Written by: Jessica Pfohl | Image by: Jessica Pfohl
“What you’re going through right now is my worst fear,” one of my friends said as I told him about the train-wreck that was my first few months after college. I graduated in December of 2014 and I had it unusually rough. My first dose of “the real world” included a major break-up, getting thrown up on during a flight, living with a difficult roommate, my doctor telling me she didn’t want to treat me anymore, delivering pizza to meth-heads at 1 AM, and trying to shovel myself out of Boston’s endless snow with a child’s shovel. Also, most of that happened within a 2 week period.
So, as many of you are standing at the edge of one phase of life and preparing to careen into the next, let me lend what I’ve learned from the first bumpy miles of my transition into adulthood. If you are having an easy-breezy time in this transition, then don’t read on. Instead, send me a message and tell me what you’ve been doing right!
You aren’t alone
“But, I am alone!” I’d think on my commute home at 2 AM from my pizza delivery job. I’d slip into my dark, quiet apartment, close the door to my bedroom, and feel an aloneness that no cliche could remedy. So, when I say you aren’t alone, I know that you may actually be physically alone. You may not have anyone to talk to you or be there for you. That’s a real thing. But, I promise, you’re not the only one going through this transition. You’re not crazy if it’s difficult. Basically, find anyone else who just started a job, left school, bought a house, had a child . . . you’ll realize everybody has to go through the growing pains of transition.
You aren’t going to have it all together
I was recently telling one of my co-workers about a 17 hour-long road trip I took by myself. I was feeling pretty proud of myself for being able to drive all the way from Boston to Nashville alone. My coworker said to me, “You’re in the phase of life where everything you do right now is an accomplishment.” Which, hey, is offensive at first, but at a second look - he’s right. Everything I’m doing right now is pretty much the first time I’ve done any of these things.
For some reason, I thought a transition into adulthood, womanhood, mature-hood would just happen to me. All of a sudden, I would know what clothes I should wear to the office, how to do my taxes, or how to talk to people older than me. I thought mature, young-adult Jess would know how to say no to a date. Or after a date, I would know how to say I wanted a second one without being terribly awkward. But, instead of being this super-adult, I found myself asking questions like, “How do you navigate having friends who are married?” “How do you balance your budget while needing to have a social life?” “Why do I all of a sudden find NPR fascinating?” (I guess that one’s less pressing.) It’s okay not to know what to do on your first try. It takes time. You’ll figure it out; you’re smart. Be patient with yourself.
It’s gonna take work
For the first time, no one’s going to get on your case if all you do is binge-watch Gilmore Girls and eat pints of ice cream. Which, hey, I have no problem with. But, while you’re vegging out, no one’s out there constructing the life you want with the rhythms, activities, hobbies, and friendships that are a huge part of what makes life lovely. It’s all you.
You can’t do it alone
No woman is an island. Even in transition, which is naturally isolating, you need people to listen to you, to love you, to remind you who you are outside of this stressful situation. You are more than the incompetence you so painfully feel as you fumble at your new job, new living situation, new relationship, new life. Let people in. Call your Mom. Go out dancing. Make new friends. We need relationships to be whole.
Establish a Routine
Finally, ask yourself what things you control in your life that could make you feel a bit settled. Maybe you need to make a habit of getting up early to have some sunrise time. Or maybe you need to figure out an exercise schedule. (Exercise is great for stress, I hear!) Maybe you need to join a church or a community club. Keep your hobbies. Pursue things you’re good at. Anything you can do to give your life some stability is a good thing.
We’ll get through this
I just want you to know that it’s going to be okay. Trust me, it doesn’t always feel like it. Some days are more difficult than others. You know, maybe some days you’re calling Apple Support to keep you company when you’re feeling lonely. (This only happened once!) And other days, you get up early, make a nutritious lunch, crush that meeting at work, and still have time for exercise and bill-paying at the end of the day. We have good days and bad days.
So, what I’m trying to say is that I know this time of life is really difficult. But, it’s a really cool experience to go through something difficult and surprise yourself when you come out on the other side still intact. So, this time may be rough, but you are strong . . . strong enough to ask for help, strong enough to cry, strong enough to plan and dream and persevere.
You’ve got this.