10 Things I’ve Learned Since College

Being an adult is weird, man.

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I should start by saying that I graduated from college young. I was 20, about a month shy of turning 21, and am now 33. So when say between college and now, it’s actually a bit over 12 years, and covers all of my 20’s and into my early 30's.

Now firmly ensconced in my “early 30's,” I feel like I have some knowledge I can cram into your brain. Whether you like it or not!

I love being 33. Just like I loved being 9, 17, 23, 27, and everything in between, and will adore being 35, 43, 57, and so on.

The reality of life: We either age, or we die. Those are literally the ONLY two options. So, you can either enjoy getting older or age up kicking and screaming. Might as well enjoy the process.

I choose to enjoy and anticipate getting older and the new experiences each year brings. I choose to hold on to my mostly-unflappable optimism and embrace the new years, instead of kicking my heels or feeling old at being over 30. Feeling old is silly anyway. You’re either old or you’re not, but I’d certainly rather be old and loved and surrounded by life and family than the alternative! Besides, old people can be retired and travel more and say whatever they want with no fear of reprisal. I think being old is going to be AMAZING.

So, what have I learned since 20? Has my journey to 33 taught me anything particularly useful or worth sharing? I think so!

10 Biggest Life Lessons Since College

Learn to drink in moderation. No more crazy, all-night keg parties for this girl! I have to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow, and I don’t want to feel like my head has been sawed off and resewn badly. Trust me. Enjoy social drinking, don’t get wasted anymore. It hurts worse as you age! This also feeds into the way I no longer want to go out and party all the time, as I did in college. I prefer quiet nights at home or fun outdoor activities. I’ve learned I love that. I also love sleep a lot more than I did at 20!! I can’t be out until 3 am on a Tuesday, I have work the next day and I will be useless on 3 hours of sleep!

You still have popular kids and cliques and inane arguments. But unlike high school, you can choose to remove yourself from most of that. As an adult, I embrace and celebrate that I can remove toxic people from my life. I no longer feel bad or guilty for saying “no,” having boundaries, or not being friends with a negative person. I’ve learned that my personal happiness and well-being needs to be my own priority, not anyone else’s.

You start to realize that yeah, maybe pizza for dinner every night is not the brightest plan. Maybe you should exercise once in a while and start to eat a little healthier. It is around this time that if you didn’t before, you start to cook at home more often. You want to make yourself healthy now, so as to not be REALLY unhealthy in another 10 years. I learned that SLEEP becomes a much higher priority now to me than when I was younger! I go to bed earlier than back then, I pay a lot of attention to any sleep issues I have, and I was willing to pay a lot more for a new nicer bed than I ever did when I was younger.

This one is actually a great thing. You still end up with a lot of acquaintances, like that girl from work you always say hi to and chat about your weekend, or that guy from your apartment building you nod at in the hallway and who will sign for a package for you, but your core group of friends tends to dwindle with age, until you’re left with the really important and special ones. The ones who will be there through thick and thin and will always be on your side when you hate someone or something, even irrationally. I could hate someone my best friend has never met, and she will back me up and complain about what a terrible person they are and offer to beat them up. That’s real friendship.

What I wanted out of a relationship when I was 19 or 20 is drastically different from what I need out of one now. Our perspective on dating changes. The type of people we date can change. I am no longer interested in anyone approaching the typical “bad boy” of my high school years. I want, need, and deserve (and have!) a guy who knows who he is, who is honest, and who will laugh at life with me. As I got older, dating was a little less about the current moment and a little more about the longer-term potential of the person. Mutual core values became a lot more of a conversation topic, too!

For me at least, I’ve learned that as long as I have enough to pay my bills, money is in no way a deciding factor in a job anymore. Money is nice and all, but not hating my life 40 hours a week is even nicer. Feeling like I make a contribution, now THAT is a great feeling. Figuring out what I want to do in a career was and still is an ongoing process. But learning has been interesting and informative, and invaluable in my overall happiness. I now understand that being happy at work is easily the best thing you can do for overall happiness in life, especially when you consider the sheer amount of time you spend there (rivaled only really by the amount of time you sleep)! Becoming an entrepreneur really opened my eyes to these things so much more.

It is ridiculous that no one in college teaches you how to do your own taxes or the real responsibility of student loans and credit cards. You are so much more aware of your financials as you get older, and of how important it is to be out of debt and saving for your future and retirement. I care so much more about being able to afford a decent house someday than buying random stuff and clothes I’ll lose interest in fairly quickly anyway. Having money in savings is a cushion, a nest egg, and a security blanket for me. A quiet night at home not spending money is often more interesting for me than a crazy night out.

You actually always sort of realize this growing up, but as you get older, you realize that some friends are toxic or negative, or will turn away from you. You’ll still have your close friends, but you’ll realize how important it is to maintain a great relationship with your siblings and parents and extended family who love and respect you. These people have known you forever, love you, and will continue to be strong emotional support for the rest of your life. You really realize that more in your mid to late 20’s and stop taking them for granted.

We can’t make people do what we want, we can only ask them to. We can’t change people, and even if we could, why would we? If someone changes FOR YOU, then it’s not real change. People can truly only make changes for themselves, because it is what they want for themselves, in order for it to stick. I learned about accepting people for who they are and loving people because of our differences, not in spite of them. I’ve learned that I cannot control other people and their actions, I can only control my own reactions to situations.

You settle into who you really are and learn more about yourself. You become comfortable with yourself and learn who to surround yourself with. I was incredibly lucky to have a strong female figure in my life: my mom. My mother is 100% sure of who she is and is happy to be that person. My mom does not care what you think of her and will continue to stand up for what she believes in, regardless of popularity. She was a teacher for forever and day, and in her classroom, she had a sign that said: “What’s popular is not always right and what’s right is not always popular.” And she truly lives by that statement. My mom is strong, loving, and absolutely true to herself. And because of that example, I grew up being confident in myself and my abilities, strong enough to hold firm in my beliefs, and not caring what strangers think of me. My mom’s security in herself made me secure in myself. This is the single greatest gift my mother gave me, and one I hope we can all give to our children. Being proud of who she is is the thing I admire most about my mom.

Huh. I guess that means my parents were right, all those times they tried to give me life advice as a kid. Not that I listened then. I had to go and figure it out on my own.

Written by

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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