There are a few things you realize you learn how to do after college:
—how to manage your money (maybe)
—how to cook healthy meals for yourself (not so much)
—how to get to work on time (kind of).
Other things…other lessons don’t come so easy.
There are some important life lessons that people don’t tell you, but you will face them after college. Whether you learn them the easy way or the hard way, well…that’s up to you.
As I always say, I’m still learning. At 24, these lessons sort of snuck up on me (as these things usually do). If we were chatting over coffee right now and you asked me for one piece of advice, I would have to say, “Never lose your desire to keep learning.”
Because life never stops teaching you.
5 Life Lessons You Don’t Learn in College
Half the classes I took in college weren’t actually helpful. And yet, I’m still paying on my student loans. Hmm…
And while the other half were useful, they still didn’t teach me these 5 things.5 Life Lessons They Don't Teach You in College—Thoughts on Post-Grad LifeClick To Tweet
1 | You don’t need to be perfect and have your ish together.
No one does.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve mentally prepared myself for something, building up my confidence, running through an imaginary list of things I need to do, checking off those imaginary bulleted items one by one.
I work myself into a tizzy, thinking I have to be “on” and perfect and flawless and be so adult-and-put-together-wow. And then when it comes time for whatever it was I was preparing for, it doesn’t even matter.
The big-scary-crazy thing I’ve been preparing for comes.
And nothing turns out like I thought it was meant to.
My carefully thought out preparations turn out to be, pretty much, for nothing. That’s not to say that things don’t go well. It’s just that life rarely (read: never) goes as planned. And that’s okay.We plan. But life rarely (read: never) goes as planned. And that's okay.Click To Tweet
But I seem to keep having to learn this lesson over and over. What can I say? I’m a perfectionist and I like things to be…perfect. Ha.
Which brings me to my next lesson…
2 | It’s not about you.
…or me. It’s not about either one of us. I get so caught up in my own head sometimes, like I mentioned up there, with the planning and the perfecting and what not.
And then I look around and realize that no one cares. No one cares about what I look like. What I sound like. What color nail polish I’m wearing. How tan or how thin I look. (Although, and I’m not ashamed to say this because it’s true, all of these things are extremely important to me. Especially the nail polish.)
As women, we face an inordinate amount of pressure to look and be a certain way day in and day out. It’s exhausting, and no one can face that kind of scrutiny continuously and come away a healthy, whole person. Instead, we micro-fixate on our flaws and insecurities because we think that’s what everyone else is focused on as well. (Newsflash: everyone else is actually focused on their problems, not on you.) We zero in on our failings and invent new and ever crazier ways to “improve” ourselves. So. We become a teensy bit self-centered.
Look, I know that millennials get a bad rap for being this way. Now, in my case we could call it “only child syndrome” or we could call it “just being a millennial.” Whatever. It doesn’t really matter what we call it. It’s there. The self-centeredness. The selfishness. No matter how much we try to bury it, it creeps up in all of us from time to time. Because we’re human. And being human means you occasionally stop to think about ONLY yourself for a little while every now and then.
What we have to realize is that this self-centeredness can get in our own way. Make us less effective workers. Less caring friends. Less loving partners. Less happy people in general.
And I don’t know about you, but I like a lot of happy in my life. Let’s all look up from our own problems every once in awhile.
This is another lesson I’m still learning. I think I’ll keep blaming it on being an only child.
3 | Have the good cry.
So, first a little backstory.
After college, there are several life events that happen with alarming frequency that you have to all of a sudden get used to.
People you are close to start getting engaged, marrying, and having kids.
It’s super weird and disturbing on so many levels.
Just this past weekend I attended the wedding of one of my closest best friends. To tie in the two points from above as well as the one I’m trying to make right now, it went a little something like this:
First, no one, including me, had their ish together.
Second, it wasn’t about me.
Finally, I had the good cry.
And I ended the weekend with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s for company, as you do.
Basically, nothing turned out like I thought it would. You know, we have these plans (again with the plans!) in our heads of these momentous occasions in our lives (birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.). We build them up in our minds to be these huge events that will play out just so.
And after several of these events in my life, I’m starting to (slowly) understand that nothing goes like you think it will.
I had some harsh disappointments I had to face this weekend that left me hurting and eating my feelings as I struggled to learn this latest lesson. And sometimes when things like this happen, you have to just have the good cry.
Talking from experience, French fries also help. A LOT.
4 | Be first to forgive and don’t hold grudges.
What would we do without moms? Seriously, ya’ll.
My mom has not only steered me away from questionable fashion choices but questionable life choices as well.
I spilled out all of my frustration and confusion about recent events—and just post-grad life in general—to my mom, and of course in true mother fashion, she dropped some dope wisdom, understanding, and comfort in equal measure and somehow made everything better.
As mothers do.
And she’s the one who bought me the Ben & Jerry’s, so you can see why she’s really great. 🙂
I cried, and sniffled, complained, and rubbed my eyes with a too-wet napkin. I was angry, frustrated, and hurt about how I didn’t have my ish together, how things weren’t about me (when I thought they should have been…oh, foolish millennial…), and how I needed to cry it out.
And through it all, she told me to not forget to be forgiving.
If we want to be forgiven (by God, our friends, strangers, your mailman), then it’s so crazy important that we be willing to extend forgiveness to others, too.
(I mean, you want to forgive because it’s the right thing to do, not to get something out of it. We’re not 8 years old, trading in one Beanie Baby for the hope of something better.)
We don’t know what’s going through others’ minds. We don’t always know their thought processes, their emotions. Everyone is different, and we all come to different conclusions to life that influence our actions and decisions. And sometimes these decisions go smoothly…and other times, we unintentionally hurt someone else.
But if there’s no malice there (and sometimes if there is), we need to be able to not hold a grudge and harden our hearts to those we care about.
Because we all screw up, okay? You will hurt someone you love very much on accident. So will I. And we’ll apologize and mean it. And then we’ll do it again. Not on purpose, but because we’re human, and these things do tend to happen.
Humans are messy, after all.
5 | Personal growth can be hell, but it makes you stronger.
It’s not super fun. I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m a nice person—I don’t lie.
Through everything I’ve said here, I came to one over-arching conclusion: I love growing as a person. I just don’t always like what it takes to get there.
It’s painful, and sometimes it hurts. And sometimes (A LOT OF TIMES OKAY) there are tears involved. And Ben & Jerry’s won’t always fix it (shocking, I know).
But I want to reach the best version of myself. The thing is, we tend to want to avoid anything that helps us grow. Because stretching ourselves past our comfort zones is…um, uncomfortable. But I don’t want to distance myself from situations that I know will stretch me and make me a better person, even if I’m temporarily uncomfortable.
The process of growth tends to suck, but the results are always worth it.
Because that’s what we’re here on this earth for: to forgive, to grow and develop into better, stronger versions of ourselves, and to love others better. (I can’t take credit for this—my mom said it).We're here on this earth to forgive, grow and love others better.Click To Tweet
Read this next: How to Be More Comfortable with Vulnerability
What are some life lessons you didn’t learn until after you graduated? What lessons are you still working on? Leave a comment below and let me know your own thoughts on post-grad life.
In the meantime, let’s be friends.