Anxiety is a disorder and a condition that can be debilitating, but a form of it is in every person, especially rising college seniors. Anxiety that stems from growing up, and fear accompanying that anxiety, can be such strong emotions it can make it nearly impossible to want to grow up. I recently had a discussion with my friend about how college is when you become an adult. But it’s becoming an adult the same way pre-teens are becoming teens. Sure, you’re almost there, but you have training wheels and nothing is really expected of you but to not get in any real trouble that could impact you when you’re what I call an “adult adult.” Just like that fateful birthday when you officially become a teen, one day you become an adult. It just has to happen, whether you’re ready for it or not.
This year I started a real summer internship – I got a badge and everything. On my first day of work, though, I was so terrified of failing and interacting with people who were so much more structured, disciplined and clearly just better at life than me that I couldn’t make myself move from the bed. It felt like a lead brick was on my chest and there was no way for me to move it; I couldn’t go to work, absolutely not, no way. Of course, I did go, and every day it got a little better, and now here I am halfway through writing this article on a business trip in California I never would have been on if I hadn’t gotten out of bed and decided to be an “adult adult” that day. Here are some things I have learned, and learned about myself, from this experience.
You Make Money! And It’s More Than Minimum Wage!
This was probably the earliest impact being an adult made on me. I had never really had a real job or a real income, and that can definitely be a hindrance on any adult. To be fair to those interns who may make minimum wage or may be completely unpaid – the experience you’re getting will set you up to make more than minimum in the future, so kudos to you, too. Real adults have a real income and can buy real experiences (and cool stuff if you’re into that). The great thing about having a real income is that you’re not afraid to go out and try things – like new food, new music, new sports activities, new cities – and you’re only accountable to yourself as to where that money is going. Basically, adults who have the pleasure of making real money have a lot of freedom, and that can lead to a lot of fun.
There Are Hot Men (And Women) In Suits Everywhere!
When you get to be a rising senior, and even sometimes after you’ve finished your freshman year, the dating options at your school become limited. When you enter the adult world it’s not a couple thousand of your peers, it’s literally millions that you comingle with when you go out on the town. Adults also dress marginally better than the average college student, so they are most definitely more aesthetically pleasing. I walked in my company’s headquarters and aside from the massive logos everywhere and the gorgeous California sunshine it was the first thing I noticed – there were really good looking, smart, educated males (and females) everywhere. No more dive bars or frat parties, these are real people now in the dating pool.
Talking To People Is Fun – And Useful
Okay, this one is a little harder because some people stay scary even after you talk to them. For the most part, though, the fear of talking to people you’ve never met is in your head. Almost every “adult adult” I have had the pleasure of coming in contact with here has been hugely helpful and a positive experience. When you’re first starting out everyone knows more than you – it’s almost inevitable unless you’re a super genius prodigy child. But another thing about adults, they know they know more than you and would either like to brag or give you advice – both give you useful insights. It can be as simple as being completely lost in the city or philosophical – maybe you’re not on the right career path and you should scratch it and start over. Talking to the people around you expands your depth of experience and your breadth of knowledge, so don’t be afraid of the executive down the hall.
You’re Going To Get It Wrong
This might be the most important thing to learn about being an “adult adult.” You’re going to get it wrong, and it’s going to suck, but then you’re not going to make the same mistake again. Instead, you have to learn to have a little thicker skin and get going again. Some people go their whole lives in careers they don’t want to be in because they’re so afraid of getting in wrong they can’t admit it to themselves. It’s evident in the office when you’re miserable and likely not good and your job – and out of it when you’re sad and mean because you spend eight to nine hours a day doing something you don’t enjoy. It’s easy to become comfortable and not want to rock the boat and disrupt your life and whoever is attached to it – but just like moving past the fear of growing up, it’s important to overcome the fear of growing out of their niche.
Becoming an adult is hard and it’s scary and it’s uncomfortable. It’s the first time people aren’t going to lay out a cookie-cutter path for you to follow, you have to find your own path. That doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds – the journey is half the fun.