One spring day two years ago, my mother and I were discussing my swiftly approaching college graduation. The alarming fact suddenly hit me: in only a few short weeks, I would be progressing from the lifestyle I had spent twenty years learning how to navigate—the only lifestyle I had ever known—into the overwhelming vessel of responsibilities and significant choices that, supposedly, constituted being an adult.

The shift in lifestyle from cramming for tests to paying the bills can be a huge transition. You’ll have to learn to balance your responsibilities, your priorities, and your luxuries. You’ll have to budget your expenses, take care of yourself, and find the right career path. And you’ll face an unbelievable number of choices.

It’s an incredibly liberating road, but it is not always an easy one. It's okay to feel a little lost when you're just starting out on your own: in fact, it’s the norm. The good news is, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way. Here are a few useful things that I've learned along the way to help.

1. Be Open-Minded

Right now, with your whole life in front of you, the world is open. There are few limits on what path you can choose—far fewer than there will be later in life. Your post-graduate years, when you’re young, ambitious, and full of energy, are the best time to try different careers and pursue your life’s dreams.

So don’t be afraid to try new things. Write that business plan. Take that crazy vacation. Date that person who’s “not really your type.” With each new experience comes growth, knowledge, and ultimately, security in yourself.  And remember that, in order to find the path that’s best for you, you’re also going to have to discover the ones that don't work.

 

2. Take Care of Yourself

With a rigorous work and social life, it can be easy to forget that your body needs rest and replenishing in order to thrive. Know you don’t have to work yourself to the bone in order to succeed in this world, and don’t treat sleep as a privilege or a luxury. Sleep is a right—and, for me, a non-negotiable one. Truth is, if you’re going to avoid burnout, it’s crucial to fit in some leisure time to recharge your batteries.

 

3. Don't Give Up

If you haven’t learned it yet, you will now: life is constantly changing. Just when you think you've settled into a routine, a curve ball can completely spin your reality upside-down (take it from anyone who’s ever been laid off).

But if have the courage and strength to endure through it, you'll soon realize that there’s almost nothing you can’t handle. Whether you’re dealing with a bad boss, moving on from a breakup, or getting out of debt, overcoming real-world challenges really does make you a stronger and more experienced person.

And in spite of all of the changes and difficulties that "the real world" can entail, the good news about being an adult is this: it undoubtedly and unequivocally rocks. So, live your life to the fullest. Sure, it’s a cheesy mantra, but there’s some real truth in it: there’s no bigger thrill than taking complete control of your destiny.

Share your story! What are the most important lessons you learned after college? Any tips or advice for new grads?

Photo courtesy of Carnie Lewis.