5 Hardest Lessons Life Threw at Me That Made Me Who I Am
Adulthood is less about knowing what to do and more about being forced to learn
I grew up entirely unaware of the logistics of real life, which turned into pure mayhem when I moved out of my parents’ house. I had never been taught about managing finances, signing contracts, where to pay taxes, or how to solve life’s biggest and most unpleasant struggles. My parents always tried to protect me from any of that stress. Which in turn led to it all falling on top of me at once.
For months during my first year away from home, real life felt as if someone was throwing water balloons at me in an attempt to make me wake up. Everything I had to suddenly sort for myself ended up confusing, blinding, and even hurting me, rather than getting easier.
Looking back at how alone, disorientated, 19-year-old me was managing life then, all I can remember is a constant sensation of fog. Every time I had to make a phone call, or ask for guidance, or figure out how to deal with anything harder than just buying food, my confidence would crash, I felt silly, helpless, and as if it would never get any simpler.
But eventually, it did. It took many mistakes, disastrous decisions, missed opportunities, anxiety, and the intense desire to give up. Each situation ultimately made me the adult I am now. I had a hard time accepting my adulthood. I saw myself as too weak and unwise to deserve to be called an adult. I embraced my maturity a while ago now, thanks to the most difficult circumstances life threw at me, and what I have learned from them.
1. Always Ask More Questions
Being afraid and unknowing is much more common than we think. Seeing so many others apparently having it all figured out is often our own insecurities projected upon them. In fact, more often than not, most people struggle just as much, and are none the wiser, although they seem like they are in control. This realization brought me the peace of mind that maybe I wasn’t unworthy of the life lessons I was learning every day, with every challenge.
Perhaps the most important thing I have become more confident doing is asking questions. Especially when it comes to — as I put it earlier — the logistics of life. When signing for a new house, or getting a contract for your bills, or opening a bank account, or making an investment, or when figuring out your taxes: learn from my (and many others’) mistakes and ask every question that comes to mind.
I used to say to myself that anything I wasn’t sure of, I could figure out as I went. Never do this. Never, ever think something you don’t know for sure can be figured out along the way. When on the phone with a professional, ask about anything that comes to mind, even if it sounds silly.
Always insist and fight for answers, always be firm in what you know and what you don’t. And always be honest with yourself. Not being certain equals not knowing. That’s the safer thing to abide by.
2. Be Adventurous But Not Reckless
At the age of 18, I decided to move to London to study. Embarrassingly, the main thing I told myself when accepting the offer of the only London-based university on my list, was “well, it’s London, it’s the capital, what could go wrong”. Nothing more.
Needless to say, the following year I moved to the North of England, to another university, in another, much better city. Which came with a lot of wasted time, money, and energy. Never do what I did. Big cities have their perks, of course. Capitals are glamorous, appealing, popular, stereotypical. My dream of sipping a coffee in a chic cafe in Trafalgar Square while studying for class quickly became sitting on a bench in a campus 3 tube rides away from Trafalgar Square. A campus I seldom left. Because it was so far from everything.
Being adventurous is fine. But being reckless is not advisable as an adult. Because the further you go in life, the thinner others’ ability to catch you when you fall will become. In my case, moving to a different country altogether should have been adventurous enough. I should have researched London much more thoroughly. I should have spent more time thinking about it and being honest with what I wanted.
3. Less Is More When It Comes to People
Growing up also sadly means losing many dear friends. You start noticing differences you often don’t want to overlook in the people who for so long have been around you. It’s a difficult, heart-breaking thing to do. But in my case, life has shown me that it’s the wisest.
In the past few years, I have cut ties with most of my closest friends. Some of them had hurt me. Maybe even repeatedly so. Others drifted away because our life choices had been so conflicting with each other. I tried holding tight on certain bonds. And they soon became too weak.
Once I was left with only two or three of my dearest, closest friends, with whom I still had the chemistry and bonds we’ve always shared, I felt at peace. Accepting that people move on and I am better off without anyone who doesn’t feel like they belong in my life has set me free from a constant regret that I wasn’t doing enough to keep them around. Friendships should be mutual, and it’s fine, albeit sad when they end.
4. Be Unapologetically Blunt
With maturity comes the understanding that other people you’d always seen as faultless, actually have many flaws. Sometimes, keeping it to yourself and letting them off becomes unbearable. This is still one of the harshest realities of adulthood for me, and one I am struggling to comply with.
But I have acted upon it a few times and it always proves fruitful. It’s important both for you and those you care about, to be honest, and unapologetic. Keeping certain appearances just for the sake of getting along can often turn into a tangled mess, and the more you allow it to happen, the harder it becomes to escape.
There’s nothing wrong with telling people how you feel, or if they’re making you uncomfortable, or if what they’re doing is outright wrong. And we should normalize and accept bluntness because it’s much more useful than hiding our feelings.
5. You Have Time For Everything
I feel like every year I get busier and busier. But I also feel a lot more able to cope, the more I do. My stress management is stronger, my self-control too, and with each extra task and responsibility, I feel less intimidated and more willing to take on other duties.
Panic is one of the first and most recurring sensations you will feel once you start managing your life by yourself. It feels like every day there’s another thing to solve. Serious, stressful things, like looking for a place to live, or saving money, or buying a car. They will overwhelm you until you’ll finally realize you’re perfectly capable, and you have time.
You have time for your job, for the several daunting phone calls you have to make, for working out, for cooking, and for doing the laundry. You also have time to relax. It can always get busier, sometimes even chaotic, you will feel pulled apart by how many things you have to figure out and keep in mind. But you’ll master and embrace being busy before you know it.
As overwhelming as adulthood is, everyone will struggle, everyone will be as confused as you, and everyone will have to learn. These are some of the most useful lessons I’ve learned the hard way. I’m thankful I experienced all the challenges that brought me so much confidence and maturity. I sometimes even exposed myself knowingly to some of these situations, instead of choosing the easy route. And I’m grateful I did. Because it took courage, but the payoff was significant and, in some aspects, made life more manageable.