No one gives us a manual on how to live.
Once you're done with school, you're thrown out into the fray of life with a few words of advice. And that's if you're lucky enough to have a role model.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I've made my share of mistakes and learned some hard lessons in my first years of adult life. Challenge forces us to grow.
We all have unique situations, but I want to share some universal things I've learned to save you some grief, money, heartbreak, and sanity. Ready?
If you move, make friends as soon as you can.
If you've decided to relocate (or if your friends move away), it's important to start thinking about making new friends as soon as possible. Seriously.
If you delay the process, it becomes more difficult. Not because other people are changing, but because you'll be dealing with the negative mental consequences of having not made friends.
Depression from loneliness will happen to anyone, regardless of your individual tolerance for being alone. Even the most well-adjusted among us can become miserably lonely fairly quickly.
It's more difficult to make friends as an adult since you lose the shared experiences of school and extracurricular activities. However, it's far from impossible. You just need to be more creative and put more effort into it.
Look for local clubs, league sports, Meetup.com groups, whatever. Even sitting a bar during the day works well. Put yourself out there.
If you're really feeling adventurous, start your own groups and try to bring people that you vibe with together.
Don't neglect the process of making friends. We're social animals. If you're frequently stuck being alone when you'd rather be with others, your mental health will suffer.
If there's a single point you take away from this entire guide, let it be this one. Take all of the time you need to make friends. Don't skimp on it.
Take it seriously, but don't let work rule your life.
Unless you're an entrepreneur, you are not your work.
If you got fired right now, all of your current work would mean nothing to you instantaneously. Furthermore, if you don't have any hobbies, interests, or friends outside of work, your employer would be stealing your entire life too.
You should care about your work, but compartmentalize it knowing that it could be gone tomorrow.
If you're having trouble accepting this, think about the last time that one of your coworker left their position. How many days did it take you and your peers to get over it?
Find some hobbies and interests that you enjoy, and stick with them.
There are countless good reasons to explore as many possibilities as you can in life. Having diverse hobbies and interests...
- ...makes you a more interesting person.
- ...can expand your worldview.
- ...can open pathways to new friends through shared passions.
- ...improves your self-esteem as you improve in your hobbies.
- ...improves your small-talk with strangers.
- ...gives you a stronger feeling of purpose in life.
- ...gives you a potential avenue to monetize someday.
...and that's just a few I can think of.
Once you find some activities you enjoy, commit to the ones that you find the most potential in. You don't have enough time in your life to become an expert in every single activity, so prioritize them.
But remember, if you're in your 20s now, you have a long time left to try new things. You can become skilled in a new hobby every few years. Just get past the initial indecision and focus on a couple hobbies at once so you can start improving your life today.
Take things a day at a time.
Millennials are the instant gratification generation. We got everything that we wanted with very little effort or time spend on our part.
Everything worth having in this life takes planning and effort. Remember that.
The trick is to always improve a little bit each day in the form of learning, exercising, practicing, etc. Consistency is key to getting things worth having.
Don't get discouraged if your personal goals seem far away. We have a lot of life left to live.
Watch your spending.
It's never been easier to waste your money than it is now. With just one click, you can have all of your "dreams" shipped directly to your front door.
Most small purchases are a form of comfort and convenience, which can be fine if you're mindful and consider your income. However, if you're spending $50+ a day on a smorgasbord of Starbucks, Indian takeout, Halo Top, and Amazon Go, you should rethink your spending habits.
Buying convenient food at the grocery store adds up too, especially if you shop at expensive grocery stores. (On that note, don't be afraid to buy generic brand food. It probably came from the exact same factory that produced the shinier package.)
Luxury adds up too, especially on apartments, clothing, and hotels.
I'm not telling you to become a monk and have no fun. Just become more aware of your spending habits, and think about if what you're buying is truly beneficial to you in the long run.
Spend your money wisely. It can either free or enslave you.
Don't neglect your family.
Your family may have been lame when you were a teenager, but remember: you have a relatively short time left with them.
If you move away from your hometown, you won't see them in person too often, so remember to show that you care somehow. Phone calls, video chat, texts, cards, flowers...whatever your style is.
Once someone's gone, they're gone. There's no guarantee that anyone will be around next year. (Or on their next birthday, even if it's right around the corner...as I just learned.)
If you become depressed, don't be afraid to seek help.
Modern life is difficult. Years of evolution didn't prepare us the bizarreness of present-day society, so it's not unusual if life is bringing you down. I guarantee you that more people are dealing with depression than you think.
But even though it's common, it's dangerous: when left untreated, depression slowly destroys any motivation that you may have to resolve your situation, whatever your situation may be.
I'll admit that I've dealt with it myself. I was depressed from late 2017 to mid 2018. I lost friendship and relationship opportunites and a huge amount of personal time to it...
If you're depressed, seek professional help (or help from a very trusted, trustworthy friend). Start with baby steps, and try to make some progress every day.
In my case, it was slow steps to get out, but eventually I grabbed the bull by the horns, put in the effort to fix what was getting me down, and got out.
Nothing will kill your passion and motivation as quickly as depression. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.
Think about when you want to settle down, and be mindful of decisions that push you towards it.
Once you settle down, your decision isn't easily reversible (unless you're the type that can flee the country with no remorse).
When making any decisions and commitments, think about their long-term consequences on your life. For example:
- If you get a dog, you trade much of your freedom and mobility for the companionship of the dog.
- If you accept a work-intense, but high paying job and live at a high standard, you've trapped yourself with your lifestyle.
- If you take out a mortgage on a house, you can still change your mind, but it's likely that you won't since you'll become emotionally invested in it.
- If you're a man who gets divorced, be prepared for a maximum of 18 years of financial hardship.
I'm not saying that you should delay or avoid settling down altogether. I've got several friends from high school and college who are already married, and they seem happy with their choices. Just take the time to decide when it's right for you.
You can afford to be more “irresponsible” now than any other time in your life.
If you're 38 years old with two children, a spouse, a mortgage, a responsibility-laden job, and parents in hospice, you won't make any friends when you announce a three month sabbatical to Indonesia.
On the other hand, if you don't have anything tying you down, no one really cares if you take that killer diving trip.
You might have some trouble jumping back into the workforce, but not nearly as much trouble as you would if you were in your 30s or beyond.
People are exactly the same no matter where you go.
Hate to break it to you, but if you’ve got issues with the people around you, you’d better start accepting people for who they are and learn to deal with them. Quickly.
I traveled the world last year and can confirm that high school never ends. People are exactly the same no matter what continent they’re on and what language they speak.
Perspectives, traditions, cultures, and viewpoints are change between nations, but these things don’t affect the human nature below. They’re a result of it.
As a corollary, the world won’t change for you. If you’re unhappy, you've got to change yourself (or suffer from being bull-headed).
- If you have the means, get out of debt and stay out.
- If you feel uncomfortable doing something, you're (probably) doing something good for yourself long-term.
- Don't suppress your pain too often.
- Always drink at least 2L of water before you go to bed plastered.
- Remember the people who matter.