Now I know this, but when I first ‘flew the nest’ I had no idea that I was a sheltered little snowflake. Although I did receive a decent amount of prep and life skills for what adulting might entail from my parents, teachers and a bunch of miscellaneous adults, there was a whole boatload of stuff I had no idea about. Let me tell you about the most important ones so that you can avoid some of the issues I faced.
You will be responsible for taking care of your home, your schedule and your health
I have doting and very agreeable parents. And yet, aged 19, immediately after finishing high school and passing baccalaureate I moved out of my family home. To another freakin’ country.
Learning how to manage a household of your own in your native language and familiar country is hard enough but learning to do that in a foreign language and a different culture is quite the baptism of fire. For me it entailed: learning to cook for one (I thought I knew how to cook, but I want more from life than staple 4 recipes), buying the right amount of food for one (why is food so expensive?), booking my own appointments (I must pay for dental care? Are you for real?) and paying my own utility bills (so many bills!). And of course, cleaning my own home. Nobody really prepares you for the sheer volume of chores associated with just living. Did you know that occasionally you should descale the kettle and clean the oven? Me neither. And that you should read the labels on your clothes before you put your cashmere sweater into a hot wash, and follow the care instructions? There is literally only you to be mad at if you shrink your cashmere sweater.
Sometimes you might run out of money
As a kid, have you ever yearned for the freedom that your parents seemed to have with their cash? They never had to ask anybody if they can buy something or another, they just got to do the things they wanted.
And then I suddenly had that freedom and it hit me – that’s not how the world actually is.
As a 19-year-old I was an au-pair, gap year-ing in London to study Japanese. I had to budget my ‘pocket money’ to pay for the language course, social activities, mobile phone bill (the first bill I ever paid for myself), clothes, makeup…life. It might sound counter-intuitive, but not being given pocket money as a child helped with this – if I wanted to buy something that my parents didn’t want to buy, I had to earn money in some way or another. Living life as an adult is no different.
But even with my, at the time very limited, expenses I found myself sometimes just simply running out of money.
This did not change until literally 9 years later when I finally learnt to budget and prioritise my costs.
After the blissful year as an au-pair, I decided to stay in London and had the rude second awakening of having to pay for my rent and serious utility bills, on top of my usual simple expenses of food, clothing and socialising. I had no idea how much life in a city cost at the time.
Toeing the poverty line because you don’t really know how to manage your cash is not a good situation, ever. Don’t follow my example and always have a plan for your money, and some money in your plan.
You are responsible for your actions
Or the lack of… The amazing thing about being an adult is that if you want something done, you usually can do it. Equally amazing is that things stop doing themselves for you when you’re an adult.
Want to see your friends? You must organise it.
Don’t want to see your friends? You must organise it too.
You want a clean house? Clean it or pay somebody to do it for you.
Want to feel healthy? Go for a run in a park.
Don’t want to get mugged at night? Don’t walk through said park with no lights on and alone at 3am.
If something in your life needs doing, it’s on you to get it done.
You get to do what you really want to do …sometimes
I had this idea as a young woman that I could just do whatever I wanted. Going out to a party on a Tuesday, heading home at 3am and then falling asleep in the office, in my boss’s chair no less, taught me otherwise. You do not in fact get to eat the cake and have the cake, unless you somehow get two cakes. Most people only get the one.
Don’t get me wrong, you can become a digital nomad in Bali if you want to, but even a digital nomad in Bali needs to eat, dress and have somewhere safe to sleep. They’re the same needs we all have, just in a different country.
So you work. Because you like going out to dinner, catching a show in the West End or traveling at every opportunity you craft for yourself. And it is all possible, but it’s rarely all possible at the same time.
Your opinions and wishes will be ignored more often than you imagined possible, for a time
True story, I have never had my input ignored as much as I did in the first two years of my career.
Because people around us love to think that they know better and if they have more life experience, education and wisdom than you, they usually know better.
Luckily, as humans we have the ability to learn and therefore figure out how to get things done, how to positively impact events in our life and how to earn respect.
And from the perspective of a 33-year-old with a lot of life experiences I will honestly say that NOTHING annoys me more these days than a 20-year-old know-it-all who mostly really has no idea what they’re talking about.
Instead, I’ll take a 20-year-old who asks questions, tries things out and critically assesses their own actions instead. And I wish I was that 20-year-old some years ago, but no, I was the annoying one. So don’t be like me, and go out there with a curious mind and an agenda please. And if your ideas get ignored, come up with better ones.