How to Adult

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By Joi Donaldson 

As you may have heard, we millennials have ruined everything. You, the person sitting in the Gen Z driving seat, are careening towards a world already on fire. But fret not: here are a few tips to navigate the holes we’re trying so desperately to fill on this side of adulthood.


Your Money/Finances


The financial demographics of college students vary from family to family. Some may have known the necessity of accounting for every dollar while others get extra guac without batting an eye. No matter the tax bracket from which you hail, establishing your financial autonomy is a worthy cause. The independence of budgeting, saving, and spending what belongs to you makes it that much more precious. “This is mine,” said the person holding the purse strings.


How to save: It’s a wonder how in this day and age, the technology for currency-producing trees has yet to be produced. While we wait, let’s discuss how to save the money we do have. If you’re able to secure a job while in school, set aside 15% percent of your regular paycheck for savings. This portion is for emergencies only (and no, getting those shoes/that bag/that phone is not an emergency unless it is stolen or broken beyond repair). It is possible to secure bags as you secure your degree. Apps like Digit take a set amount from your checking account on your chosen day so you never see that amount hit your checking, thus relieving the temptation of spending more money than you have. A personal finance app like YNAB or Mint takes a snapshot of your current bills, allocates where every cent is going, and helps you streamline your accounts.


How to spend: Say it with me: student loans are no joke. If you require student loans, as a general, money-saving rule, do not take out more than you need. Here’s why: taking out more than you need, perhaps, to secure an off-campus apartment or a new car will only hurt your freshly-grown credit and put you on the hook for higher interest rates when it’s time to repay. Graduation may seem far off now, but the things we take for granted tend to fly by (see: time). Again, only take out what you need. Instead, invest in a secured credit card that will raise your limit (and bump up your credit score) with on-time payments. Start as small as you can – most will allow you to open an account with a $49 deposit and a $200 limit. That may not seem like enough, but give it time. And if you must splurge, splurge the right way.


How to splurge: Living a ramen-fueled college life does no body good. As a former starving artist, the aesthetic is cool but the actuality of living it is awful. There’s no reason to play (or be) broke for the ‘gram. If you must splurge, define what splurging means for you and be real about your cash-on-hand limitations. It may be lifting your eating-out restrictions one weekend or buying that new pairs of headphones you’ve been saving up for. The thing about the occasional splurge is it should be just that – occasional. Rewarding yourself for work well done once a quarter or semester will put the work you’re doing into a solid perspective.


Your Mental health


Your health – especially your mental health - is your highest priority as you venture out into the “real” world. Your ability to advocate for yourself and set boundaries will take you far and assist you during the emotional and mental flare-ups that college life tends to induce. Below are a few points on how to center your mental health.


Mindfulness:  So often, we live either in the past or the future. But how often do you actually take time to live in the moment? Living in the moment isn’t just a flowery statement centered over melodramatic imagery for likes. It’s a means to reduce overwhelm and produce gratitude. What coping skills do you currently rely on in the midst of a spiral? What boundaries have you placed around your selfhood to protect yourself? Grounding, the act of coming to your personal ground floor - especially during a tough time - gives you sensory reminders to take life one day, hour, minute, second at a time. Take a walk, remind yourself how soothing silence can be by meditating, assign yourself some new healthy rituals that speak to where you are and that no one else has a say on.


How to ask for help: It’s true - asking for help is often hard. The pain of having help rejected can keep us from seeking it when needed. Those instances may have cemented our reservations towards asking for help in the future. But we all need a helping hand, and there are people willing to offer one no-questions-asked. Take a step back and really notice all the happenings around you. Try to see the help you have received, even if you didn’t recognize it. What does that language look like now? What scares you? Sit with that and gently comb through your internal responses. Give yourself time to build out your vocabulary of help. Are you already apologizing when you ask? (e.g.,: “I’m sorry, but can you help me with…”). Have you told yourself you don’t deserve help? I’m here to tell you that you do. Do the brave thing and reach out for help. It’s one of the strongest things you can do.


Your Community


Your support system: You’re off to college now. And as much as you may try to avoid it, major changes in family and friend dynamics are coming down the pike. How hard it is to make friends? A bigger question: how hard is it to break up with them? Let’s take some notes from my colleague, tutor, and fellow introvert John Jones:


Meeting new people

  • Be a friend to yourself first: stay positive and healthy, have things to look forward to on your own (e.g., a film, a workout, a book).
  • Know Thyself: do you want to meet new people/have new experiences every day or is your best tempo somewhat slower?
  • Do more things: go to events on and off campus, whether that’s talks, music, rallies, games, group hikes, religious services, or something else altogether.
  • Make it a goal to introduce yourself to:
    • 25 or 50 people your first week, maybe 1-5 each week after that
    • 1 each day
    • Get involved in public [or community] service. Sometimes having a task makes it easier to connect. You have something in common already. This is especially good for introverts and for people who don’t naturally thrive in chaotic, free-wheeling environments.
    • Know the process takes time. Sometimes we hit it off immediately, but usually it takes a few meetings or shared experiences to bond.
    • When people invite you to things you may not be interested in, give it a try with an open mind. Trying new things keeps you flexible, but remember that your boundaries are your priority.


Breaking up with people

Sometimes, what used to fit together so perfectly begins to fall apart. While mourning the end of a friendship can be brutal, try to focus more on the good times had between you two. Growing and moving in another direction as your friend doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You never know where your road may take you. If that person is meant to be there, they will be.


College is about to offer you the world in a microcosm. You’ll learn much that goes towards earning your degree. You’ll also learn that a diet of ramen noodles a meal plan does not make. Whether your pressure point is time management or the crushing reality of becoming an adult, know that the learning process never ends and that’s a good thing. Do yourself the favor and be ever evolving. Oh, and, happy adulting.