A young man named Karl wrote me asking for advice. In Part One, I talked about Jobs vs. Careers and how to be the kind of person anyone would love to know. Here, in Part Two, I answer the rest of Karl’s questions.
Will I be able to pay my own bills?
Like I said in the ‘Jobs’ section, employers always want good people who WORK HARD. So hopefully, you can get and keep a job. Remember to be flexible about where you live: a lot of people around here pay a lot to live in town when they could save money living out in the country and driving in each day. Also, remember that we live in a consumer society (whatever you live, it’s becoming more like the USA in that way, I’m sure) and there’ll be companies trying to sell you things your whole life. I’m not saying to buy nothing; just buy the things you care about most. Movie buff? Buy that new DVD but not that album. Buying less is equal to earning more in some cases.
Many areas and countries also have programs or assistance to help students (and former students) figure out how to manage their finances. Online also has more help than you’d imagine. Just by ‘Googling’ your question I found a lot of good articles. There is help out there — and people who care.
I feel lost. I have no courage at all in facing the reality I am living on.
First of all, know that fear is normal and healthy. We are all afraid when we are attempting something new, scary, or momentous. Being age 20 heading for 21 is assuredly all these things. You’re doing great. In fact, you’re rockin’ it out! Because you’re reading this, you’re looking for answers, and you sense there’s something better or more out there. That’s WAYYYY ahead of a lot of people your age.
I know feeling lost sucks. One of the things that’s been great about aging to 37 is that I still feel lost sometimes, but I now have the faith and the insight that being lost is sometimes the first step to being found. At age 20 I’d written two screenplays but then just lost all interest in writing more. I wondered what was wrong. For six months I thought I might not be a writer anymore and the idea saddened me. I was lost. Then I got a new story idea, and tried it as a novel — and BAM! I loved it, and found my true calling. But I never would have started it if I hadn’t ‘lost’ screenwriting. Just trust that this feeling is important and will take you to the amazing place you are supposed to go.
Another thing I’ve learned is ‘Fake it until you make it’. Which means basically that you just start acting like the person you want to be — the courageous, excited graduate that can’t wait to take life by the horns and charge off to their grand destiny. I know, it feels fake. It feels hard. Everyone will know you’re a fraud. Except, they won’t. Because we’re ALL doing this, especially us more mature adults — we’re all faking our way through being parents and teachers and mentors and self improvement blog writers — we’re all lying… and we’re not. That’s kind of what being an adult is, a lot of on-the-job learning, and lot of saying ‘yes’ when it scares us, and a lot of doing our best and letting the rest go.
I know this doesn’t sound helpful, but now you are like the rest of us. And while that may be scary, know that every one you love and admire has been in the same place you are now.
And know that it does get better. So, SO much better. I enjoyed my teens. I liked my 20s. But I’ve freakin’ love my 30s. Your best years are just starting: you’re going to discover so many things you love, things you didn’t existed. You’re going to become an expert in subjects, in important things that change people lives and in trivial things that most people think are stupid but a few people will revere. You’ll see sights more beautiful than you thought existed, and meet people you feel lucky to be on the same planet as. You’ll start to see life as a game and you’ll start getting that cocky, king-of-the-hill feeling because you know how to play and play well. You’ll build mountains out of molehills.
But I do remember that at your age I wanted clear, straight answers, not a lot of details and ‘feelings’. As a young writer, if I had a problem, I wanted a solution. Right there. Right then. Obviously, I don’t know your life (though I’m happy to hear more) but here’s the short and sweet version of my advice to you–
Katherine Cerulean’s Guide to Getting From 20 to 37 With a Minimum of Heartache and a Maximum of Superhero Awesomeness:
- Take care of yourself. Learn to cook. Learn healthy foods you love. Go easy on the sports that ruin your body, but exercise in positive ways that will keep you trim, healthy, and happy. Use protection during sex, every time. Make time for the activities you enjoy.
- Be the person you’d want to know. The ‘Golden Rule’ really helps. Treat your girlfriend how you’d want to be treated. And your family. Be the employee and coworker you’d wish to have. Be kinder than you have to be. Basically, you can ‘get away’ with acting like a selfish, lazy jerk — but in the end you always lose something — your lover, your friend, your chance at a promotion. Forget that crap and be the person everyone wants to know. Be a hero.
- Work hard. I’ve emphasized this again and again because I think it really is the key to my success. When you’re willing to work hard, you don’t mind doing the dishes, helping out your coworker, and submitting that resume for the 40th time. Do it with a smile if you can.
- Figure out what you want most and go get it. Discover what you really love and keep learning, working, and fighting for it.
- Trust the universe. Whether you pray to a god, gods, or just feel that something larger and more important than us is out there, know that you are just where you’re supposed to be to end up where you’re supposed to go. When you desire anything, remember that you are really asking for ‘This, or something better’, and keep an open mind if your first wish isn’t answered.
- Never spend time with people who belittle, hurt, or upset you. I know it’s hard when you’re young, but you need to know that you are strong and awesome and you rock. When you are heading out to spend time with someone, do you feel excited, happy, and peaceful? If not — cut them out of your life. Find people who believe in you and share your hopes and dreams. And remember that Jim Rohn said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’
- Enjoy life — say yes to adventure. As long as it’s not life-threatening, say yes to new things, weird ideas, awesome projects, and once-in-a-lifetime moments. Life actually does pass pretty fast and you’ll want to look back on your 20s with a lot of great memories.
- Become a master at life. This is a phrase of Jack Canfield’s and it means to me that you should use everything, every day, as a feedback loop. Hated feeling hungover? Don’t do that again! Love watching a sunset? Remember to do that more. Write down healthy meals you like, fun exercises, and hobbies that make you feel alive. You’d be surprised how great life can be if you just string together a million little things that you love to do.
- Beware the BIG things. Children. Drugs. Jail. Home ownership. Some of the best and worse things about life can turn your world upside down. It can make work harder, moving around and adventures more difficult, and even can kill you. So, like the places on old maps that read ‘Here be dragons’, just remember to slow down and be very careful when you approach these things. Just say no to that dumb friend who offers you drugs or a smoke. Use your birth control. If something seems like a dumb idea, just don’t do it, go home, and maybe get some new friends. When you’re ready for the big, good things, you’ll enjoy them far more than adding something big now on top of all your other worries.
- Find your people. Join classes, websites, walk around museums, start a website — but most of all keep looking for people you really like, who share your interests, and make your world a better, more beautiful place.
- Find out what you were put on this planet to do. And then go do it.
Lastly, an itemized list of what I would do in if I was in your shoes —
- Buy your girlfriend flowers today (or write her a handwritten note about how much she means to you).
- Google for resources to help you get confident about your finances.
- Google to find mental help resources for graduates stressed out about money and being ‘new adults’.
- Get a local job right away.
- Work hard.
- Spend little.
- Feel like a great and valuable worker.
- Make a budget and stick to it.
- Spend a weekend really questioning how excited you are about your degree.
- If you’re excited, work on it in all your spare time like it’s a magnet pulling you toward your perfect job.
- Email people who have your dream job, asking politely how they got started.
- Train, learn, and improve to make yourself the best candidate.
- Look for jobs and internships online.
- Keep saving money if possible — even a tiny cushion helps.
- Talk to your girlfriend about her hopes and dreams for the future and tell her you want to help her and be a part of that future, if possible.
- Help those less fortunate. It will make you feel capable and grateful.
- Buy or rent self improvement books and read them (or listen to books on CD). If that’s not possible, search the web for self improvement sites and free podcasts.
- Get more fit — especially take walks in nature, because it will calm and center you.
- Keep looking for the right job or opportunity in your field. Or look at going back to school if some other field is more exciting to you.
- Trust yourself. Write down lists of goals for each week (even small things), and for each month.
- Look back in a few months and be proud of your successes.
In the end, it’s a little like the game ‘Minecraft’. Childhood was a world. And so is high school and college. Those worlds were once scary and unknown. Unmapped. You started with nothing but maybe a stick. You knocked down a tree, built an ax, then built a little, sad-ass house to keep the biggest spiders away. But by graduation, no matter how many hardships you’d endured and how hard you’d had to work — you knew that world. You’d visited every nook and corner of the map. You had armor and knew which monsters you could best and which ones to avoid. You’d built a chest, and a forge and your house was sweet and awesome. But then you start a new world after college and are shocked to be back with one little stick and a giant, dark, unknown world covered in spiders (and Eldermen!).
So that’s my imperfect analogy. Of course you feel lost. And a little afraid. We all do when we start something new and vast and exciting and unknown. But you’ve got what it takes; you’re the hero of your own story. And just like in ‘Minecraft’, you have to work hard to build your perfect life, one piece a a time.
But remember, life’s also a game and a fun one. Things will get better, easier. You’ll find or make the tools you need. You’ll discover amazing new vistas. You’ll win. And you’ll learn.
And when you reach age 37, you’ll probably come across something from this time and smile, and wonder what you were so worried about. Your older self will wish he could have reassured you that it was all going to work out great. He’ll probably whisper under his breath, ‘Don’t worry — you’ve got this kid.’
And he’ll be right.