When I was 22, I wouldn’t have listened to my old curmudgeonly self. I would have said, “You don’t get it”, then put my headphones back on and headed over the Haymarket. I might have written about it on my blog over at TheGlobe.com (remember that site?) under my pen name ‘nehalennia’. 1999 was a great year, and I was going to make a million trillion dollars working teh internets. Instead I got laid off from my dot com job and ran into the warm embrace of reliable employment. So despite the fact that I wouldn’t have taken my own advice, here are 8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22:
1. Pick a career you love; you don’t have to give into the pressure to be practical. Everyone changes careers over their lifetime; why not experiment with one that you are crazy about? Worst case scenario, you go get that crappy corporate job when you’re 28 and let the cool waters of 9-5ing wash away any memories of your failed Falafel-R-Us Gift Basket business.
2. Pay off your credit card debt and don’t buy so much stuff. Does every college do this? Offer credit cards at the student union, and in exchange for filling out an application, they gift you a candy bar? I was hungry! I was broke! Sign me up! Thankfully I was so thoroughly burned the first time, I learned my lesson.
3. Your student loans can be deferred practically indefinitely. After graduation, just call them and ask for a deferment. They will bend over backwards to make deferring easy to do. In six months when your deferment is over, call them up and do another. Repeat as needed.
4. It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think to travel. You don’t need to save $50,000 to spend a year overseas. If you’re young, willing to sleep anywhere (hello, couchsurfing!) and go to countries off the beaten tourist track, then you can survive on much less (I’ve heard as low as $1000/mo).
5. The job you have right now is not that important. If I were an employer I would only hire ambitious twenty something’s. They will knock themselves out working incredibly hard on stuff that barely matters. Try to get a 35 year old to take photocopying that seriously and you’re more likely to get your dog to iron your suit in the morning.
6. You don’t need a safety net. You can figure this out. The idea of being out there, with nothing to catch you if everything goes wrong may make your stomach do little flips, but really, you’ll be just fine.
7. This is the best time in your life to travel carefree. If you wait it’s going to be more complicated financially and emotionally. Now instead of putting on a backpack and heading out the door, I’ve got to cancel leases, forward mail, set up online payment arrangements, sell a ton of stuff, convince my family that I don’t need an MRI “just in case this idea is a sympton of a brain tumor”, and wrangle with complex stuff like dodging the “when are you going to have kids” question.
8. Did you read #7? Go Travel Now!
If you were giving advice to your 22 year old self, what would it be?