I was going to title this post “10 Lessons I’ve Learned a Year Into the Real World,” but I really hate the term “real world.” It’s just obnoxious. There’s nothing more real about this world as opposed to the world I lived in five years ago. My responsibility has increased (especially my financial responsibility), but that’s something I have welcomed and even looked forward to. I feel like it’s terms like that that deter college students from wanting to enter the work force for fear of what it may be like. Now that I’ve made a pretty off-topic soapbox speech, I will begin writing the actual blog post…
It’s been a year! I graduated from Elon University on May 25, 2013 after four incredible, life-shaping years, and we just passed May 25th of this year. Let me just say on the record that from May 25, 2013 to May 25, 2014, I have undergone more change than any other 365 day period of my life. It has been the ride of my life!
As I’ve gone through a lot, I’ve also learned a lot. Trial by fire, some may say. Here are the lessons I’m taking with me:
1. It’s okay to rely on other people; in fact, it’s a good thing
I am the first to admit that I hate to rely on others, and I’m really bad at it. I am Miss Independent, and I’ve been that way since I was a little girl. I don’t like to feel like I’m imposing on other people, and I highly value self-sufficiency and independence. I become extremely anxious when I have to rely on others…call it trust issues, call it control issues, call it whatever you want…I just like to do things myself.
In the past year, however, I’ve learned more than ever that I cannot survive independent of others.
I need people to mentor and teach and lead me, I need people to encourage me, I need people to speak truth to me when I doubt myself, I need people to ask me tough questions, I need someone to watch Charley when I go out of town and I needed to borrow a family friend’s car when mine was in the shop. This is all okay. This is all good. I need to rely on others.
2. Schedules and to-do lists aren’t just fun, they’re necessary
To-do lists and schedules are my favorite, and nothing has taught me their importance more than this past year. The reality is that unless I am intentional about meeting with someone, setting aside time to exercise, making a grocery list, finding time to clean my apartment, or prioritizing my work responsibilities, nothing will get done. Literally, nothing. I’ll go home, eat dinner, walk Charley, and hang out on the couch or surf the web.
I’m working on getting better about waking up, writing a rough schedule and to-do list, and sticking to them, but overall, my life is managed through calendaring and scheduling. And I’m better for it…more relaxed, more productive, just better.
3. The state of my home frequently represents the state of my mind
When the laundry is piled up, Charley’s toys are scattered everywhere, my bed isn’t made, my dishes aren’t cleaned, and my fridge isn’t stocked, my mind is usually in a state of chaos as well. I have always loved to live in a highly organized and clean environment, but a full-time job makes that difficult some days. There are weeks when I get to Saturday and realize that it’s the first time I’ve spent any more than just a few moments in my apartment to straighten it up.
I’ve had to get serious about really picking up after myself throughout the morning and evening so that I can live in a place of peace, and not in a place of disorganization and stress, both physically and mentally.
4. Some people won’t like me and I won’t like some people…and that’s okay
I’m not a people-pleaser in terms of never saying “no” or being afraid to be honest with others, but like most people, I definitely value what others think about me and can be sensitive to harshness or criticism. Just this morning, my devotional book said that it’s scientifically proven that roughly 10% of people will never like you…and that accepting this fact can bring a great deal of freedom. Preach!
There have been times in the past year where I’ve struggled with people who just don’t seem to like me, and I’ve had to crawl to the foot of the cross and ask God to remind me how He feels about me and to remind me that His love and acceptance are always enough. There have also been times when a person has been really hard to love, and I’ve had to learn that treating someone with respect and kindness, regardless of their reaction, is biblical and worthwhile. These lessons…they’ve been hard.
5. My health has to be more important than being busy
This isn’t college anymore…I can’t stay up all night, drink four cups of coffee, and nap in the early afternoon. I also can’t eat junk all the time and expect to have enough energy to make it through the day nor neglect my back (I have scoliosis) and expect to feel good. If I don’t go to the dentist, no one is going to make me (although my mom may call and nag me since she knows my deep-rooted hate for the dentist). Same with the dermatologist. Basically, it’s my responsibility to make my health a priority.
This has meant scheduling twice-weekly chiropractic appointments, periodic dental exams (gag), quarterly dermatologist appointments, etc. Sometimes it’s tough to fit it all in, but again, my health has to be more important than being busy.
6. Being selfish about “me time” isn’t selfish after all
I’m an introvert, and although I love social gatherings, I need time alone (or with my puppy 🙂 ) to recharge. God asks us to serve others, but He also calls us to rest in Him. In the same vein, God calls me to put Him and others’ needs before my own, but He doesn’t call me to neglect myself at all. In fact, I know that when I spend time showering, doing my hair and makeup, wearing clothes that fit well and are stylish, I feel better and have more self-confidence. I’m not suggesting that my confidence should come from what I look like, I’m only pointing out that some of it does!
Similarly, when I am conscious to say no to plans when I know I need a night to myself, or when I rearrange my day so that I can fit in a walk or some yoga, or when I tell my co-workers that I can’t help them with a project for another week because I’m already slammed, I’m taking care of myself so that I am ready and able to serve others well. The truth is that when I’m at the end of my rope, tired, frazzled, and frustrated, I’m not going to serve others at all, let alone in a loving and Christ-like way. Let’s be real, the world isn’t going to say “Slow down, Blair, take some time to recharge” anytime soon.
7. I can be friends with people who aren’t 22 year old recent college grads (I can be friends with people who aren’t just like me)
All my life, I’ve only had close friends who were my age, or just one to two years older or younger, mostly because these are the people who I spent time with each day in school. Now that I’m out of school, I am no longer around peers all the time, and I have learned that I truly have the capacity to befriend people who aren’t 22 year old recent college grads.
I’m close friends with a PhD student,, several moms with small children, married couples on the verge of starting a family, middle and high school students who serve in my ministry at church, middle-aged men and women who I work with, etc, etc. Finding diversity in my friendships has truly blessed me and allowed me to see that what people crave is community, and age really is just a number.
8. I can do hard things…through Christ
I can move across the country alone and build a life and find a community. I can get a puppy and learn how to raise him, even though I never had a dog growing up. I can get laid off and find a new job that I love much more. I can go through a breakup after two years and come out stronger for it. I can speak my mind even when my hands are shaking. I can say no to unnecessary crazy. I can stand up for myself when I’m being treated unfairly. I can figure out my taxes and insurance (with my Dad’s help–see #1). I can get through the trauma and logistical difficulty of being in a severe car accident. I can love people who I don’t have anything in common with. I can have conversations that make me feel vulnerable or nervous. I can ask questions even when I think I should already know the answers.
I can do hard things. But I can’t do them alone. (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. -Philippians 4:13)
I’ve been praying lately for more hard things, because this year has taught me that I can handle them, because God can handle them. I want to challenge myself to do something that seems impossible, like run a half-marathon or publish a book. Hard things are what give us a story…and I want a great story! 🙂
9. Dogs are just as great as everyone always said they were, maybe even better
On September 28, 2013, the world got about 3000x cuter because Charley Theodore Menzel was born. And on December 8th of the same year (just a day before my birthday!), my world got 100000x better because Charley became mine. As I mentioned before, I never had a dog growing up (or any other pets, except for an allergy-inducing chinchilla named Zoey), so I never loved dogs the way that some of my friends did. I didn’t hate them either, but a couple of poorly trained, obnoxious dogs that were family pets for kids I babysat left me with quite a bit to be desired in the “dogs are great” department.
But after I graduated, I started to feel this push to get a pup of my own. It took 7 months of prayer (and conversations with my dog-loving friend and Charley’s godmother, Olivia) to convince me to bite the bullet and get a dog. (Olivia’s late dog, Teddy is the reason for Charley’s middle name. Rest in peace, sweet Teddy!) And I am so, so, so (so so so so so so) glad I did. Charley really is the best decision I’ve ever made, after my decision to follow Jesus, of course! 🙂
He relaxes me and helps me cope with stress and anxiety, he gives me a huge outlet for my motherly instincts, he allows me to meet lots and lots of people, he cuddles with me at night, which helps me sleep, he is my little baby and I am totally obsessed with him. I have probably 7,000 photos of him on my computer and phone (literally had to purchase an external hard drive to store them), but I have no plans of slowing down.
In summary, dogs really are as great as everyone always said they were, and I think I could convince almost anyone to get a fur baby!
10. My life and I are, and will always be, a work in progress
I don’t have it all figured out. My life isn’t perfect. My plans fail me. I make really big mistakes and really silly ones, too. I say things I shouldn’t, I think things I shouldn’t, I judge people I shouldn’t. I don’t trust God enough. I don’t know very much about anything, really, but I’m learning. I’m curious, and I’m hopeful, I’m starting to ask more questions. I have developed such a deep-rooted hope for the trajectory of my life in the past year–I really believe that God has amazing plans for me and I am going to do great big things in His name! I can’t wait to see what’s in store.
For those of y’all who have recently completed your freshman year of life :), what have you learned? What lessons are you taking with you into your sophomore year of life? I’d love to know!