Two weeks ago I was quite literally grabbing everything to my name by the armfuls and chucking it out the door into my floor hallway, frantically trying to clean my dorm room in time for check-out. I failed twice for a spiderweb sighting and dust on my bed frame (yeah, I know), so after angrily cleaning those, I threw my crap into a painfully disorganized heap in the back of my car and left the dorms for the last time.

Since driving away two weeks ago, I’ve experienced quite a few firsts:

  • Moving into a house
  • Shopping for my own food
  • Starting a full time job…
  • … as a writer!
  • Sitting in traffic for the morning commute
  • Completely charring a grilled cheese
  • Having a professor send me an article someone else wrote to completely replace the one I wrote about her because my “flow wasn’t concise” (yeah, ouch)
  • And, most imporantly, having a overwhelming sense of joy and rightness about my life that I‘ve never experienced before

It’s safe to say that all of this ‘adulting’ has knocked the wind out of me mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m discovering a whole new level of exhaustion that makes me want to curl up on my couch after work and avoid all levels of productivity (which begs for a quick shoutout to all the hardworking mothers and fathers out there burning themselves out daily for the sake of investing in their families. The closest I am to supporting a family right now is blurting my sympathy to Rachel since Ross just knocked her up [do NOT ruin what’s next for me… I’m only on Season 8]).

However, despite being a mere 20-year-old without a family to take care of and very little adult experience, I’ve learned a ton in the past two weeks. With my recent adjustments to adulthood plus prior life experience, here’s some things I’ve discovered regarding the phenomenon of being a “grown-up”:

Being in a cubicle from 9–5 doesn’t have to suck.

The angsty teenage me always promised myself I’d never “settle” either for 1.) a 9–5 job or 2.) 9–5 job in a cubicle, and ironically, that’s exactly what my first full-time job is. I think I always wanted an “edgier” career, to constantly be on the go with a different pace everyday.

However, I’ve actually loved the 9–5 cubicle life so far — I’m doing meaningful work that I enjoy, I’m surrounded by wonderful people, and I’m working in a positive, encouraging, empowering environment. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, and I truly wish it was since your work environment effects you in many ways, but I‘m realizing that living your dream or fulfilling deep purpose doesn’t always come in a glamorous package.

I don’t think a 9–5 cubicle job is settling for less, as long as you don’t let your routine become synonymous with going-through-the-motions. It’s so important to do the little things each day, like engaging conversation with the people that are in your presence more than anyone else in a week. Or playing darts for 10 minutes a day like the grown men next to my cubicle. Or trading K-Cups with one of your supervisors. Or making a Spotify playlist with some coworkers (because that can be all kinds of interesting, entertaining and enlightening).

But most importantly, giving 100% effort to your piece of the company puzzle, because it matters. You’re in a community, so engage with it.

Everyday tasks don’t have to drag you down.

Dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, other miscellaneous chores — I’m starting to do them much more than I ever have. Again, I’m not taking care of others so my household responsibilities are comparatively minimal, but it’s still tempting to write them off as mundane check points in my day.

I think the little stuff matters almost more outside of work— so it’s been fun dancin’ around doing laundry, or jammin’ out doing dishes, or thinking of new ways to make food with my housemates instead of making a quick PB&J for every meal (although, I honestly wouldn’t mind that).

Things get tedious and annoying. Things go wrong in your routine, in the house and in your personal life. Things fall apart. But we gotta learn to laugh it off, enjoy it, or somehow become a better person from it.

Sometimes you suck at what you’re best at, and that’s alright.

I interviewed an unbelievably inspiring music professor last week and we had the best conversation — I couldn’t wait to write a retirement profile about her. But this week, she responded to my article by kindly and semi-passive-aggressively telling me what I wrote sucked. She even attached a tribute that someone else wrote, asking if I could use that instead.

Cue the utter crumbling of my prideful heart.

At first, I was thinking, dude, we clicked so well and I spent a crapton of energy writing a freaking great profile for you. Besides, I’m a writer, this is what I do — how could my writing be that bad, that you’d want every word of it replaced?

But I finally humbled myself enough to remember that 1.) sometimes my writing will epically fail, and 2.) that’s okay because I’m still learning.

No matter how much experience you have with any given aspect of life, you’ll never be perfect. Failure is sometimes inevitable — it just means you’re human and you’re trying. We just need to swallow our pride every once and awhile, accept the fact that we suck sometimes, and build from that.

People need grace, and so do you.

Your coworkers — your family — your friends — your enemies/strangers — everyone needs to give and receive grace, from others and themselves.

Being an easily irritable person AND a perfectionist, I’ve encountered all kinds of issues since I work with people who mess up, I live with people that mess up, and I constantly mess up.

We need to have grace for each other for all the times that we’ll continue messing up at work, messing up in our families, and messing up in our personal life. Whether someone calls you a sucky writer or whether you’re charring your grilled cheese, life calls for grace and shaking things off. We need grace for each other and for ourselves that builds, not anger that tears down.

We were created to embrace, not default.

During my counseling session on Wednesday, I told my counselor that I felt like I was coming to terms with my friend passing away from cancer last August, and I didn’t know if that was a bad thing or not. She told me it wasn’t, as long as I wasn’t supressing my emotions.

The more we talked about my friend, the more I realized how angry I still am at the existence of cancer and the fact that I don’t have one of my closest friends anymore. But my counselor also helped me focus on how thankful I am for the 10 years I did get to do life with her.

So, I origninally planned on walking out of counseling as neutral as I went in, but I came out wiping tears from my eyes due to both extremes of painful heartbreak and overwhelming gratitude for my sweet friend.

I think this is one of the greatest tragedies of adulthood: the default to cyclictic living. We’re taught to suppress things once we grow up; to take on our responsibilities and allow our excitement, wonder, heartache and questions for the world to subside. We’re so busy checking boxes off our daily check-lists that we don’t remember what it’s like to be still and just sit in life’s glories.

I believe these cycles can even go deep enough to make us settle for a career of mediocre work or broken marriages or racism or just plain apathy.

Being present is hard. It’s draining. It’s often confusing. But it’s the only reality that’s guarenteed. Adulthood is not an excuse for cruise-control; it’s all the more reason to be intentional in your everyday life and with every person you come in contact with. Why would you train your whole life for a marathon just to sit at the start line when the time comes to run?

Maybe I don’t have have the life experience for these words to be credited. I don’t know what it’s like to be constantly exhausted from work and taking care of a family. But maybe that is why my words are credited, as a reminder that our joy, hope and motivation should not be diminished by having a career and/or a family — but enhanced.

All I’m saying is, we don’t have time not to be present. We must be active. We must have childlike faith and hope, being active members of our community. We can’t forget to play. We have to continue exploring ourselves and exploring our surroundings, leaving buffer room for inevitable mistakes. We can’t be too hard on ourselves.

We have to take risks and do bold things in our careers, our families, our communities and our world, possibly jeapordizing the perfect, secure, comfortable plan we conjured up for ourselves incase we stumble upon something much greater.

We need to remember why we’re doing things so that we don’t get stuck in a rut — and if we can’t remember why, maybe we need to go a different direction.

We can’t treat our adulthood as a time for safe sanctuary, where we’ve finally ‘made it’ and we can just settle into our careers and marriages and kids and white-picket-fenced-security.

So get involved in stuff you love, for causes that you’re passionate about.

Get to know the people in your life, because their stories matter and your relationships with them are unspeakably valuable.

Be present and active in each day, whether it offers your usual routine or the greatest adventure you’ve ever had. Whatever your job, homelife and community look like, love generously and invest what only you can.