Eight years after graduating high school and four years after graduating college, it dawns on me that I’m marking my fourth complete year of full-blown adulthood. Except there is no big celebration this time. No finals. No ceremony. No cap. No gown. Instead, there’s just a continuous stream of small tests, small victories, small moments marking my progress as I keep growing.
Still, I’ve learned a lot over the last eight years. [A lot of it the hard way, too.] So, I know these lists are over-done. But I feel compelled to share whatever small pieces of wisdom I’ve gained with those graduating from high school and college and inching their way to this adult school known as the real world.
Leaving High School
This is the fun part.
Slow down. You’ll become an adult soon enough, and that day won’t be as joyous as you think it will. So take your time. Do stupid, silly things that 28- and 38-year-olds can’t get away with. Laugh at yourself in the morning.
If you get arrested for something stupid, your life is not over. Call your parents. Call a lawyer. Trust them when they say your punishment will be a nuisance, not a lifetime sentence. Take it seriously. Learn your lesson. You’ll laugh about it in a few years. Probably while trading arrest stories.
Study. You know what I miss just as much as the parties and the bars [whose names will inevitably change]? The library. The classrooms. Taking naps at 8 pm to go study until 3 am. Midnight coffee and test-taking playlists. The thing is, you make and see just as many friends in the library as in the bars, and sober, you’ll actually remember their names. So take notes. Make study guides. Go to class. Besides, partying is more fun when you’re celebrating.
Party. In bars. At frat houses. On front lawns and back porches. With old friends and new ones. Pre-game. Late-night. Take shots with people you don’t know and buy shots for your friends on their birthdays. Embrace Jaeger bombs. Briefly. Then swear them off for the rest of your life. Only drink cheap vodka when desperate.
Drink underage. Splurge on the good fake ID. Be courteous to cops. Be nice to cab drivers. Tip your bartenders. Stay in the crosswalks.
Boys will want to have sex with you. Most of them will only want to have sex with you. That’s okay. Be prepared. Know what you want and what you can handle – physically and emotionally. Don’t be afraid to say no. But don’t be afraid to say yes either. You’re not a prude and you’re not a slut, and anyone who calls you either of these things is an asshole.
Take pictures. Avoid duck faces.
Get a job.
Eat in the dining hall for as long as you can. Granted, I went to a university with a fabulous campus dining program. But regardless, you’ll never have access to that much cereal and pizza at once ever again.
Dance. On tables, even. Though I suggest keeping all your clothes on.
This is the hard part, kiddos.
I wish it were different. Whether you’re off to grad school or a corporate office or your parents’ couch, this is where shit gets real. And I wish I could tell you it’s fun. But it’s not. There is a light. And maybe, hopefully, you can see it pretty clearly from your seat at graduation. But my guess is you can’t. That doesn’t make you crazy or weak. It makes you just like the rest of us. You’ll reach it eventually. In the mean time…
Practice yoga. Even if it’s three sun salutations before you pass out.
Get a pet. A dog if you can, but a cat if you don’t have time for a dog. A fish or turtle if you can’t handle the idea of a cat. Just make sure you have something to go home to.
Cry in an empty office. Cry in a bar. Cry in your car. Cry on the subway.
Let your pet lick away your tears.
Go to bars that remind you of college.
Hug your parents. Hang out with your siblings. Go home whenever you can.
Write. In an old-school journal or Day One or in your notebook while you should be paying attention in a meeting.
Dating will be mostly miserable. Do it anyway. Go out with him even if you’re still bat-shit crazy scared of commitment. When he tells you you’re beautiful, say thank you. Kiss on the first date.
Eat real food. [Vegetables. Fruit.] Learn how to cook.
Stop going to bars that remind you of college.
Celebrate your birthdays. Even though 23 and 24 seem especially pointless.
Learn how much you should actually drink with dinner or at happy hour if you want to drive home. They say two drinks, but is that accurate for you? Don’t drive if you’re past that limit.
Be careful with credit cards.
Go visit your friends. Even if you have to use credit cards.
Most boys will still just want to have sex with you. Say yes only when you want to. Learn what you like. Show them.
Sleep with a lot of people in a short period of time. Sleep with no one for a long period of time.
Follow a TV show or two.
Go to all the weddings you’re invited to, even if they make you sad. Dance. Flirt. Attend or host the after-party.
Consider therapy again.
Don’t get hammered every weekend. You’re too old for that crap.
Go to the doctor. Get tested.
Don’t fuck with people’s hearts. If you don’t want commitment, that’s okay. Be honest. Be respectful.
Get drunk every now and then.
Don’t call people crazy. Everyone is crazy. Saying it aloud is just mean.
Go to happy hour with your coworkers.
Go to work hung over. Never go to work hung over again.
Love your job. Hate your job.
Visit your college town. Love it even more.
Occasionally go to bars that remind you of college.
Go to therapy.