The Real World is a mixture of contradictions. It‘s freedom from authority, but you’re stuck at your cubicle. It’s having the independence to buy groceries, but no clue of what to do with them. It’s finally making a steady salary, but racking up credit card debt with all those low-key “treats” to yourself.
Trust me — I’ve been living in this world of irony (Adulthood) for almost three years now. Even though I can’t believe it, and I don’t feel like I’ve really figured any of it out yet, I do wish someone warned me about a couple of things when I first started out.
Like how much money would be taken out of my paycheck in taxes.
Just kidding. But seriously — take it from One Confused Adult to another: shit’s about to get weird. Here’s the advice I wish I could tell myself three years ago from Right Now.
EMBRACE THE WEIRD
When I graduated from college, I thought that life was going to be Perfect. Normal. Predictable.
Everything in my life had been building up to these moments, right?
And, I had went through a bunch of changes before — entering college, studying abroad, traveling for a few months in Australia all alone. I figured I had understood the feelings that come along with Big Changes: the beginning sucks for a bit, but then you start to figure it out.
I quickly learned that Adulthood takes much longer to “figure out” than anything else I’d ever done before.
I wish that I had mentally prepared myself with the knowledge that things were going to be weird (read: hard and confusing) for a while. That I wasn’t going to “get it” right away.
Working is super different than school. Some days are boring as shit, but you still have to sit there and pretend to Be Busy. Some days are going to be so intense that you don’t think you’ll make it to the end. And some days are — well (almost) perfect.
If you approach Adulthood with that mindset, things won’t be as much of a surprise.
YOUR CONCEPT OF TIME IS SUPER DIFFERENT
Before entering the Working World, your time horizon was quite short. You lived based on semesters. Your year started in September and ended in June. The longest you’ve really had to deal with any sucky person with authority was for a few months.
Enter Real Life, and your time horizon is much further out. While people at work are planning for a product to launch next year, you’re thinking — NEXT YEAR?! Where will I even be in a year?
Things move much slower.
This took me a long time to get used to. Sometimes, I still get a panic attack when people plan years in advance. I can’t even sign a year-long lease calmly (what if I want to move to Bali in January?!) — let alone think about shit for work that’s going to happen next July.
Take a deep breath. Detach yourself a little bit. Just do your best In This Moment, and stop freaking out about the future.
EVERYONE IS STILL FIGURING IT OUT
Kilimanjaro Joe who sits at the cubicle next to you and is constantly bragging about his Cool Projects, and Awesome Weekend Trips, and Amazing Girlfriend has no clue what he’s doing either.
One of the biggest surprises to me when I entered the Real World was that everyone is still trying to figure it out. Truly. People who look like they’re super put together, and have all the coolest shit and always know what they’re talking about are confused too.
They might even be just as confused as You.
If you start viewing people with that frame of mind, it makes getting through this weird time a lot easier. It makes talking about what you’re going through a lot less embarrassing.
You’re not the only one going through this. You never will be. Even if people don’t talk about it — be the one to start the conversation. Everyone — your peers, your boss, your parents even — will be relieved that you did.
The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with is that it does get better. It really does.
I remember the first 6 months of entering the Real World truly sucked for me. They were hard and confusing and weird. One second I would be super happy and excited, the next I was curled up in a ball on my bed sobbing uncontrollably. No joke.
These reasons are what encouraged me to start writing in the first place. Growing up is weird, and everyone is still figuring it out. You’re not alone.
And, if you feel alone — just know that you have Me at least.
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And check out more Adulting stories @ my blog, On Adulting.