10 Things I've Learned My First 10 Years Out of College
Yup. You read that correctly. As of this month, I will have been out of college for 10 years.
Yes, I am now old. I'll be checking out the early bird special for dinner today and going to bed at a decent hour so I can be up in the morning.
Well... technically I graduated in 2009 because I was in a five year program. However, that 5th year was a year long internship where I worked full-time and didn't step foot into a classroom except MAYBE once or twice. That internship became my full time job after that year was over and... it was basically the same. By the time I graduated, it felt like just a formality. Therefore, I always see 2008 as my "graduation."
Seeing everyone's graduation photos from the last couple of weeks (more will be coming since here in Chicago school doesn't get out until June!) and going back to the neighborhood where I went to college a couple of weekends ago, it's made me quite nostalgic for those days. I had a lot of fun those four years on campus, but I also realize more and more that I am no longer that girl. My friends from that time and I joke a lot about "if 18 year old us could see us now..." because they'd probably be completely shocked.
1. It's Okay to be Pretty
For some reason, when I was younger I had this weird idea in my head that to care about looking pretty meant I was shallow. I refused to learn how to do my makeup, I didn't know what kind of shampoo and conditioner to use, my clothes were... okay, but yet I still wanted to be seen as pretty. I also didn't tell this to anyone.
I'm not entirely sure what was preventing me. Because in my mid-twenties I had a revelation that... hey... I was pretty. (Who knew?) Once I realized this, I treated myself that way, and I've never looked back. This could actually be an entire blog post, but I haven't found the right way to go about writing it yet.
I'm not saying that you need to wear makeup, purchase designer clothes, or spend all of your time primping in the mirror. I know many confident, beautiful women (inside and out) who have no desire to do any of these things, and don't. Which is amazing! But if you do like to do those things - go for it.
You are beautiful and it is okay to treat yourself as such.
2. Save Money
For real though. This is a lesson I'm constantly having to learn. I don't make a ton of money, and there are months when things get super tight on the wallet with bills, student loans, and life in general.
But there are many times when I look back and I'm all "you know... if I had saved up a bit more and simply put away even just $20 each paycheck..." I would have much more financial freedom.
I know, it's super easy to take that $20 and spend it on a book or put it on my Starbucks card (at least those are my go-to's), but in the long run you'll be thankful.
3. It's Okay to not be Married with a Baby on the Way by the Age of 23
So... went to a conservative Lutheran University. Basically, everyone was all about getting married right after graduation and settling down right away. (I've heard this trend disappeared not long after I graduated - thankfully!) This is a pretty common thing at Christian schools for some reason.
I never dated in college, and was always thinking something was wrong with me because I didn't have a boyfriend and wasn't planning my wedding. Most people my age were going to weddings towards the end of their 20s and early 30s. A majority of the weddings I attended were before I was the age of 25 because EVERYONE was getting married the second they graduated. I wasn't on that track, so clearly something had to be wrong. (Read more about it here.)
Looking back... I'm so glad I never ended up with the guys I liked back then. They were great guys and are still some of my friends, don't get me wrong. But they were for sure not the ones for me.
Even some of my friends who did get married young look back and think "what was I thinking?" I was talking to one such friend a few years ago and she was like "I was so crazy back then!" She's happily married to her college boyfriend and have a great relationship. But she said that there was zero reason for them to be in such a hurry to tie the knot. They could have waited a little longer and been just fine.
Yeah, I've been doing the online dating thing now and putting myself out there because that's something I do want someday. But, I'm much more in a place of "I'd rather be alone than with the wrong man." I don't want to get married and have kids just for the sake of having that "status."
4. Sometimes You Have to Talk About the Uncomfortable Stuff
This was something I was figuring out towards the end of my years in school, but it's definitely come home for me since then. I never wanted to talk about topics like racism, sex, inequality, etc. Part of it I think was myself genuinely being naive and thinking that some of these weren't issues. Part of it was my own ignorance. Part of it was just me being dumb. When I think back on classroom conversations (particularly about racism) I'm embarrassed and ashamed of how I responded.
But we have to talk about these things sometimes.
I'm glad I have friends I can open up to and share things I used to be embarrassed about before. I have people in my life who have taught me how some of my views were wrong and I'm learning to take those steps to correct them. I've been learning I can talk about my disability and learn more about it, even if it isn't the most fun of topics. I've learned to have the courage to speak up about certain things even though I know I'll have the unpopular opinion.
Just this past week, there was some personal body things that had to do with my disability I've been wondering about, and finally posted on a women's forum for my disability about it. I got some awesome responses and a couple other women commented saying that they were glad I brought it up because they had the same question.
Yeah, some conversations are uncomfortable, but you need to have them anyway.
5. Keep Writing and Keep Creating
I'm a creative and a lover of stories at heart. (In case you haven't noticed.) I've been writing my whole life, and when I'm not working on a book... there's something missing in my life.
But, it's about being creative in general. The first few years out of college, my co-workers kept on encouraging me to try out for the local community theatre since they knew I had studied theatre in school. It took me a couple of years, but I was so glad once I did. It was the creative release I'd been craving and didn't even realize it. I was happier and more energized than I'd been in months.
Creativity and the arts are part of who I am, and if I want to keep my mental health, they need to be part of my life.
6. Go on the Trip, but Pick who you Travel with Carefully
I wish I could travel more than I do! But, I've gone to a fair amount of places since graduating college. Some for work, some for fun. San Antonio, New Orleans, NYC, Orlando, Orange County, Joplin, Selma, etc. I love exploring new places, meeting new people, and having these great experiences. Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge and say "I'm going there" and just do it.
But, I've also learned that who you travel with can make or break a trip. I'm the type of person where I don't care so much about what I'm doing, but rather who I'm doing it with. You can be great friends with a person, but not be great travel companions.
7. Internet Friends are Real Friends
Post college I discovered the Internet.
Not that I didn't know what it was or never used it - I'm a Millennial. Obviously, I did. My generation invented Facebook.
But it was after college where really learned about THE INTERNET. I started a blog, joined a couple of blogging sites (Rest in Peace, 20sb), and BOOM. A whole new world opened up before me. I started to use Twitter, then later Pinterest and Instagram and YouTube and all of the other things. What surprised me the most was how I made friends.
Whenever people start to diss on social media and how it doesn't actually connect people, I shut it down right away. Some of my closest friends I've made as an adult have been because of social media and blogging. It all started with a comment on their site, or replying to them on Twitter, then moving onto direct messages and texts. Some of them I've met in real life (and traveled with!), some I haven't. They're all awesome and fantastic.
8. Like What You Like
For way too much of my life, I worried about what people thought of me. I wouldn't stand up for the things I enjoyed, or I thought others would like down on me because something I read or watched or listened to wasn't "good enough."
Life is too short to be worrying about other judging you because you like something. Read the fluffy romance novel. Listen to an obscene amount of Glee music if you think it's fun. Watch The Bachelor and soak in all of the DRAMA. Who cares?
9. Ambivert is a Real Thing
Yeah... this sounds slightly random, but once I heard about this, I kinda changed my life. I've always thought of myself as an extrovert. I'm loud, outgoing, and usually like people. Thus, extrovert, right?
I once worked with someone who was an EXTREME extrovert and we were so different from one another. When I was ready to calm down and hide away from the world, they'd still be rolling and have a ton of energy. There are times I don't want to be around people and simply want to sit at home with my dog and a book.
Or, I find there are days I'm super shy. Or I don't know what to talk about. Or I get anxious about going out. I'd spent so much time with people who were true extroverts, I was used to all of these big social situations and realized I was just along for the ride. I wasn't the one who was making the new connections and making things happen. It was my other friends and it just rubbed off on me. Once I wasn't with those friends anymore... I didn't know how to be an extrovert anymore either.
Yet, I didn't fit in with the introvert side either. I'm not super quiet, I do like being around others, and too much alone time makes me stir crazy.
So what was I?
I didn't have to be one or the other! I'm both. Just... sometimes having that definition for something is a relief and I'm not just wondering if I'm crazy.
10. I Don't Need to Worry About How Things "Should" Be
I should be married by now.
I should have kids.
My career should be in a certain place by a certain age.
I should be living in a certain place.
I should like these types of books.
I should go out more.
I should go out less.
My body should look a certain way.
I should have "experience" in certain things by now.
If you look this way/believe this one religion/dress a certain way/live in this area/have this orientation/etc then you should...
You know what I say?
We spend far too much time worrying about how things "should" be instead of accepting how and who we are. We compare ourselves to people around us thinking that our lives aren't how they "should" be yet.
Sometimes, your life will look different than another persons. Even if you are very similar in a way. If you're a white straight Christian woman living in the suburbs, your life is going to look different than the other white straight Christian woman living in the suburbs next door.
And that's okay.
You be you.
So... what life lessons have you learned over the last few years? Anyone else looking back on 10 years since graduating?
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