March is an interesting month for people in their young 20s.
For sophomores and juniors in college, it’s crunch time for figuring out summer plans. For seniors, it’s a month filled with anxiety of what the real world could entail. For recent grads in their first year out, it’s usually an evaluative month where we start thinking, “is this job really what I want to do for the rest of my life? As I move to hitting one year out, am I happy? Am I on track? What the Hell am I doing?”
Well, March is basically upon us and I’ve hit almost eight months in this city and at my current job. March will be a tough month for me, too. My job is a one-year contract, so I’ll have to start thinking about next steps. I wish I had a plan and that I could know what my life will look like after the end of June, but I just don’t. it’s terrifying and liberating all at the same time.
Regardless, I’ve learned a lot. I thought I might leave you all with some advice for those soon to enter the real world, weaving in some tidbits of what my life has looked like since moving here. I don’t have it all figured out, which is entirely the point of this advice; it’s very contradictory, on purpose. No one can really tell you what to do. But I can tell you about my experience.
So, here I go:
If I had to give you one piece of advice for starting in the real world, I’d tell you to say yes to everything.
Say yes to the writing class even though it’s 7pm to 10pm every Monday after a long day at work. Say yes to the volunteering even though you’re exhausted from a full week. Say yes to the church event even though you don’t know anyone. Say yes to the date even though it’s terrifying. Say yes to the dinner opportunity even though you don’t like sushi. Say yes to the happy hour even though you’re awkward. Say yes to catching up with a friend on the phone even though you’re so behind on her life you don’t even know what to ask.
Just say yes.
I’ve made the most incredible friends since moving here, all because I said yes. I showed up when randomly invited. I stayed until the bitter end just because. I pushed through the small talk for weeks on end because I knew eventually we’d get bored of it and finally talk about something real.
I met my boyfriend because I said yes. I took and chance and agreed to get dinner and suddenly life became filled with so much more joy and love.
I found a church because I said yes. A woman invited me and followed up over text. She said I’d love it, that she’d love to see me there. It’s been my church home ever since.
My successes at work are all because I said yes. I agreed to do a “stretch” assignment, and I proved myself. And received a good performance review as a result.
The best way to feel at home in a new place is by simply jumping in and agreeing to it all, so that tons of doors can open and life can pour through.
If I had to tell you one thing to avoid once starting in the real word, I’d tell you to avoid saying yes at all cost. Learn to say no.
I said yes to everything as soon as I started the real world. It was exhausting. Let me walk you through a typical week.
Take an hour workout class. Run to subway. Run from subway to work. Work at maximum speed with no breaks from 8:45 to 7. Eat dinner in five minutes. Go to a three-hour writing class. Take a cab home. Jump in my bed. Fall asleep reading my devotional. Wake up in the middle of the night and reply to a few texts. Go back to sleep.
Take an hour workout class. Run from subway to work. Work at maximum speed with no breaks from 8:45 to 7. Eat dinner in five minutes. Head to a devotional group. Walk home. Reply to some texts. Clean my room a little. Go to sleep.
Take an hour workout class. Run to subway. Run from subway to work. Work at maximum speed with no breaks from 8:45 to 7. Get dinner with my boyfriend. Uber home. Fall asleep reading my devotional. Wake up in the middle of the night and reply to a few texts. Go back to sleep.
Put laundry in. Take an hour workout class. Come home and do work from home from 7:30am to 8:30am while laundry is going and for some peace and quiet for a weekly thought-intensive deliverable due everything Thursday. Run to subway. Run from subway to work. Work at maximum speed with no breaks from 9 to 7. Subway to bible study and eat their home-cooked food. Subway home at 9:30. Arrive home around 10:15. Change my sheets. Reply to some texts. Fall asleep with my phone on my face.
Take an hour workout class. Run to subway. Run from subway to work. Work at maximum speed with no breaks from 8:45 to 7. Convince my boyfriend that instead of doing something fun we should just sit on the couch and think about nothing and fall asleep. Wake up an hour later to my boyfriend calling me lame. Eventually make him leave so I can sleep.
Wake up. Clean room. Clean apartment. Go to coffee shop. Work on writing homework for Monday’s upcoming class. Organize my thoughts for the following week at work. Attempt to write a blog post. Meet friends for dinner. Buy wine. Invite friends over to the apartment. Go out. Get home at 2am and sleep.
Wake up at 10am, not rested. Walk down the street and buy a smoothie. Go get a massage with yet another hope that maybe this time it’ll fix my aching neck. Get ahead on some work for a couple hours at a coffee shop Go to church. Eat dinner with church friends. Subway home. Fall asleep reading my devotional.
R E P E A T
I constantly rush from one thing to the next, always 20 minutes late. I refuse to let go of some of the fun things in my life because it’s the first time I have felt this alive.
It’s also the busiest I’ve ever been, and so every ounce of “free time” feels like it must be filled with something productive and exciting.
But I never begin Monday rested. And I never finish Friday ready for the weekend.
I feel like a hamster continually rolling in its wheel, caught up in the speed of life.
It can be unhealthy, I know it. There are many nights I ate dinner at 9pm, or not at all. Pizza has become a new normal.
But I’m happy.
I’m really happy.
I’m just exhausted.
A coworker told me I’d ever know what tired feels like until I have kids.
A title wave of stress engulfed me as I imagined being more tired than I already am, with infinite more responsibilities.
I should have learned to say no sooner. I really should have. I should have stepped back and read a book every once in a while. I should have stopped rushing through my writing homework. I should have given up trying to work out so much. I should have taken a deep breath at work more. I should have seen my friends a bit more sporadically. I should have just said no and sat on my couch.
But I just didn’t want to.
Exhaustion is the price to pay for finally feeling happy and at home, right?
If I had to tell you the hardest part about the real world, it’s finding balance.
This season of life could very well be the greatest of your life. I know it has been for me. College wasn’t really my thing, but the real world has been amazing.
That doesn’t mean I feel my most balanced, my healthiest. I rarely cook. I clean once a week. I always have too much dirty laundry. I don’t spend enough time by myself. I never sleep more than 7.5 hours in one night…ever.
I really haven’t figured this piece out. I would imagine that if I was working the “classic” 40-hour-a-week job, I could find this. But I know most of the people who read this blog—overachieving, hardworking, succcesful people—don’t ever work 40 hours. They’re lucky to work less than 60.
And that means there is very little time to find balance outside of that.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’m learning to embrace it. I laugh when my laundry basket is over-flowing. I chuckle that I still don’t know where certain daily groceries are located in the market down the street from me. I cherish the moments I finally get to write about my own life instead of children’s lives in developing countries J. You just can’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh it off, try your best, keep waking up and giving it your all. Celebrate the little wins.
You will miss your old friends a lot, but you’ll cope best by really taking the time to invest in people in your new environment.
I haven’t visited everyone I’ve wanted to visit since moving from North Carolina. There are people I’m desperately overdue to visit. But I have a strong community of friends here and I know that’s because I got up, said yes and embraced meeting new people instead of staying at home, lying in bed and texting my home friends. Yes, I miss my home friends SO much, but texting them all the time instead of investing in people here will never allow me to make new friends and feel comfortable in this new stage of life.
I’ve gotten pretty creative about staying in touch with old friends. I usually call them whenever I’m cleaning my room or packing. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to call people as soon as I start doing chores or mundane tasks. It makes those tasks more fun, saves some time and allows me to think all the time about how my friends around the world are doing.
Don’t pull that whole crap that you’re “taking time to invest in yourself” instead of putting yourself out there to meet people and potentially significant others.
People read right through that.
I met my boyfriend during a time of saying that bogus. And thank God I screwed my head back on right and realized he was the greatest person I had ever met and that I absolutely wanted to commit to him.
Of course it’s great to work on yourself, but HELLO, we will always be working on ourselves.
It’s okay to fall in love :).
Buy wine and drink it in your apartment with friends instead of going out every once in a while. It will legit save you $50 [if you live in a big and expensive city].
It’s also way more fun and you can wear pajamas and no one judges you.
Walk whenever you can.
Ha… remember when you had time to do, like, two workout classes in one day?? That goes right out the window in the real world, my friends. My advice would be to walk or stand as often as you possible can. Those little things will make a big difference. And when you do finally get to work out—which, for the record, has become four days a week instead of my usual seven—you won’t feel as groggy because you made an effort to move a little every day.
Use that little time tracker on your iPhone that says how much you’re on your phone.
It says I’m on my phone 4 hours total a day. Most of that time is google maps, OpenTable, my Bible app and Messages, but STILL. Yikes.
Just check it out so you can monitor your time and make sure you’re using it most effectively.
Find a good place to cry near work.
I’m so serious. Everyone has one. It doesn’t matter how much you love your job, you’ll have rough days. And you’ll need to cry. But you have to get creative about where to cry. So I’m just telling you to start thinking strategically now.