Adulthood 101 (and Other Classes We Wish Existed)
Five years removed from college, and inching increasingly closer to 3-0 status, I find myself contemplating what it means to be an adult. Sure, I’ve been one for 10 years based on technicality alone, but I still don’t always (re: never) feel like an adult. At my age, everyone expects you to handle all the things life throws at you in a grown-up matter. That means no crying and no calling your mom, and I frequently fail on both accounts. I think I’ll always be fuzzy on what exactly constitutes adulthood; all I know is that I was inadequately prepared for it.
There are probably a lot of places and people to blame for my deficiency at adulthood, but today I’m putting the onus on college. All of my classes were certainly helpful in creating my liberal arts background. (Except for that one credit poli-sci class. You know who you are. You know what you did) I don’t regret taking them, necessarily. What I do regret is not having some “here’s how to survive after college” classes. How much better at life would we all be if, in addition to our general education and major specific classes, we were required to take a few credits that ensured our success in the “real world?”
Once I graduated and realized that my life was no longer situated around schooling (as it had been for the previous 16 years), there was definitely an “uh-oh” moment. I still feel like a fish flopping around on dry land sometimes. Maybe if I’d had a couple of these classes under my belt, I wouldn’t have had so many crisis moments in my twenties. Here are a few of my dream courses.
1. Financial Responsibility 101
You may be able to live off ramen noodles and beer now, but once you’re working and salaried you’ll have to figure out a much more feasible budget. Loans, bills, groceries, and all the stupid stuff that inevitably breaks when it’s least convenient: you’re paying for it by yourself now and you’d best be ready. Your credit score is no longer a mythical entity. This course will teach budgeting basics, strategies to not buy everything you see at Target, and ways to maybe save some of that hard-earned cash.
2. Living Alone: How to Build IKEA Furniture by Yourself and Other Problems
Fun fact: living alone sounds enticing. No roommates, no arguments, no worrying about your noise level or general state of mess. While it seems wonderful, living by yourself can pose many problems to the newly-graduated student. In this class, you will learn how to problem-solve troublesome situations, such as putting together furniture meant for two to build, killing all the bugs and other creepy-crawlies because you’re the only one who can, and ordering pizza without the delivery person judging you. Prepare to be empowered!
3. Retirement, Insurance, and Taxes, Oh My!
You know all those conversations about 401Ks and health care reimbursements your parents have, and how you’ve ignored them all these years? Well, it’s time to start paying attention. Soon-to-be employed people such as yourself will need to understand all of these things in great detail or you will screw yourself over later in your career and life. Don’t expect your place of employment to explain the details to you. Instead, we will teach you how to file and submit the massive amounts of paperwork needed for health insurance and the like. You’ll be bored to tears, but you will be prepared.
4. When Bad Cars Happen to Good People
It happens when you least expect it: the car you’ve been driving since high school, your baby, starts falling apart. First it might be a brake pad here, a tail light there, but soon there’s smoke coming from the engine and you’re stranded on the side of the road in the Middle-of-Nowhere, USA. Instead, take this class to learn the basic vocabulary to communicate with your mechanic (or to not get taken advantage of, because that’s a fun thing that happens). You’ll also learn who to call first in case of an emergency and also how to change a tire and your oil. Owning a car is stressful, but this class might help you not have to call your parents in tears all the time.
5. Out of the Sandbox: Strategies for Making Friends as an Adult**
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an introvert at a new job, in a new city, will have a hard time making friends. In fact, it might be very easy to stay in your apartment forever with your Netflix and ice cream and cats, but everyone eventually needs some social interaction. This class will help you gain the confidence to make new friends outside of a school setting. You will learn strategies in small talk, identifying like-minded people (hint: if you hate the same things, ta da! You’re friends), and how to avoid the mean girls/boys of the workplace.
**Note: Do not be alarmed. There are no ice-breaker games or awkward social interactions required in this course.
6. Communication and Negotiation: Yes, You Have to Make That Phone Call
It sounds terrifying, we know, but you are now the one who has to make that phone call to your cable company (no, you don’t want to bundle your package, for the thousandth time!). You are now the one who has to deal with your landlord when they won’t come fix your broken toilet. You are the one who has to have a meeting with your bank when you’re trying to get a loan. None of this is a walk in the park, and you will feel like you want to vomit every time (that actually never quite goes away); however, we can offer you skills to reduce conflict and be the most effective communicator and negotiator you can be. Don’t find yourself yelling at the cable company representative yet again: learn to communicate like a pro!
Emily Parrish is a 20-something English teacher hailing from the Midwest. She’s also an obsessive book-reader, binge tv-watcher, and professional singer (but only in the car). You can occasionally read more from her here.