24 things I learned the hard way by 24
No matter which way you slice it, being a grown-up (or grown-up in training) is hard. While I’m happy with where I’ve ended up, and count myself lucky to have learned from previous experiences, I’ve found that there are some life lessons out there—okay, mistakes—that you can maybe just skip over to save yourself some time (and humiliation). Here are 24 lessons I learned by the time I turned 24, narrowed down a much, much longer list.
1) All gas gauges are not created equal. Do not expect the gas gauge on your new car, or your rental car, or your mom’s car, or any car ever, to work the way your old one did. Put gas in before the light comes on. . .because AAA charges three times the cost of a tank to come save you with a gas can. Just do it.
2) Negotiating should be a safe conversation, but unfortunately, it sometimes isn’t. Trust your gut. When a conversation feels weird, it probably is weird.
3) The longer you wait to make friends in a new city, the harder it gets. When you’re feeling a pity party coming on, throw on your best ‘I’m awesome’ outfit, check out Meetup.com, and head to the local karoake mixer to mingle. Life is lonely without friends to laugh with.
4) Take Pinterest with a grain of salt (or two). Don’t freak when your pumpkin cupcakes look more like sick orange octopi with green tentacles. Life happens. And when it does, there’s the grocery store.
5) Invest in your health. You can spend $1 on Ramen, or $3 on a box of spinach spaghetti. You can pay $50 for a gym membership, or $75 on round of drinks for your co-workers. Here’s a hint: one will make you feel amazing. The other. . . well, it might have a similar effect, but it won’t last long.
6) Office hours are as good as extra credit. Stop by, show an interest, and communicate. Your professor will respect you more for it, and be more willing to help you out should you need something down the road.
7) Some people, man. Here’s the deal: there will be some people in life who just suck. Maybe they’re sadists, or maybe they’re dealing with an inner struggle you can’t even begin to unpack. Whatever it is, you can’t erase them, but you can decide not to let them live rent-free in your mind, or on your list of worries.
8) Office gossip is not a good idea. In the best case, it’ll make you look whiny. In the worst case, it’ll make you look heinous, untrustworthy, immature, petty, and will almost always get back to the wrong ears.
9) CVS COUPONS NEVER EXPIRE. I repeat, CVS COUPONS NEVER EXPIRE! Get the extra bucks, and thank me later.
10) When you ‘accidentally’ run the toll booth because you forgot change, THEY WILL FIND YOU. And bill you. And it’ll be way more expensive than the $1.75 you would’ve paid in the first place. Grab yourself $10 in quarters next time you’re at the bank and play it safe, lest you rack up $85 worth of unpaid tolls like this blogger.
11) If you’re working for yourself—as a freelancer, a landscaper, a tutor, or a master balloon maker—start a separate tax account once you receive your first check. Set aside 10% of all your earnings into this tax account—maybe more, if you’re a great saver. When April 15th rolls around, you’ll be glad you don’t have to scramble to make ends meet.
12) In the words of my main man Ryan Adams, ‘Love is hell.’ But it’s worth it. Also, while we’re on the subject, no judgement or anything, but you probably shouldn’t have more than one boyfriend or girlfriend at a time. Things get crazy with too many cooks in the kitchen.
13) Not everyone is a ‘baby person.’ And that’s OK.
14) Contrary to popular belief, you can, in fact, have too much fiber.
15) It doesn’t matter how well you say the wrong thing. It’s still wrong.
16) Your parents know everything that happens in their house. If you throw a party in high school while your parents are out of town, it does. not. matter. how sneaky you think you are. Girlfriend, you’re gonna get caught. Maybe not right away, but it WILL happen.
17) You don’t have to go to every wedding. Sometimes, ‘best friends forever’ really means ‘best friends for adolescence,’ and that’s cool. Weddings are expensive, and are meant to be intimate. If you don’t feel like going, don’t.
18) You don’t need a Gap card.
19) SAYING NO IS THE GREATEST THING. Say no more often. Do it. It will set you free.
20) Don’t take any mani/pedi risks. You might think it’s worth saving $20 bucks to get a sketchy pedicure, but tell me this—will it be worth it when that back alley pedicure gives you MRSA and lands you in the hospital for three weeks? I’ll take this one: no, it’s not worth it. In fact, just do your own nails. Just be sure to let ’em dry all the way.
21) Read the fine print on the lease. Take pictures of the apartment before you move in. Make sure your roommate’s pet is a good one. Be a good neighbor. Don’t build a pool in the backyard of your rent house, lest you want a small swamp–complete with wildlife, fungi, and all– to take up residence in your flower bed.
22) Don’t park illegally, unless you like $75 parking tickets that could’ve been avoided with a brisk walk and some better judgement.
23) Don’t leave your job angry. As tempting as it might be to quit your awful job in a righteous huff, a burned bridge never got anyone from point A to point B.
24) Community is a good thing. Losing yourself in community is not.
BONUS: Most pieces of advice are just recycled regrets. Take them with a grain of salt, and a glass of wine.