10 Realizations of a 22-yr old adjusting to the real world

I know I haven’t posted in a while…so I thought I’d share some major lessons I’ve learned over the past few months adjusting from college-land to real-person world:

1. You cannot depend on people-watching to uplift your commute.

Whether it’s NJ Transit, PATH trains, subways or the streets of NYC, this is what most people look like during commute hours:

2. For the first time in my life, I really want to buy textbooks.

In college, buying textbooks was like a necessary evil. Every semester I’d rack up a ~$500 credit card bill for a heavy load of miscellaneous books to carry around, in hopes that some of them will actually be useful or interesting. Somehow the largest and most expensive books always were for the required liberal arts classes that you had to complete the core credits of for your degree. Every now and then, a professor would pull through with some really great picks — the kinds of books that you opt to hold onto at the end of the year instead of sell back to the bookstore for an astounding $5.42. For me, those were my Italian textbooks and some Design & UX books like Emotional DesignUnderstanding Digital Games and Grid Systems.

Now that I’m no longer forced to buy textbooks, I’ve already bought myself several. I have to contain myself from eBook shopping sprees when things like today’s O’Reilly sale come around. (So many great Design books; so little time)! I’m not sure why this strong change has occurred — Maybe because I can select the books? Maybe because it’s voluntary reading? Or maybe because now that I’m really experiencing my studies in a work setting, I have a better understanding of what I need to know more about…

3. Cookies will probably motivate co-workers.

No one is too old for cookies. If you need to motivate your co-workers for any given cause, cookies will probably help.

This unkillable fly became my mortal enemy in the office, so I placed a bounty on its head. The fly did not survive long.

This unkillable fly became my mortal enemy in the office, so I placed a bounty on its head. The fly did not survive long.

4. Income taxes has shattered my sense of stability & success.

When I graduated college, I knew that I was fortunate to land my job in this rough economy. I also knew that being financially independent wouldn’t just be about getting the job: I knew I needed to quickly grasp a better understanding of my personal finances for both the short-term and long-term forecast. So for the past few months, I’ve kept a spreadsheet that tracks every single expense I make & and all the income I make. It has helped me become better aware of how much I cost to live & how to develop a savings plan.

Nerdy? Yes. Time-consuming? Somewhat. Worth it? Indeed!

"Yay, all my hard work is paying off!---Ooooh, well, half of it is..."

“Yay, all my hard work is paying off!—Ooooh, well, half of it is…”

Through this spreadsheet, I’ve also found it fascinating to track which categories my expenses fall in. The majority of my profit by far goes towards rent/utilities, grocery shopping and transportation. I was being very careful about my spending beyond basic essentials because I knew I’d soon be looking to relocate. During my apartment-hunting phase, though, I learned a raw lesson about exactly how much of my earnings can actually go towards my goal of moving to a safer & more convenient location.

My realization was very disheartening when I saw the breakdown of my earnings. About 1/4 of my paycheck goes to government taxes, and nearly an additional 25% goes towards social security, medicare, healthcare and the slow-and-steady payoff of student loans. That leaves me with only slightly over half my earnings to use for myself — for things like rent, utilities, food, phone bill, health, household items, and then any leftover for personal expenses, fun and savings plans.

I get it now, Hasbro.

I get it now, Hasbro.

I know, this is old news to most Americans in the real world (well, at least to the 53% of Americans who actually pay taxes). It’s just disheartening to work your ass off in college to get a good job where you’ll work your ass off even harder, and see that the reason you won’t be able to afford your planned living situation is not because of you being irresponsible with your career choices or financial spending, but because so much of your earnings are being paid away to government in conjunction with the rise of living expenses in this weak economy.

I get it, tough love from the gov that we all have to deal with…. But it sure feels dismal attempting to establish a stable start as a young independent woman. I’ve learned that my living options will be very limited for these next several years, and I’ve certainly learned which kinds of policies I’ll be voting for and against 😮

5. The 23rd Street PATH station will sexually harass any females wearing flowy dresses or skirts.

It’s an unfortunate truth. Every day I witness at least one lady struggling to contain her dress as the powerful wind tunnel of the 23rd Street PATH train platform staircase takes force. You see the same boring line of commuters rushing to their destination, and then WHOMP — skirt flying in the air, laptop bag thrashing to the side, arms flailing, cheeks blushing, and poor girl frantically trying to win the Skirt vs. Wind Tunnel Battle.

What Marilyn Monroe effortlessly makes look like this: marilyn-monroe-10_600

Actually looks a lot more like this:

283 It’s quite a thrill if you’re a dress-wearing girl not prepared for it (and probably also if you’re a male bystander). As someone who typically wears dresses 3-4 days of the work week, I HAVE LEARNED TO TAKE THE GRASP OF PREPARATION BEFORE ENTERING THE STAIRWAY. Ladies, be warned.

6. Consistent exercise can revolutionize your life.

One of the best decisions I’ve made for myself in this abrupt transition into real-people world was the decision to join a gym. I know, sounds cliche, but I can’t imagine where my mental or physical health would be if I continued on with week after week of being lethargicized (that’s not a real word btw) by an office job.

KICKING ASS ALL OVER THE PLACE

KICKING ASS ALL OVER THE PLACE

I joined the NY Sports Club, which is great because it has one Hoboken location near my home, another Hoboken location by the PATH station where I commute, 4 locations within walking distance of my office, a bunch more locations throughout Manhattan, and a location near my parents’ house. NYSC has my life-on-the-run COVERED. (Would highly recommend for quality & locations. Just be careful — some close at 10pm instead of 11pm, which can really mess up your plans if you’re a late-night-workouter like me!)

So far I’ve mostly felt intimidated by all the beautiful, fit people being awesome around me while I gradually work on getting back into shape….but I’m doing the most important two things, which are to 1) GO and 2) KEEP GOING. Every day I pack a gym bag with me so that wherever I am — no matter how late I stay in the office or out for networking or friends or a stroll through the park — there is no excuse not to go. In fact, once you get into the swing of it, you’ll start to truly look forward to your daily workout. Sure, sticking to the exercise plans means I might not get home until close to midnight some nights….but it gives me the mental clarity and physical energy to contently get up early in the morning and do all I can that day. And yeah, it’s a large cost to consider in my budget. But a cost that benefits my health & overall well-being this much is worth it. Plus, it’s easy to fit in when I regularly find myself opting to hit the gym as opposed to going out for $11 cocktails in the city!

7. Hummus & Pita Co. is the new crack.

…well, the new healthy crack. The Hummus & Pita Co. is like a Chipotle of Mediterranean food, but way better. Their selection is unique, authentic, fresh and absolutely delicious — also quick & good value! It’s no wonder they can have a line out the door during lunch hour. I will admit to deliberately accidentally forgetting my lunch a couple times due to my addiction to the Hummus & Pita Co.

8. Networking events are always worth exploring.

For years I’ve been involved in the NYC start-up & tech community, mainly through networking events. NYC Games Forum is my favorite group which I’ve been a part of for over two years — it’s a community of indie game developers that has grown in size and talent over the past few years. I recently became a co-organizer of Game-Based Learning NYC too, which focuses on educational games (come check us out)! And last month I attended an IGDA NJ Arcade & Demo Night, which was awesome because we not only got to see indie game demos but also playtest & discuss them with the developers.

Playtesting Slash Dash at IGDA NJ Arcade & Demo Night in August. This game will be demoed at tomorrow night's event!

Here I am playtesting Slash Dash with organizer Brian Chung and some other attendees at IGDA NJ Arcade & Demo Night in August.

Sometimes keeping up with all these networking events can feel tiresome. But it’s definitely worth it. Groups that were once approached as opportunities to stay on top of your industry and exchange business cards has evolved into something so much more fulfilling: a community of inspiring teams & individuals within your industry who probably have some amazing projects & advice to share, and who want to listen to what you can contribute back. After congregating at these events for a while, you continue to meet new awesome people, but you also develop friendships with the recurring members.

9. Terrible, horrible, no-good very bad days may happen on a weekly basis.

This might be you about once a week:

Here are some ways I’ve learned to counter it when sensing such a day coming up:

  • Go to sleep at a decent hour
  • Hang out or talk on the phone with someone who usually makes you happy
  • Do chores or knock off some of the small to-do tasks that might be building up
  • Take a quick walking break if you’re feeling it come on at work
  • Do a good deed for someone

10. No matter how busy you are gracelessly stumbling through your endeavors, there is always time to take in the beautiful sights around you.

hobokenview

My beautiful view from my running route through Hoboken Riverside Park. Just breathe…

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One thought on “10 Realizations of a 22-yr old adjusting to the real world

  1. Astute observations on the real world Liz. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    On your expenses tracking….53% pay Federal Income Taxes (FIT); but virtually everybody with a job is paying the Medicare, Social Security, and sales taxes. Not as big a slice of your pie chart as FIT, but still significant…and for those with a smaller pie it’s an even bigger slice.

    You should see those expense pie charts for young parents…that non-gov remainder becomes child raising expenses by and large.

    Do you think Steve thinks of pie charts in a similar manner as you? Or is it pizza pie charts.

    Keep up the great postings as time and inspiration permit.

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