okay. this is a list i felt like making for the sake of consolidating life lessons. enjoy.
1. Don’t let the fear of an unpleasant conversation deter you from doing things that are in your best interest.
Awkward conversations suck. Quitting a job without enough notice when you know it’ll be a hard on everyone to replace you, or asking your landlord if you can shorten your lease when you hate to leave but really should, those conversations suck. Or maybe it’s a phone call with an company that owes you money but you’re hesitant to waste the hour on the phone proving your point, or even ending/starting a relationship that you know needs to end (or begin!). All of those can give you low-grade anxiety, but are SO WORTH HAVING because those are pivotal things that change your life.
More often than not, if you can have those conversations respectfully, courteously, and honestly, people understand. Yes all of those things can lead to unpleasant moments but if you know that there is potential for things to be awesome, don’t let fear of a conversation prevent you from making the change. In many cases, you’re just making assumptions about why said person will hate you if you tell them the thing, but in just as many cases, they’re completely understanding and your life can totally change for the better.
Don’t be paranoid about upsetting people. As long as you’re respectful and kind, you’re allowed to do what’s best for you.
*P.S. That second person “you” is basically older me talking to younger me, or rather last-week me.
2. If Possible, Study Abroad
This has unquestionably shaped my life. For one, travel is easier when the school is responsible. Travel insurance is helpful, university connections are great, and funding is easier to come by as a student than a wanderer. A foreign experience can change you in ways you never expect and the younger you do this the more you are able to incorporate those life lessons into the direction your life takes, professional or otherwise. Living abroad is a perspective-changing experience and when you can bring global awareness, perhaps service, and an understanding of other cultures into your work back home, sooner is definitely better. (Though better late than never). Bonus points if you actually discover a career path that you’re super passionate about while you’re abroad.
3. Track your Money.
I was lucky to have solid financial role models in my parents. While I may not be as involved in stocks as my dad would like, I still managed to establish some helpful habits and at the core of all of them: tracking. your. money. When I first opened a checking account my dad made me track all my spendings on an excel sheet and send it to him every month, kind of the price to pay for being a dependent. For whatever reason, I felt like this was totally reasonable and I did it willingly with no desire to lie or be sneaky. At the time, it was great leverage when asking for money. I was able to say “look dad, I have been responsible about where I’ve been spending my money, see?” and it helped my case. To this day I still keep that excel document and I didn’t know just how critical that was until I realized that I knew how to budget before I even had an income. I knew where my money was going at all times and it surprised me to learn that not everybody did this and many people are in awful cycles of debt and overspending as a result.
It can be a pain to add up all the eating out costs, but my god is it eye opening to have an idea of where my money is going and know what is a “necessary” purchase vs what’s an “extra/miscellanous” buy. Anyway, as I haven’t been making much money in the last few years and especially when I lost my job, it was SO GREAT to be able to just pull up that document and see right away what I had to do and where I had to cut to make ends meet. Highly recommend it.
4. Learn to enjoy being alone.
This one is huge, maybe the hugest. As soon as I learned how to have fun on my own and go new places and try new things that I liked simply because I felt like it, my quality of life improved exponentially. That coincided with deleting my facebook so it’s hard to differentiate the two, but regardless.. Once I realized I could do fun things whether or not my friends/acquaintances were interested in joining, the whole world was my playground. When I realized that I could do exactly what I wanted to on my own and still have fun, holy crap. The quality of my close friends improved immediately because I became so fine going solo that if I went with other people it had to be exceptionally fun for me to chose to hang with them instead. And it was! It became so easy to not spend time with boring, or just unfulfilling acquaintances because I have just as much fun by myself, so there’s no need to seek out mediocre company. Whether it’s solo trips to a movie, traveling internationally alone, or just going to a cool workout class cause you know it’ll be fun- if you’re confident enough to stroll in on your own you can totally avoid having to ask friends to do things they don’t feel like doing just for the sake of company. And it’s so much easier to meet new people when you’re on your own and those new people already have something in common with you- they showed up to do that thing too! Gosh life gets so much cooler when you aren’t reliant on the group opinion of your friend group to do something you think would be fun.
5. Side hustles can make the difference.
I am still just starting to capitalize on this one, but it seems invaluable. These are basically side-jobs or side interests that you pursue in addition to work, whatever “work” may be. It started for me by juggling a lot of part time jobs and having an insane desire to fulfilling all the things in life that I absolutely love, BUT I think this applies to everyone. So you work one job 40 hours a week, wonderful. But it’s your responsibility as a cool-ass human to make the most of the rest of those hours in the week. Make life more than just going to work and then being tired from work.
In terms of money, I think everybody should find a way to be make money online. It’s 2017 guys. I’m still learning the ropes here, but I can’t see an exception. Whether it’s investing in stocks, selling art on etsy, or copywriting, make the most of the things you like and the technology at your fingertips.
Part 2 of my side hustle rant is for your livelihood. Book time in your schedule for other things you love, no matter what. I love being upside-down and physically active, so I look forward to new gymnastics/acro/aerial classes and I seek them out and force them into my schedule. But if you’re a surfer, cook, artist, whatever in addition to your job title (and yes, everyone IS something in addition to their title), schedule it in. Make a commitment if you can because it’s too easy to just say you’ll do a thing and then not do it, if you haven’t paid for it or aren’t registered in a class. Not only do you get to meet a whole new community of folks also doing those things, but it makes you more than your job. Perhaps you’re coaching or refereeing games so you’re also making money part time, or maybe you’re volunteering at the animal shelter bc obvi animals rule. Either way, you’re adding something else into your routine. And you never know when that something else may have the dream job open up, or even just a cool opportunity and you’re already in the door. (Big thanks to my side hustles for sticking up for me when the 9-5 laid me off).
I realize this may sound a bit unrealistic for families with kids or folks juggling too many jobs, to which I say make it small but make it regular. Sign up for something you can do with the fam (bonus points if it’s free), or force yourself up at 5 am to make it to the spin class. This is also huge when it comes to building up your self-worth. Plus, there’s a ton to say for gaining skills and constantly learning. When you learn a new move, beat an old time, or make a new cool thing- just remember how good that feels for a second. In my 25 year old opinion, knowing that you can look forward to something every week that you love doing can make all the difference and knowing you’re more than you job is important. And you always have an answer to the “fun fact” question for icebreakers.
Alright. Those were a lot of words, but the five biggest things that I think have shaped who I am right now, or at least the parts of me that I like the most and would want to pass on. Super open to emails/comments about what your five things are, maybe five things you wish you knew, or even just how you saw the world at 25- I eat that wisdom up like candy :)