It’s graduation season. That means that all over the country, countless grads will be sitting through really boring graduation ceremonies with people giving them advice about life.
No one has asked me to give them life advice. I don’t have children, so it’s unlikely anyone will ever look to me for words of wisdom. My sister has three kids, and I can imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where I try to give them advice and they smile politely while inwardly rolling their eyes that Auntie is rambling on again.
Anyway, if anyone were to ask me for life advice for young adults starting out in the real world, here’s what I would say. As the old saying goes, this and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee. Except now a cup of coffee is, like, $4.
- People are dumb, and likely they are dumber than you. If someone says something to you that does not ring true, chances are it’s because it’s either not true or it’s just plain wrong. Never trust someone else’s advice or opinions over your own intuition, even if they come across as confident and you are crippled with insecurity. Coming across as confident is half the battle, and you would be surprised at how many people get ahead on confidence alone.
- Act as confidently as possible.
- Always look out for yourself. You will get to a point where no one is going to advocate for you but you.
- You know when you feel conflicted about something and you grapple with it in your head, or seek the advice of friends? You know the answer. If you are 100% honest with yourself, you will realize you’ve known the answer all along. The problem is usually that the answer is something you’d rather not do or face, so you’re waiting for someone else to tell you something different. You always know the answer.
- You get one body in this lifetime. Be nice to it. Exercise, not because you’re trying to have a “beach body” or want to lose weight, but because it feels good and it keeps you healthy. Eat fruits and vegetables for the same reason. There’s a lot to be said for feeling good from the inside out.
- Be a Lady. Or a Gentleman. We’ve lost some decorum along the way, you guys, and I think we should try to get it back. When I was growing up, raised by repressed Catholics, pre-marital sex was a sin, and women weren’t supposed to swear or be drunk in public. Of course, like many women of my generation, I rebelled against all of this by doing the exact opposite. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t have so much casual sex. Drink less. And swear less. Having class and taking the high road is empowering. You will find you are not stooping to baser levels when your instincts are telling you otherwise, and it actually feels good. It’s ok to be offended by things that are vulgar, and to voice it if you need to. No one gets to offend you.
- This one is for the ladies – if anyone ever makes you feel like the stereotype of a “hysterical woman” or a “nag” for voicing your opinion or dissent with a situation that you know is wrong – ditch them immediately. Your feelings and concerns are valid and they suck for trying to make you feel like that.
- In a similar vein, never put up with anyone treating you badly. Family, friends, colleagues – no one. Nothing will ever feel as good as getting up and leaving a situation that is toxic and makes you feel crappy.
- An old friend of mine (and by “old” I mean someone I haven’t talked to in almost 20 years) once said, “Let us not complain about that which we can change.” It was an obnoxious comment, and usually came after I was complaining about something, so it was usually the last thing I wanted to hear. But, she had a point. If you can change it, change it. Stop complaining and do something.
- At the end of the day, you are the one who has to go to sleep and feel ok with with you said or did or how you acted that day. Don’t take shortcuts. Don’t cave to peer pressure. If you know it’s right, do it. If it’s wrong, stop. I was thinking about how, living in California and experiencing the drought we’re going through, I felt compelled to cut back my water usage. I mentioned this to a colleague who looked at me like I was a moron and said something like, “It’s the businesses that have to cut their water consumption. You won’t make a difference.” I beg to differ. I know that my 5 minute vs. 7 minute shower isn’t going to save us from the drought, but I firmly believe that if everyone just sits there and waits for the next person to change, then nothing will ever get done. You need to be a part of it too.
There you have it. That’s pretty much all I know. That and some random trivia that can be mildly impressive when watching Jeopardy in a room full of people but otherwise serves no real purpose.
If you follow any of this advice and it goes badly, let me know and I will buy you a $4 cup of coffee.