It’s been a year and a half since I’ve turned 25, and to be completely honest, I’m still trying to figure out this whole adult thing. I look at wide-eyed 21-year-olds getting ready to graduate and I reassure myself, “okay, I have my shit together.” But then moments later I scroll past a twenty-something wife and mom-to-be on Instagram and I think, “why am I not there?” Social media is critical like that. One second you’re patting yourself on the back for your accomplishments and the next you’re overanalyzing the seemingly perfect lives on your feed.
It wasn’t until I hit the quarter century club that I began to realize that things aren’t always as they seem. I’m not married, with a toddler jumping on my unbelievably clean Pottery Barn sofa, because I spent three years focusing on myself after college. I started my dream career. I moved to a new city. I made new friends. I fell in love with new hobbies. I traveled.
I also grew apart from friends, new and old. I broke down when things didn’t go as planned. I accumulated more credit card debt then I’d like to admit. I stopped doing the new hobbies that I grew to love for no reason other than that I got lazy. I felt really confident and content, but also really insecure. But most importantly, I realized that this was all normal. That this is life. This is adulting.
So yes, eager 21-year-olds, life after college is a confusing mix of magic and manic, but here’s what I learned along the way;
1) Binge drinking isn’t cool. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good margarita (or two). But pounding shot after shot just because you can is not cute, and neither is the gnarly hangover that’s sure to follow.
2) Credit card debt is not worth the extra pair of shoes. I learned this the hard way, and I’m still paying for it (literally).
3) You don’t have to say yes to everything. If you don’t want to go to dinner, don’t. You may make some people mad along the way, but it’s your life. They’ll get over it.
4) Exercise is more important than just losing weight. As you get older, you realize that exercise becomes more important than the number on the scale. It’s absolutely vital for your health, your energy, and your sanity. So as Nike would say, just do it.
5) Staying home can be just as fun as going out. I dread the nights that I have to get ready and be at a bar past 9pm. But you know what, staying home with homemade Moscow mules and takeout sushi can be just as fulfilling. Netflix and chill-out, you’re getting old.
6) Family is everything. The older I get, the more time I spend at home. Not because I want a free meal or free tank of gas, but because I genuinely enjoy being around my family— and that’s what really matters.
7) Everyone in their twenties starts at the bottom. I used to get really down on myself when I compared my salary to some of my peers’— and I’d be lying if I said I still don’t. I started at the bottom of the totem pole and having to claw my way up can be discouraging, but you have to start somewhere (right?). I try to remind myself that I am one of few twenty-somethings who can say that they love their career, and that’s priceless.
8) Not all friendships last forever. When I graduated college, I was convinced that 13 of my closest sorority sisters would be standing beside me on my wedding day. As your values change, your relationships will be tested, and growing apart is inevitable. Now? I’m down to 5 bridesmaids. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take quality over quantity.
9) You’re not the only one with anxiety. When I had my first anxiety attack I felt so disconnected. It wasn’t until recently that some girlfriends and I gushed about our personal experiences with anxiety and I realized I’m not alone. Being able to open up and talk about it is huge, and I’m forever thankful for those ladies.
10) Your happiness is key. It’s okay to be selfish once in a while. Do what makes you happy and do it unapologetically.