Exactly two years ago today, I took my final exam as a university student. It was a theory paper on one of the computer programs I had used extensively throughout my degree, and I should have pulled an all-nighter in an attempt to get the best grade possible. Instead, I spent the wee hours drinking wine with my flatmates. I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation, but at the time, I celebrated my final exam as the final rite of passage toward adulthood.
Soon, I would metamorphosize from precocious student into magnificent man, like a butterfly bursting forth from its cocoon, ready to flit amongst the brightly-coloured flowers of adulthood. It took about six days of this newfound adulthood before I resorted to sitting around the house, playing video games in my underwear.
Life is full of little disappointments and unpleasant surprises, and none more so when you’re figuring things out on your own. The conveyor belt of education has spit you out of the assembly line and now, you’re left to fend for yourself. The 2015-vintage me was full of fears, dreams and aspirations; but today, with two years under my belt, I can firmly say that the 2015 version of me was full of crap. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my short dalliance with semi-functional adulthood.
1. You’ll probably be too angry after the first year to learn anything
In theory, throughout our time in school, from kindergarten all the way through to prom and graduation, we’re being taught the rules and skills required to become a functioning adult, but after we get our degrees, the safety net of having an entire system devoted to helping us succeed disappears. If you’re anything like me, you land heavily on your very tender buttocks when you’re exposed to the constant rejections, disappointments and unwarranted hostility that the real world brings.
This wasn’t on the brochure! For a while, the hardships of life were enough to leave me in a constant funk, going through the motions in life and kind of stagnating for a while. Eventually though, I learned to redefine my ideas and expectations of life, and once I did that, things got slightly better.
2. Things take as long as they take
When a woman becomes pregnant, you know that barring any unforeseen complications, nine months later she’ll be welcoming a baby into the world. Of course, that gestation time is specific to humans; a mouse will go from embryo to baby in about 20 days, while an African elephant will give birth after 22 months. Moving to London two years ago, I expected to live in an awesome flat with a fulfilling job and great friends within six months, but in retrospect, that was like going to the zoo, breaking into an enclosure and trying to induce labour in a very distressed male elephant.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, relationship, or even waiting for a Chinese restaurant to hand you your food, I have learned it’s better to wait for the right thing, than rush into something. That way, you’ll be a great deal more satisfied with your life choices, and at the very least, you’ll avoid food poisoning from an ill-prepared duck chow mein.
3. Somehow, your money problems intensify
Back in university, I only really had to worry about having enough money for my rent and going-out; I found that if you had the willpower, you could effectively turn all of your meals into glasses of cheap wine. Now I’m a functional adult, I’m a lot more flush with cash, but I am also expected to pay for things.
It’s more difficult to steal bottles of whiskey from a house party and avoid getting thrown out; no longer can I invite my dates back to my place for a home-cooked meal and hand them a bowl of microwaveable porridge (with no toppings, of course – what is this, Buckingham Palace?). Worst of all, I can’t rely on maintenance loans to help fund the slow destruction of my liver; now, I have to work for a living, putting pants on at least five days a week. Yuck. With rent, bills, taxis, as well as holidays, I now understand what the Notorious BIG meant when he said “Mo’ money, mo’ problems”; I’m the richest I’ve ever been, but I’m also inexplicably out of money all the time. This will become mo’ of a problem in the future, I’m.
4. You slowly realise that there are very few people you have to answer to
When I was young, I was deathly afraid of disappointing or upsetting my elders. I would always tiptoe around my parents, rarely rebelling or defying them, and I would strive to be the most attentive and friendly in class. Now, I’m an adult and I know better; really, there’s nothing you can do to avoid the crushing disappointment and judgement of other people. You might as well lean in.
When I realised that I no longer had to impress people in the adult world, a load was lifted off my back. Things got immeasurably better. Once you learn that you’re an adult and that you can disregard the opinions of other adults, the only problem is the steep learning curve as you work out who exactly you can upset with little retribution. Sorry, angry former boss and my crying mother.
5. There’s so much freedom. Probably too much freedom
A few months ago, I got home and decided I wanted ice cream. So I went to the local supermarket and got some, happily tucking in as the winter sun began to rise and with it, my hangover. It was, of course, mid-February, and I had perhaps three hours until I had to leave for work. The best thing about being an adult, in my opinion, is that I can do exactly what I like, but that’s also the worst thing.
In effect, the second you step out of the umbrella of university, you’ve been handed a blank canvas. That canvas can be used by you to draw a beautiful masterpiece, or it can be used by you for when you run out of toilet paper. This realization liberated me, but it also makes me terrified for the future.
After two years of adult life, I’m sure that I have many more years of adulthood ahead of me. With any luck, two years on, I’ll look back on this article and chuckle ruefully at myself, noting what an idiot I was. I like to think that shows personal growth, right? Right?