As soon as I graduated college, my life started to gradually shift and evolve, like a Pokémon or perhaps a Gremlin that has belly-flopped into a pool called adulthood. I started noticing gray hairs, and my high-school jeans barely fit past my knees. It’s now so much cooler to drink and eat at gastropubs with names like “Piggy Bank” or “The Litter Box” than a local pub and In–N-Out. I started going through an identity crisis. I was not a girl and not yet a woman. I was a 20-something-year-old being sucker-punched by real life.
I’m 22, and I can confidently say I am becoming more and more comfortable in my 20-something-year-old skin (which still has acne, by the way, so whoever said skin blemishes go away once you hit 20 is a liar). Life is not so scary anymore, but it can still be weird. So, here are some things to watch out for.
1. Everything is actually really expensive.
As soon as you start making your very own money and living by yourself, you begin to notice how much of your paycheck is robbed by stupid things that you actually need in order to survive. For instance, printer ink. As a grad student, I probably spend around $50 every two months just so that I can print homework assignments and writing projects. And, seriously, it’s just ink! I’m pretty sure ink isn’t a rare commodity that scientists claim is being depleted due to climate conditions. We aren’t killing and draining octopi here. Things that are also needlessly expensive, but that you need: sheets, laundry detergent, cereal, and vitamins. Solution: Start couponing like Mama June from Honey Boo Boo, and sign up for rewards cards.
2. Your friends start making more money than you.
In high school and college, we all equally depended on our parents or horrible minimum-wage jobs in order to buy nice things, like really good cover-up and dresses from Urban Outfitters. Now, there's a distinction between you and your friend who gets paid twice as much as you at her fancy grown-up job. Maybe you’re in between school and a profession like I am, or maybe you took the $12/hour assistant job in hopes of building that résumé or for career advancement. This is totally okay. And it’s okay to be a little bit jealous when your friends start upgrading their cars and dressing like polished young adults. This will be you, soon. Be patient. Keep working hard. For the time being, enjoy it; if they offer to buy you a drink, let them.
3. You consider becoming a health freak.
As you grow up, calories and carbs become more sinister than student loans. Before you merged into your 20s, your body could take anything — an entire box of mac ‘n' cheese, a triple cheeseburger, and whipped cream that you used to spray into your mouth straight from the can. Now, you’re starting to notice what the nurse scribbles down after you stand on the scale. You maybe lie about how many times a week you actually exercise. Your doctor has the audacity to mention the words “cholesterol” and “levels” in the same sentence. Your ultra-skinny jeans squeeze you the wrong way. You reconsider wearing that crop top to the mall. Solution? Just watch what you eat, and pay closer attention to your body; everyone’s different and has individual needs. Eat vegetables. Dabble in some yoga. Pro tip: It’s actually kind of surprisingly cool how many things you can substitute with Greek yogurt.
4. Running into people can shock you.
The other week, I was at the local farmers’ market with my fiancé, and I totally noticed a friend’s ex-boyfriend wandering around barefoot, dirtier than your average San Diegan, and lugging a few bags of recyclables over his shoulder like a runaway. Either his life has turned extremely minimalist, or he is now homeless. If you visit or live in the town you’re from, you will probably start running into people you used to know. Whether they have a baby or some massive cosmetic surgery done to their face, you’re bound to wonder what happened. Be nice; time does not treat everyone kindly.
5. You can’t sleep in anymore.
At some point in your 20s, your body starts to realize you are no longer a needy, hopeless teenager. Your body is like, “Enough already! You are going to get up before 10 a.m., and you are going to like it!” You start waking up earlier and finding yourself dozing off during a movie or trying to read Middlemarch at 10:30 p.m. Personally, I would still love to sleep in till noon on the weekends, but my body and nagging subconscious won’t let me, especially if I have a ton of errands to run. Both my body and heart tell me I have a day to seize; that there is just no more room for extraneous REM.
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Image: Via IMDB
Or the Ann Taylor Loft sale section. Being a 20-something means owning at least four pairs of pants as opposed to jeans. Your wardrobe starts gagging every time you even think of buying a see-through, tie-dye tank top from Forever 21, and beige, black, and navy blue become your staples. But grown-up clothing can be fun, too, because how hot is a pencil skirt and a pair of really awesome turquoise heels? Work the blazer, and find new ways to do your hair; just because you have to wear nice clothes doesn’t mean you have to be boring.
7. You will find yourself engrossed in food and health magazines.
When you’re at the grocery store, your eyes will wander away from Justin Bieber’s latest breakdown and head towards “200 Ways to Burn 1,000 Calories Without Doing Anything at All” or “Fast-Food Recipes That Are Healthy and Super-Delicious at the Very Same Time.” Just don’t subscribe to every single magazine that promises you an easy way to detox. They are lying.
8. The Internet can betray you.
These days, if you call out of work and post a Facebook status saying you were eating a sandwich and playing with kittens at 9 a.m., you could get into some major s**t with your boss. A fine line between updating your whereabouts by uploading drunk photos constantly and up-keeping your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts appears. It’s a catch-22: Companies expect you to have some sort of web presence, but if you go one boob shot too far, you’ve screwed yourself over. Even making things private on Facebook doesn’t solve everything; companies pay other companies to snoop you out, and Facebook doesn’t have a problem with selling your information, because Facebook is self-serving and kind of evil. So, watch out. Do some spring-cleaning. Google yourself constantly to make sure those Vegas pictures you took in the Caesars Palace bathroom didn’t leak like venom.
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9. You will regret having been in love with somebody.
Because now you know better, or you have finally experienced real, honest love that doesn’t hurt. It’s strange to watch yourself wisely reflect back on a relationship and understand that the person was just not right for you. It takes courage to let go of someone, but, ultimately, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.
10. Time starts going by much, much faster.
Even if your job drags and you keep having bad days, it’s somehow always the end of a weekend and your birthday seems to be just around the bend every single year. You’re busy now, doing grown-up things. You’re paying bills, doing laundry, cooking dinner that doesn’t originate in a box, catching up with friends you haven’t seen in months, planning getaway weekends by the beach, working your ass off, and putting in extra hours, making sure you still call your parents, making room for a love life; girl, you are furiously multitasking through life, and you might not even realize it. So, stop. Put that phone down. Your deadline can wait five more minutes. Find a quiet place where you can sit cross-legged. Grab a piece of notebook paper and write down 10 things that you love about life. Savor them, because they’ll pass you by if you let them.
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