I was straight-up blindsided by what it meant to be an adult. Throw a wedding in two weeks after graduating college (with a degree I didn’t have to pay for, rent money provided by my parents, and Mom and Dad a quick phone call away whenever I needed them), and I was a hot mess.
But, two years later, I am alive, cross-eyed from all the craziness, and loving being a “grown up.”
Below is an A to Z list of the lessons I have learned along the way. I am SUCH a real world amateur, but I feel like an expert at navigating (not always successfully) through the rough waters of ignorance.
Note how I had to stretch my imagination for a few of these, including but not limited to: Q and Z
The A to Z Guide For Those Ignorantly Entering Adulthood
A: Ask for help. A few weeks after we got married, I had a full-blown freak-out when I realized that Morgan was about to start a job to which he’d have to wear ironed shirts. I had never ironed a shirt! That’s what my mom was for! I called her crying (a little dramatic) because in my brain, not being able to iron my husbands shirts meant I was a total and complete failure as a wife (again, I was in a dramatic state. Give me grace.). I asked for help, and, because she is super-mom (and because she realized I was essentially in shambles), she drove down for a day to teach me how to iron. And she brought me cookies. People want to help–everyone’s been there. Just ask.
B: Go to bed early. Ha! Maybe this is just me. When we were in college, we stayed up until 2 a.m. and slept until noon. Now, my eyes start to flutter around 9:30, and I try to go to sleep by 11. Thankfully, my best friends are the same way, so our hang outs rarely go late. Going to bed early means waking up early, which is what adults do. I’m more productive and don’t feel like I’m wasting my day away. (There are obvious caveats to this tip. Sleep in if you want to every now and then. Remember: you’re a big kid now and you make your own rules.)
The only reason we were able to wake up at 5am for these impromptu bridal portraits with my girl Kaitlyn was because of an early bed time. [This caption is a stretch but I just love this picture so much.]
C: Cook food. It’s so good, it makes you feel great, and it’s cheaper than going out to eat all the time. I went from not knowing how to cook eggs to making many meals per week. Not only do I enjoy eating real food, but I also get to serve my loved ones in a super tangible way.
D: Dream big dreams. You’re in your twenties with limitless doors to try and open. You want to leave your office job and become a teacher? Do it. You want to run a marathon? I can’t wait to watch you as I stand on the sidelines. You want to pack up your house and move overseas? I will be your biggest fan. There is nothing stopping you except for your pride, your fear, and your agenda. Dreaming big dreams is far from ignorant–it’s ambitious and it’s powerful.
E: Ignore expectations. If I was reading this list to you, I’d scream this one. Coming out of college with massive expectations of perfection royally screwed us up. We were certain we knew exactly what was going to happen next, and when the opposite happened, we felt like our lives shattered around us. Now, we’re fixated on Christ, remembering that: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21) Seriously…don’t bother putting plans and deadlines and timelines on your expectations. Sometimes it’ll work out exactly as you hoped, but sometimes it won’t; when you ignore expectations, you trust in the only trustworthy One.
F: Find friends and invest in them. The biggest lesson that Morgan and I learned post-graduation is that community is not easy to come by. While you’re in school, relationships are handed to us on a silver platter–you’re in clubs, on sport teams, ride the bus together, or live on the same hall. We moved into a neighborhood that was very hood-like a few months after getting married, and we realized that we were going to have to go farther than next door to find our people.
G: Grocery shop with a list and a meal plan. We stick to a really, really tight grocery budget easily because I know what I’m getting, how much it will cost, and where it is in the store. Full disclosure: we work to stay under $65 a week, and we eat meals full of really delicious meat and vegetables–lots of that food being organic or local. And I promise my husband doesn’t go hungry (he relies on a diet of pretzels and saltines, but that’s his choice).
H: Be hospitable. Shauna Niequist writes this: “The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment.” Open up your home to your community. Make yourself uncomfortable so they can be comfortable. We are all about our open door policy. If you need a listening ear, come in. If you need a shoulder to cry on, come in. If you need a bowl of ice cream and a chick flick on Netflix, I’ll snuggle you on the couch.
I: Invest in your health. It’s so easy to get caught up in work and friends and great things and forget to work out and eat healthy. An unhealthy lifestyle will sustain you only to a certain point, and, truly–it’s worth it to invest in living healthy. Your energy will be higher, you’ll be happier, and you’ll look hot.
J: Join a church. Or a community group or a gym or a book club or a service team or whatever tickles your fancy. Be a part of something that is bigger than yourself–it reminds you of your smallness, introduces you to people with similar interests, and–lets be real…it gives you something to do on days you’re feeling lonely.
This was one of the best moments of my life. (Yeah I got baptized in a cow trough.)
K: Know your limits. We found out the hard way that we can’t fill our schedules to the brim and still have a healthy marriage and lifestyle. When you reach your limits, rest. There is so much goodness in resting–it’s where I reflect and grow the most.
L: Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. AJ-LM-WH. These letters are tacked up on my desk and engraved on my heart. These words from Micah 6:8 define how I want my life to be lived–seeking justice, giving grace, and remembering that I am so tiny in comparison to my King.
M: Find mentors that are in the stage of life ahead of you. People who will invest in you, be real with you, and guide you in directions you want to go. Two of the most influential people the first year of our marriage were this couple from church who simply let us in to their lives. We were really fragile after a whole bunch of unexpected failure, and they provided wisdom and listened. We love you, Taylors! Mentors walk alongside you, and you need that in the murky waters of adulthood.
N: Watch the news. I hear so many people say that there’s just too much sadness that they don’t want to see, but, if you’re unaware of the sorrow of this world, how are you supposed to work toward change? I read the news every day, and, in addition to keeping me up to date on the world, I always have a fall back conversation in place for when I’m stuck in awkward small-talk conversations. “So, did you hear about Caitlyn Jenner…?” always gets people talking.
O: Be open-minded. Man…I am working so hard on this. I’ve wasted too many opportunities to learn and grow by shying away from the hard conversations. When I jump in and decided to listen, I am SHOCKED to discover that sometimes…just sometimes…my assumptions are wrong.
P: Pray. Pray for your family, your wife, your husband, your friends, your community, your world. Be intentional about thanking God for things–both the blessings and the struggles. Nothing makes Him more real than the way He rescues us from trials, so tell Him that. Here is my Bonhoeffer quote of the day (by this blog you’d think I read a lot of Bonhoeffer. That’s false. My wise husband does and I reap the benefits.):
“A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.”
(Praying over my sweet friend Cary at her wedding last year. Another hats off to Kaitlyn.)
Q: Don’t take stupid Facebook quizzes. I don’t care if you’re more like Elsa or Olaf or if Facebook thinks you’re going to die at 112. Get off Facebook and start living.
R: Read books. Read fiction, read non-fiction, read magazines, read your Bible, read everything!
S: Serve the people around you. There are a million ways to do it–volunteer at an event, bring a meal to a new mom, offer to babysit for free, clean up someone’s mess, or–hey–become foster parents (Just kidding. You don’t have to do that. We know we’re crazy.)
T: Travel. Y’all. This world is so beautiful. If you don’t have money to travel the world, travel around your town. We are really intentional about traveling every now and then because we get a greater understanding of people, places, and God’s creation.
U: Unplug. A few weeks ago, I was lying in bed on a Saturday morning, perusing my Instagram feed when a message from a friend popped up. She was sharing this article with me. The timing was obnoxiously ironic, and I threw my phone aside and headed straight downstairs for some coffee+Jesus time. Ever since, I’ve been plugging my phone in across the room at night. It means that the last minutes before falling asleep are not spent staring mindlessly at a device and the first minutes after waking up aren’t either.
V: Be vulnerable with your friends. It’s not enough to have surface-level friendships just to have people in your life. Let them in.
W: Hang out with people on weeknights. I used to live for the weekends. We counted down days and dreamed of all the goodness that’d come starting Friday at 5. Then we started to realize that we make our own rules, and part of those rules is to have fun all the time. We love having friends over for dinner, going on random dates in the middle of the week, and staying up “late” (AKA past 11) to watch Netflix with our favorite people. Living for the weekends is a pathetic way to live. Have fun on Tuesday, people!
X: Explore the town you’re living in. We have it easy–we know we’re in love with the New River Valley. I was talking to my cousin who moved to Fredericksburg recently, and she was saying that, after a few months of settling in, they hit up downtown and realized that they love this little town they’ve moved to. She said they’d never realize how rich the history is, how interesting the culture is, and how cool the downtown is if they hadn’t intentionally explored.
Y: In the midst of trying to act old and mature and seasoned, stay young. You are young. Embrace the screw-ups and laugh at the mistakes because you’ve got a hell of a long life to live.
Z: Go to the zoo. I don’t know. I can’t think of another Z. Enjoy the animals.