Life Lessons

Day 23 of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge is “Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you.”

BlogEverday

Whew. This is a great topic. I’ve learned more about life since college than I probably did while I was in college.

On personal development…

After I finished undergrad, I had about one month before I started grad school. I went straight into a master’s program in Higher Education. I was only 21 years old, and I started studying college student development. I was still essentially a college student myself. I spent a year learning theories on adolescent development and reading about the effect of college on students. Some of it was interesting in theory, and some of it was interesting because I was still experiencing it in practice. Somehow, reading that it’s now the norm for young adults to have no idea what they want to do with their lives made it okay that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Want to take a gap year? Fine. Change your career 10+ times before retirement? Totally normal. No one ever told me those things. It was nice to know that there are researchers out there who have scientifically proven that my generation (and those who have come after me) are more resistant to growing up than any generation that’s come before. It’s not just me. It’s everyone.

On relationships…

I was also in a relationship from the summer after my sophomore year of college until the spring semester of my grad school year. It lasted 2 years and 9 months, which is a heck of a lot longer than it should have. The emotional wreckage that ensued was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. After that breakup, I learned more about myself through the process of putting myself back together than I think I’ve ever learned. I learned what it takes to make me happy. I learned never to compromise my own happiness for someone else’s. I learned to love someone new. I learned that I could bounce back from anything. That’s a powerful lesson.

On finances…

When I finished my Master’s program, I had about $29,000 in student loan debt to repay. I entered my repayment period in November 2011, and I decided that I wanted to double up on my minimum monthly payment, and have my loans paid off entirely in 5 years. I’ve been paying twice what’s required every month since then, and I’ve got it nearly halfway paid off. It’s nice to log in to my account every month and see how far ahead I am on payments. This month, my reminder states “Your next payment is due May 21, 2015.” Financial responsibility is something my dad has always instilled in me, and I’ve learned to (and been fortunate to be able to) get way ahead on tackling my debt.

I remember reading on Devon’s blog that “Rich people tell their money where to go. Broke people wonder where it went.” (That’s probably a Dave Ramsey quote.) It stuck with me. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be “rich” to be in control of your finances. It’s just a matter of living within your means. “Rich” means something different to everyone. I’m still struggling to figure out exactly what the magic number is for me, but I’ve certainly learned that it’s not quite as big as I once imagined.

On happiness…

This one is huge. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing adventure in my life. I’ve written a lot recently about struggling with professional and personal decisions. I think I’ve also mentioned that a lot of clarity has come with the epiphany that I don’t have to and will most definitely not be in my current position for much longer. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to separate my work life from my personal life, and to put a lot of care into my life outside of work.

I like to read. I like to travel. I like to drink wine. I like to spend time with P. I like to run. I love animals. I like adventures. I like interior design. I’ve come to really enjoy blogging. For a long time, I didn’t know many of these things, and I certainly didn’t make the effort to pursue them. Lately, I’ve been very specifically focused in on ways to enhance my happiness. And I can tell you: it’s well worth it.

In closing…

Probably my all-time favorite quote:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan

I don’t even remember anymore when I first came across this quote, but I’ve had it displaying on the top of my daily to-do list ever since. It’s never faded in meaning or power for me. When it comes down to it, it’s me and no one else who decides who I’m meant to be, and only me who can get me there. I just have to have the courage, determination, and will to do it. And in the past few years since leaving school, I’ve built up each of those things in droves.

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