep only those around you who build you up rather than tear you down. Having people in your life to turn to makes everything so much easier to deal with.
Prioritize your time
With jobs, physical activity, and all the stresses that come from adulting, it is important to have an honest look at the way you are spending your time. A couple of months ago, I got up from the couch and realized I had just spent eight hours watching television. EIGHT HOURS. When I tried to convince myself that it was okay to binge once and awhile, I remembered that I had spent the previous day doing the exact same thing. I also had a to-do list with so many things left to check off. Now I have a deal with myself: when the list is done, my reward is relaxing on the couch, not the other way around. Prioritizing and getting the boring adult stuff done first may not be fun, but it will definitely lower stress levels and lead to a more relaxing and renewing chill session on the couch or whatever it is you like to do for fun.
This is so important. The shift from the college environment to the one of real adulthood is most dramatic in this category. College was a four-year excuse to eat what you wanted, microwave everything, and blame a lack of exercising on a need for studying. Wake up in time to actually have a morning, eat breakfast, connect with people, get outside, and prioritize yourself in a way that makes for a more healthier you, however you choose to define it.
Define yourself and style
As said, this is the time of our lives when we are defining who we are going to be for the rest of our lives. While that may seem daunting to some, it is something that will come as natural as breathing. There were many times throughout college where I found myself blending in with the communities I became a part of, and it became hard to tell if I liked something for real, or just because everyone around me did. Since then, I have slowly begun cultivating my personality without the influence of everyone. Now is the time to decide how you like to decorate your space, how you like to spend your free time, and what defines you.
Wherever you are at with your adulting, there is one thing to never forget: There are so many other people around you struggling to adult too. I have only just began the process of adulting and was very glad at the amount of resources available to me once I made the decision to stop moping and stressing and actually look. Stay present, stay healthy, and do your best!