By Jen Herrmann

Not as Scary as You Think: 10 Tips for Becoming an Adult

It’s been five months since you graduated. Six weeks since you tried to replace your free college T-shirts with professional clothes. Forty-one minutes since you teared up again over that picture of you and your sophomore-year roommate that showed up on timehop.

By now, you’ve learned at least one important thing since your last exam: Transition is hard. And you can’t run from it.

Having transitioned more times than I care to count since graduating, here are a few of the “grown up” lessons that I’ve picked up along the way. They won’t make your transition all sunshine and butterflies, but as I’ve learned them, they’ve made each successive transition a little less painfully awkward.

1. Do what you want.

Have you really missed playing soccer? Do you love to sing? Are you a sculptor? Do you speak Japanese? Do it. Find a team or a choir or a studio or a conversation group. This fills your time much better than liking pages on Facebook and puts you in the company of people with whom you already have something in common.

2. People matter more than the awkward.

Making friends in the adult world is awkward, but worth it. Be the first to call someone to hang out the first time. And the second. And the third. Be persistent and patient, and get over the pride of wanting to be the popular kid. Take every invitation. Go to things you’re interested in, and introduce yourself to strangers. You may never talk to three-quarters of them again, but that last quarter matters.

3. You won’t immediately matter to people.

Be patient with building community. It’s not that you’re not awesome; it’s just that you’re coming into a place where most people’s lives are already full. Post-graduation life is less like the vast friendship-finding-fest of freshman year than it is like trying to get your older brother’s friends to hang out with you after school. Give it time—and keep an eye out for other little siblings while you do.

4. People don’t matter that much.

The fact that your identity is in Christ means many things. One is that you are not measured by the busyness of your social life. Give yourself grace when you don’t have plans on a Friday night because—here’s a secret—how full your calendar is or isn’t really doesn’t matter.

5. Don’t stop learning.

Find an online language tutorial or a local pottery class or a programming group, and rejoice in the lack of homework. Unless you miss homework. Then enroll in the local college’s physics night classes.

6. Church isn’t always fun. Do it anyway.

There might be a lot of people who are different from you at your church. There might be zero people who are different from you. One of those might be frustrating. There will likely be old grey-haired people and snotty crying babies. There will probably be people you don’t like, and people you disagree with. And sometimes, some of those people might preach. But this is the fabulously terrible, beautiful, in-need-of-redemption-and-being-redeemed body of Christ, and you’re a part of it. So be a part of it. Search well, commit to a place, and don’t leave just because you discover a few warts.

7. Exercise and eating matter.

When you’re grown up, you can eat whatever you want. But you shouldn’t. This actually does affect your emotional well-being. If you eat junk, you feel like junk. If you don’t exercise, you become lethargic and moody. The loss of a free college gym membership is no excuse. Eat an apple and go for a walk.

8. Be in this world, not just not of it.

If you’re on this blog, you’re likely well-convinced of the importance of finding good Christian community. Don’t spend all of your time with people who think the same way you do. It is equally important to find good non-Christian community. Not sure how? See #1.

9. Keep your college friendships with grace.

Skype and Facebook are wonderful things. Use them, and take initiative to get in touch with the people you love and miss, but be realistic. Just because you do not talk for three hours every day anymore doesn’t mean you’re not friends. 

10. Seek counsel on your finances, but make your own decisions.

Learn about 401ks and taxes and benefit packages and donation practices. Ask people questions. Ask God questions. Make giving a priority, not a source of shame. Don’t be ruled by culture. Set goals in the areas that are important to you. Keep your promises—to others, yourself, and God. And remember that money is a means—not an end, and not a master.

Those are my top ten—a list compiled mostly of my failures and flounderings in the midst of God’s perpetual faithfulness. What have you learned in your transition time? What part of moving on freaks you out the most?

Image by Matt Kirk.

Want more tips on becoming a responsible adult? Check out these 144.

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Jen Herrmann is a Massachusetts native and InterVarsity alumna.

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