It's taken me two years since throwing a tasseled, ugly polyester hat in the air to learn how to put together something resembling a budget and also how to vacuum somewhat consistently. But it only took until after my graduation dinner (will full family in tow) to realize life would never be the same -- and was going to get a lot more complicated. This was evidenced by the following questions from various family members:
-"So what are you going to do with your life?" (Plastics? Haha, I'm so clever!)
-"How many jobs have you applied to?" (None.)
-"We can talk about you paying rent once you get back home." (Wait what?)
And so on, and so forth.
Nobody ever explained to me how tough it was going to be getting on my own two feet (in a recession), and secretly I'm glad about that. I don't think I would have had the courage to pick up and move with DC with no job lined up and zero savings (but a sweet new credit card!). I'm not sure I would have delved into romantic experiences that, in the end, reminded me of that time dad brought me on my first roller coaster and I cried the entire time (it was the runaway train in Disney, terrifying). These experiences definitely sucked. But they gave me a backbone and molded me into who I am.
In case you'd prefer to learn lessons the easy way, here's what I've got so far:
1. A life on your own costs more than just rent. There's renter's insurance, and regular insurance, and maybe dental insurance, and you'll probably want vision insurance just to try it out, and then don't forget metro costs and groceries and… well, maybe you should be nicer to your parents so they'll at least keep you on the family phone plan.
2. That guy IS a winner. He says he wants to take you to Vegas because you're his lucky charm? Sounds too good to be true! Well, it probably is, because where are the tickets girl, WHERE ARE THE TICKETS?! Pay no attention to what he says. It is all in what he'll actually do.
3. I've been on way more than my share of job interviews (I'm really awkward in every professional setting, re: setting office microwave on fire) and I've never been asked what my GPA was. I offered that information readily, so there is a fair chance I didn't let the interviewer get to that critical question. But now that I've been out working, I realize it's more your personality, willingness to learn and sheer attitude that's going to get you the job. Not something-point-something.
4. You can't change anyone, except for possibly yourself (and have you tried that? It's really, really hard). This isn't because you're not a trained psychologist, or because you aren't trying hard enough. It's a law of humanity. People are the way they are. So, if the guy your dating sucks, he'll continue to do so. Actually, it'll probably just get worse.
5. When it comes to friendships, nothing is stronger than deep roots. The older I get, the closer I become to the people I've known for the longest amount of time. There's nothing like bumping into people you went to middle school with (with the exception of the rude girls -- ignore them) and get into a conversation as though no time has passed. The more I build my future, the more I think about and reconnect with people from my past. It's ironic, because I couldn't wait to get out of my small suburban town and never thought I'd look back. But now when I do, I am so thankful for everyone I've grown up with.
6. People you know are going to get married. The weirdest part about this is that it isn't weird at all. It just starts to happen. (FYI side note: attending weddings is expensive, being in a wedding party is even worse. Re: budget).
7. Time starts to go faster. Before you know it, the weeks start to fly and you're shocked to realize that you're two years out of college. You count it down to the month even, and yep, you're two years out. How did this happen? Why is my University sending me envelopes in the mail asking me for money? Don't they realize I'm "just getting started"?! Wait -- no, I'm not. I should probably start giving them money. Next year, I'll start next year.
8. The office gossip scene is worse than the high school cheerleading squad. You're there to work, get paid, and be professional (with exception of occasional microwave fire). It's probably best not to tell anybody anything you wouldn't want passed around the office four times, and then to your boss. Head's up.
9. Don't date coworkers. (Also applies to roommates and immediate neighbors. Probably best not to date active duty Marines who are also your coworkers. That's a personal golden rule of mine, learned very much the hard way).
10. You're not as young as you used to be, but you're still in that grey post-college era where you can get away with most adult-inappropriate behavior. So live, learn, try everything, make mistakes, go broke, take yourself to Vegas with your best friends, never vacuum, throw weeknight parties and call in sick on Fridays because of "allergies." And talk to everyone you know who is older and ask them everything and anything you can, because you'll learn from that too -- and you won't have to do any of the messy trial-and-error yourself.
But, when you can, do the messy trial-and-error stuff yourself. It's so much better that way.