Plot twist: There is no correct way.
You see, if your eyes so wonderingly stumbled upon the title of this article and your heart, for a brief second, began to flutter with the excitement of finally finding the answer to life’s most annoying task, then I am sorry to inform you that this answer is nonexistent. It is unreal, unheard of, and made-up. And, this idea of what to do and how to do it properly (as an adult) is instilled in us at a very young age. Along with the fairytales and make-believe, we are tricked into thinking that a “good” life — a correct life — is very much linear. It goes: you are born, you graduate from school, you fall in love, you enter this thing called the “real world,” you get a job, you get married, you have kids, you retire, and then you die. At least, that’s the way I’ve been told the story.
Regardless of what rendition you’ve heard, it’s clear that we, jointly, have been conditioned to believe that if this so-called way of living is not met, then that constitutes failure and denotes an unfulfilling life. But I, with my 19 years of life experience, am here to reassure you that life does not have to happen in this manner.
At this point, you may be debating reading any further as you ask yourself, “Am I really about to take life advice from a 19-year-old?” However, let me re-reassure you that I am not here to give you answers that, as I have already stated, do not exist. I am no magician. But, as I live out the last month of my teenage youth and enter into the big and scary world of adulthood, I have started to reflect upon my own plot twists and conflicts and how these moments have shaped my way of thinking.
I can only hope these little tips can help you as they have aided me in writing my own narrative.
So, once upon a time, I’ve learned that…
- Crying is okay, regardless of who you are.
As we grow, I find it ironic that crying is so highly frowned upon. When we are little, we cry over materialistic things. Johnny won’t share his toy fire truck. We cry. Cindy pushed me off the swing. We cry. But, when I’m overdue on my car payment and drowning in piles of homework, society tells me that I am not supposed to cry. But, contrary to popular adult-based belief, crying is necessary and often very healthy. It is not a sign a weakness, but rather a form of release, and as adults, we should begin to normalize it.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but there’s no shame in allowing yourself to cry. So, next time you feel yourself holding back your tears, don’t.
- Numbers are important, so get to know them.
A credit score is a tricky thing. Scratch that, a credit score is a confusing thing. Some may even say, an annoying thing. And you know what I knew about credit score before realizing how badly I needed one? I knew nothing. And, at almost 20 years old, I still sometimes have a hard time understanding what it is. To put things into perspective, let me give you a list of concepts that if you asked me to explain (correctly), I would, with all my brainpower, simply be unable to do so.
a) Explain what a mortgage is.
b) Explain how to file for taxes.
c) Explain how to negotiate leasing a car.
d) Explain what a deductible on my health insurance is.
e) Explain what is wrong with my car beyond an oil change.
However, I am not as incompetent as this list may make me sound. I can tell you what organelle is considered the powerhouse of the cell.
All jokes aside, it’s okay if you too can not fully grasp these concepts because, with time, you will learn. You don’t need to have a mental breakdown because you don’t know what the APR of your credit card means (not speaking from experience). You simply need to take a deep breath and learn piece by piece. You don’t need to have it all figured out by tomorrow, but we all start somewhere, so don’t be afraid to start learning now.
- You must put yourself first.
Putting yourself first is harder said than done.
We often lose sight that the most important thing in our one and only lifetime is ourselves. Without you, there is no life. There is a notable difference between being alive — merely existing — and living your life. So, don’t let the cloudiness of life fog up what you want for yourself. And definitely don’t apologize for doing so. It’s not called selfishness. It’s called self-love.
- Invest in a non-stick pan.
Okay, hear me out. I know this one seems a little off-topic, but trust me — if you purchase this heaven-sent kitchen device, you will not be disappointed. As an “adult,” I have been forced to fend for myself through a kitchen-less dorm room. However, now that I live in a fully equipped apartment, I have utilized my non-stick pan like no other. Not only is it extremely easy to clean, but I am convinced it has good tasting food-infusing powers. So, please, consider buying one or just “borrow” one from your parents next time you go home to visit (again, not speaking from experience).
- Forgive yourself.
As humans, I find that we all share the innate quality of prioritizing things that are insignificant and superficial. We stress about how others will perceive us and compare our success to a standard that we have subconsciously predetermined is unattainable. But, as habitual as this behavior is, we must find it within ourselves to stop. Nothing good comes from being too hard on yourself. So, instead of punishing yourself for all the times you’ve “failed,” remind yourself that your accomplishments are what matters, regardless of how minimal they may seem.
No action, no change. It’s as simple as that.
Never forget, growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.