I get that 26 is not that old in the grand scheme of things, and yet, all of the ~college graduation~ posts on CF have been hitting me in my feels a little bit. In May, it will have been four years (eek) since my own college graduation. I can’t help but feel like college was an eon ago for me.
Of course, I feel a little twinge of nostalgia when I think about college, but I also like to think that life is a little easier for me now that I have some work and life experience under my belt. There are so many things that sucked about college and early post-grad life that I’d like to think would barely faze me now, simply because a little experience and perspective have made it easier to tackle adult life.
If you’re feeling stressed about graduating and leaving college life behind, or post-grad life is kicking your butt a little bit, cut yourself some slack and know that a lot of ish gets easier as you get older. These are the things that get easier for me as I get older:
When I was younger, and especially when I was in college, I would say yes to almost everything. I wanted to approach new experiences with an open mind, but by my junior year, I had too much on my plate and not enough time, energy, or emotional space for everything (and everyone) I’d committed to. I was, as Ron Swanson would say, “half-assing two things”, but instead of two things, it was many things.
Now, saying “no” to something is the most delicious feeling. A friend invites me out, but there’s a new season of Chef’s Table? Sorry, not tonight. Next time! Taking on a new project when I’m already swamped? Sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth now. Thank you for thinking of me!
That’s not to say you should say no to everything (see my next point), but knowing your limits and feeling within your rights to say “not this time,” gets so much easier as you get older.
On the flip side, saying “yes” becomes much easier, too – especially when it comes to something that might make you uncomfortable or anxious, like trying something new that you might not succeed at. I think, when you’re younger, the fear of failing or looking ridiculous can paralyze you into staying in your comfort zone, but being an adult sort of forces you out of that safe space – it’s pretty much impossible to be a person in the world without failing at something, at some point.
The good news is, trying new things, failing, and being uncomfortable are all things that help you grow. Whether you’re saying yes to a role with more responsibility at work, or to starting the blog or the Instagram or the Etsy store, or to singing Jolene at karaoke, trying new things and failing (or succeeding!) will help you grow and become more resilient. And, the more you fail, whether it’s at the small things or big things, the more the fear of failure diminishes… which in turn makes it easier to try new things!
Saying “I’m Sorry”
Look, I’m a Capricorn and I can be stubborn af (ask my partner), so I never thought it would be easy for me to say that I’m wrong or that I’m sorry. But, just like failing, I’ve been wrong more times than I would like to recall, and it is much, much, much less painful in the long run to admit you’re wrong or say you’re sorry. The more you say you’re sorry, the easier it gets – and trust me, you’ll have a lot of chances to say you’re sorry the older you get.
Much like failing, I think when we’re younger we see making a mistake or hurting someone as a deep flaw in our character, rather than an unavoidable part of life. But owning up to mistakes is a sign of a mature, well-adjusted, and emotionally intelligent person, and learning to accept your flaws while taking responsibility for your actions is something that will get you farther in life than digging your heels in on everything.
The good news is, you won’t be the only person who will be saying “sorry” more often. I’ve found that the older I get, the harder it is to hold on to grudges or stay angry at people, especially if they apologize and own what they did. Which means it’s easier for me to forgive people.
No matter what kind of relationships you have – friends, family, coworkers, significant others – learning to forgive someone will make your relationship much stronger and more fulfilling. It will be easier for you to trust someone, and for them to trust you, knowing that the relationship is a safe space for both of you to make mistakes.
Of course, that’s not to say you have to forgive everyone for everything. Establishing boundaries and knowing yourself is a huge part of getting older, too. Which brings me to my next point…
Standing Up For Yourself
I have never been the kind of person to shy away from standing up for myself, but there were definitely situations I think back on, either in college or early in my career, where I wish I had taken a stronger stance for myself. In those situations, I think I didn’t stand up for myself more because I was afraid of being perceived as a bitch or I didn’t have enough experience to know that the situation wasn’t right.
Standing up for yourself can be very hard, especially when you don’t know what the repercussions of doing so will be, but the older you get, the easier it is to take on that risk. It’s not the end of the world now if someone doesn’t like me – especially if the reason they don’t like me is because I stood up for something I believe in, or because I stood hard at my boundaries.
In fact, I’ve found that most people will respect you more for standing up for yourself or making your needs known. And, if they have a problem with it, that’s okay too – because if they can’t respect you and what you need, you don’t need to make them a priority in your life.
Knowing What You Like…and What You Don’t
Did you ever think you liked something because all your friends did, but when you did the thing on your own, you realized you didn’t like it at all? I had friends in high school who loved horror movies, and I remember watching those movies with my friends, feeling anxious and heightened and awful, thinking that that was how you were supposed to feel. But I wasn’t having fun! Now, I flat out don’t watch horror movies, and if someone invites me to go see one, I politely say no (see point #1).
Figuring out what you like and what you don’t like definitely takes some trial and error over time, and you can definitely find things you love when you’re older. But, I think it becomes easier to pinpoint what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. This isn’t because you know what things you like, but because you know what it feels like when you like something versus when you don’t.
Figuring It Out
I remember the first time my partner and I filed our taxes jointly. It was frustrating, confusing, and stressful…I’m pretty sure we both cried at one point. This year, I think we we were done in like a half an hour and we barely broke a sweat.
This kind of goes back to the idea of being resilient and flexible, but the more stressful situations you encounter (and overcome!), the easier it gets to figure out new things. You may want to lie down now at the thought of getting a new job or finding an apartment, but after you’ve handled a few crises or tough situations as an adult, they all get easier.
I like to think of those early experiences like resources or frames of reference for when you have to do even harder things later in life. Even if that resource is just, “I survived applying for colleges once, I can definitely figure out how to apply to grad school,” or, “This can’t be as hard as the time I had to interview for x job.”
What do you think?
What got easier for you as you got older? What do you still struggle with as an adult? Let me know in the comments below!