I don’t feel like writing a big preface, but suffice to say, I don’t think I achieved any degree of proper adulting until the past 2–3 years and I’m almost 40. My growing up took a long time and I wanted to share some of the stuff I wish I had known to do or had the discipline to do after high school that one doesn’t normally read about.
1.Open and Read all of my mail. In the middle of preparing to move I went through a lot of old mail and paperwork I’ve accumulated over the years. I have so many unopened pieces of mail it’s depressing. I also hung on to everything, never having the patience to figure out if something needed to be kept and for how long. If I had opened and read every piece of mail and then immediately took care of it by either filing or discarding it or responding to it I would have saved myself from a lot of headache. All it took was a quick google search for how long I should keep certain documents or mail and suddenly I could confidently clean house.
2. Handle forms, paperwork, documents, online forms, anything at all that needs to be attended to IMMEDIATELY. So many times I waited and waited, because I was either too afraid or lazy to fill out paperwork, or when I would start filling out paperwork I would easily get angry and frustrated with it. I both emigrated and immigrated and there was a lot of paperwork to fill out and documentation to submit and it took me many months longer than necessary to finish doing everything because of procrastination.
3. As a part of reading all of my mail, documents, paperwork and handling things right away, that would have led me to my next thing: JUST FREAKING GOOGLE IT! I was recently looking through the inspection report from my old house and I know I never looked at the thing or attempted to learn what the various words meant. I didn’t take the time to google what flashing is, or soffits, or learn about my furnace, my roof, what the various terms meant that described how godawful of a state my roof was in. Google legal terms, google home-owner information, car owner information, finance information, you name it. There is an abundance to learn and understand for basic living and I spent much of my post-high-school years letting parents handle that stuff or I simply ignored it and suffered the natural consequences of my ignorance, like getting a leak in my roof and having to deal with mold.
4. Make a savings account and read finance books a lot sooner. Even if you only save a few dollars, start creating the habit now or at least learn about everything you can do with your bank account. It should be important to you to have control over your money no matter how much or little you have. You should know how to start an investment account, what options you have for a 401k, what you can do about your taxes, and know how to calculate and understand interest rates.
5. Don’t get a credit card without a good reason. And no, building credit is not a good reason. You only need credit to get a loan and paying your bills on time should be enough. Besides, unless you are buying a house you should buy everything cash and avoid loans and interest rates at all costs. I haven’t had a card in years, but I realize now it would have been more important for me to learn how to live within my means than build credit by paying off a credit card. Few young people have the discipline to not abuse a credit card. I never found the perks of having a card, such as gas points, 1% cash back, to be worth it if you are going to end up overspending and not be capable of paying off your entire balance very month.
6. Check and track your bank account at least every week and think about your purchases and spending habits. For many of my days I lived with a mild anxiety of how much money I had in the bank and each purchase would create more and more anxiety until I checked how much I had. It’s unnecessary to feel this way. While it’s pleasant to check your account and see you have plenty, it’s very unpleasant to think you have more than you do and then go and see how little you have left (or negative balance!). You never want to fall into the abyss of overdraft fees.
7. Cultivate the patience to think things through. I made too many hasty decisions, or allowed others to influence my decisions far too often (others being parents). I wish I had never pursued what others thought I should do but only pursue what I actually wanted to do (which was to not go to college right away because I had no clue what I wanted to do, all I wanted to do was play online games). If you find yourself giving in to others ideas because you don’t want to have to think about it, then guess what? You need to think about it and stop letting others make decisions for you. Don’t let someone else choose your major, choose your car, choose your apartment, choose your clothing options, the foods you eat, the workouts you do, the books you read, the shows you watch. You do you, because if you don’t it’s like having someone else do your homework for you, it gets done but you didn’t learn anything.
8. Shop around more, even if only to see what else is available. For much of my life my habit was to stay in my lane, to stick with the same things, the same companies, the same deals, the same food over and over. I never shook things up or tried new things until much later in life. Don’t be loyal to something simply because it’s all you know. Before you know it you won’t be open to new things, even products, and develop irrational anxiety about simple things.
9. Journal and examine your core beliefs as early as possible. Our beliefs drive our habits and our habits make us who we are and how we get to live our lives. I had no clue how much emotional healing I needed to undertake until quite recently, and I had no idea how to do it. I emotionally buried everything up until last year when I learned to journal, to process my emotions, and to actually deal with them. The growth and insight into myself is nothing short of exponential since I incorporated journaling into my everyday diet.
10. Get to know people better, ask them questions, hang out with different people more often, make more friends instead of shut yourself in and read or watch TV or play games. I now realize it was largely pointless for me to be incredibly introverted and unwilling to learn or grow from talking to others and getting to know them. I was insecure and wanted others to think highly of me instead of humbling myself and learn all I could from others. I was also prideful and did not care about others, what they knew, what they learned, what they went through, unless they were a close friend. I took people for granted and maybe some of my previous jobs saw that in me and declined to help me out or bring me further along than I may have otherwise been able to go. Cultivating human relationships is rarely a waste of time. All that stuff you do for fun by yourself is definitely a waste of time.
11. Take jobs more seriously and really spend the time to learn how to be a great employee. Sure, none of us likes to be a cog in the wheel of a faceless corporation, but it’s often what we have to be for some time, and pride or a butthurt feeling about needing to put in work is a major handicap. At my most previous job I got to witness two types of employees: butthurt and mature. Both employees were competent and worked hard and knew their stuff. Both applied for team lead positions. Both didn’t get the job the first time, except one didn’t get butthurt and continued to work hard and then applied again the next time a position opened up (and got it), whereas the other got butthurt, lost his motivation to work hard, complained, and started to become a difficult absentee employee who ended up getting disciplined and almost fired. I was the kind of teammate who didn’t even apply to higher positions and didn’t apply himself to even be positioned to ever make such a move. I would quickly get bored at my job and look for ways to slack off or do other things I felt were more valuable uses of my time, like sneaking in reading here and there. What I rarely did was take a job seriously and learn how to work so that I wouldn’t crave or need a release from the boredom. So many people I had seen dealt with the boredom, or never seemed bored and made it to better positions and progressed in their career. No matter how small or insignificant the job always apply yourself as much as possible and work full-time whenever you can, part-time work destroys work ethic.
12. Leverage your time you spend living with your parents. My parents, they made sure I didn’t have to pay rent because that’s expensive and I had to work and go to school, but I could have used my time living with them as an adult so much better. How I spent my time was very basic, I slept in whenever I could, I went to college, I worked part-time, and I ate junk food, watched movies, and played the same online games over and over. I could have spent free-time networking or studying at college and meeting new people or getting to know the faculty and career-center better. I could have cut my expenses down to almost nothing and throw everything into savings or payments for my student loans. I could have picked up and learned everything I could from my parents’ experience by assisting them with household chores, their jobs, and pick their brains, especially about my past to get to know myself better. I could have spent a lot of my extra time and money traveling and exploring the nearby area in which we lived, like mini-roadtrips or day trips since I had few responsibilities. There are probably many more ways one can leverage the time one spends living at your parents’ place, but instead I used it to slack and be as comfortable as possible. Don’t do that.
13. Spend time in self-reflection, figuring out yourself, where you want to go, what habits you have, what habits you want, how to get there, what hangups or insecurities you have, being real with yourself, figuring out every tiny detail of how your life went and where you wanted to grow up. Go through your old school notebooks, drawings as a kid, old documents you kept on your computer, anything that will give you insight into your younger self. It’s helpful to see those things with an air of discernment. If you didn’t know all of the under-the-hood stuff about yourself, what would you conclude looking at the physical evidence of yourself. Then go ahead and journal about your discoveries.
To conclude, it’s way too easy to waste your entire 20s and 30s being an adolescent. Before you know it you’re the old guy and you haven’t even started anything. This is mainly because of an inability to focus on anything worthwhile even if your life depended on it. A lot of it is due to habit and “parent privilege” which is when you have parents to fall back on if anything didn’t work out, but for me this meant goofing off, working part-time and not trying to figure things out ahead of time but reacting and letting others help me solve my problems.
If you are young still, or fresh out of high school, or in high school, or even just turning 30, don’t expect to grow up and adult until you put in the work of figuring life out on your own, to become self-reliant by learning about everything where nothing is too mundane or beyond your scope. There are so many things that will eat your free time and make you crave more free time but you already knew that. Our society delays maturity for far too long, a mature young person is like finding a diamond in the rough. What did you figure out that helped you kick your childlike ways?