Friday marked the one year anniversary of me entering the real world, and wow, has a lot changed in my life since last May! I remember myself right before college graduation, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready for the next chapter of my life. Except life slapped me right in the face when I least expected it. And now that I’m out of the dark tunnel, I see why bad situations can be life-changing if I truly embraced them.
Most of the past year has been completely unexpected and nothing like I ever planned when I scribbled about my dreams in my high school diaries.
These are the lessons I’ve learned over the past 12 months, and I hope they give you some hope or reassurance of what you experienced in your early 20s.
Face problems or hardships head on.
Right after college was probably the hardest summer of my life. I was faced with so much uncertainty and I felt ashamed of who I was as a person. I knew I had to stop taking control of my life and let God take the reins. I learned to face my problems head-on and trust that he would make my paths straight, eventually. But after reflecting over the past year, I understand why those bad things happened and how it’s molded me as a person.
Don’t run away from your problems because there may be a blessing in disguise that will be life-changing for you. Even though sometimes it feels as if you’re drowning, it will get better.
It was during those months that I was struggling to live above my circumstances that I truly learned what prayer was. It wasn’t a religious, thought-out prayer, it was just speaking to God. I needed him to hear my prayers and to change my heart. Now, it’s a daily ritual for me and it’s how I start each day.
The power of prayer is real. Even if your prayers aren’t answered right away, one day you will witness those little miracles and know that God has spoken back to you.
Life isn’t all about you.
It’s difficult to look back at my college days and admit that I was really selfish. It’s not that I didn’t care or love my friends and family, but I didn’t do enough for others. I was too focused on me, me and more me. I didn’t understand that we get more out of giving than getting. Over the past 12 months, I now understand that giving my time to others in small ways is so important. It humbles me every time and makes me realize that this “me society” that we live in isn’t how we should live at all.
Do what you can to give your time and talents to others. Everyone has gifts, so use them to bless others!
Roll with the punches and be in the present moment.
When I finally began to live above my circumstances, I naturally began to focus on the present moment and not the distant future. No longer did I obsessively dream about where I would be in the next two years. I still have short-term and long-term goals, but I don’t think about them every day. I’m focusing on the next eight hours or the next three days. And that’s enough for me.
We truly miss a lot in life when we just jump from one thing to the next. Relax and savor those quiet moments in the morning or those lingering moments right before you fall asleep.
Take care of your body, physically, mentally and spiritually.
I ate way too much Taco Bell in college. Overall, I was constantly dissatisfied with my body. I’ve learned to love myself and also take care of myself every day. I am now mindful about what I put into my body and these days, it’s definitely not a crunch wrap supreme. I’ve learned that while I need to give to others, I also need to take care of myself. I’m out of sync when I feel crappy and my mind isn’t on the right track.
It should be a priority to take of yourself. Eat healthy foods, indulge occasionally, relieve stress through yoga, running or another physical activity and don’t forget to breathe, a lot.
Bloom where you are.
My high school diaries were figments of my imagination that I wanted to turn into reality. I dreamed of moving to a big city right out of college and working at a fashion or lifestyle magazine. It was so engrained in my head throughout college that I did everything in my power to make it real. I envisioned this perfect life that couldn’t be done if it wasn’t in God’s plan. So I chalked it up and realized that I have to bloom where I am at this point in my life. A book actually opened my eyes to this great realization. God has a different path for all of us and whatever that plan is, we will prosper.
Jeremiah 29:11 always reminds me of this:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
So why was I worrying so much about how my life would turn out? I wasn’t trusting God, I was just relying on myself. Now, the future is in his hands, while I bloom in creating my best self every day by doing the things I love—writing, doing yoga, cooking and strengthening relationships.
Get your finances in order.
I’ve had to learn to live on the money I earn. I know that sounds silly, but I lived in a fantasy world in college. I’m lucky enough that my parents helped me out quite a bit. But now, I’m living on my own and that means really cutting back on the shopping, eating out and spending frivolously.
Create a budget and stick to it. Money pretty much affects every part of our lives, and it only gets more difficult as we get older. But it doesn’t have to be stressful if you have a plan. Save for the future and those unexpected emergencies.
Learn to live with less. Only buy the things you absolutely love.
This is probably one of the most challenging lessons I’ve had to learn. I constantly drool over the latest styles at Anthropologie or Free People and think about the kind of person I’ll be in those clothes, shoes or toting around that adorable yoga bag. It sounds ridiculous, but I know I’m not the only one. A book called Living Well, Spending Less has helped me a lot through these trials, and I crack it open every week or so to remind myself that I need to live with less stuff. I’m still learning how to only buy the things I absolutely cannot live without and cherish them for years to come.
You can read about the 7 money lessons I’ve learned after college here.
Be an adult only when you have to be.
Even though I’d like to say I have it all together, all the time, that’s a facade. Every day is a challenge for me to be motivated and do the things I really love. And even though the bills have to be paid and I might have to spend an hour or two on the phone with Comcast, I’ve had to loosen up a bit and not take myself so seriously.
So be playful and spontaneous and enjoy every day as it comes. Take a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never been or go see your favorite band that just happens to be playing only an hour away.
Life is too short and we don’t know how much time we have left. Make every day special and don’t sweat the small stuff.
Can you relate to any of these post-grad life lessons? What are some that you are/have you learned in your lifetime? I’d love to hear your input!