5 Life Hacks for Being a "Grown Up" and Living in the Real World

Simone Haider

little_simone_bday_party-1Joining “the real world” is something everyone looks forward to as a kid. I couldn’t wait to turn 10, because then my age was double digits. Next was 13, because I was officially a teenager and could watch PG-13 movies (yes, I’m the kid with the parents who enforced this rule). At 15 I could drive with a licensed adult and 16 meant I could drive by myself (which really meant my parents were finally off the hook of driving my sister and me to school and other extracurricular activities). Finally, 18. Now I was able to vote, join the military and buy cigarettes, if I so pleased. At year 21 of life I could begin enjoying alcoholic beverages. As we age through the first 20-25 years of life we are increasingly allowed more responsibility; this instills a constant desire to get to the next milestone.

The first 25 years of life, give or take a few, are spent in some type of education system. Elementary school turns to middle school, which evolves into high school; finally college and other higher education transpire. During this first phase of life we revolve around continual growth and advancement. We are expected to develop skills and handle the responsibilities we’ll need to make it in the real world. Now, technically, growth and education never stops, but it isn’t formalized and it becomes secondary to work and other life tasks.

Then one day, that’s it. You hit the end of this phase of life, it’s like running full speed ahead at a brick wall. Now, you’re part of the real world and you are expected to contribute to society. Holy Toledo (yes…Toledo; my parents taught me to talk like a lady)!

Two things run through your mind –

  1. Finally – I have been waiting my whole life for this!
  2. Shit. (I didn’t say I always THINK like a lady.)

I’ve decided that, despite preparing my whole life for this, I’ll never be ready to “grow up.” Sure, I may be ready to enjoy a glass of wine and an R-rated flick, but being an adult – the whole shebang… yeah, it’s not as glamorous or easy as it appeared through my 4-year-old eyes.

I’m not going to say I don’t like being grown up – because that is far from true. I love living on my own, supporting myself and being thrown into the deep end of the pool and learning to swim. But most of the time, I still feel like I am pretending to be “all grown up.” Do people ever really get the hang of it?

While I am muddling through this whole “being an adult” thing, I have found a few things helpful along the way:

#1: Find a Mentor

Find someone you think has got the hang of life, the life you aspire to live. When I was searching for a mentor I looked for someone who had similar values, career and personal aspirations, interests and beliefs to my own. Not that I wanted someone just like me, but I wanted someone who could relate to me, share their experiences and offer advice I could use to reach my dreams. I think it is also important to find someone who wants to be a mentor, because then you can rely on them to take valuable time out of their life to guide and advise you.

#2: Get Involved

Join your work softball team, volunteer for a local nonprofit group, help plan a community event – but make sure it is something you enjoy doing.


I strongly recommend immersing yourself in group events and outings that will take you out of your daily routine and allow you to interact with new people. However, make sure it is something you enjoy spending time doing, because as you grow up, your free time becomes extremely limited – so spend it wisely. Plus, the whole idea is to have fun and collaborate with people who have some of the same interests as you; you increase your chances of doing so if you want to be “there” week after week.

On a final note – don’t over-commit yourself. You’ll kick yourself in the end when you have depleted all your free time by filling it with things to do.

#3: Join a Team That Supports Growth & Development

As I said earlier, formal education comes to an abrupt halt somewhere between age 18 and 25. If continued education, growth and development are important to you, look for an employer that provides and supports this opportunity. I know that, at present, I do not possess all the skills I will ever need in life – personally and professionally – nor do I ever think I will. However, I want to get as close to my skill capacity as possible, which is why I really appreciate the encouragement and opportunities I receive from my employers and other affiliates.

#4: Set Goals and Find Someone to Hold You Accountable

Decide where you want to go in life, and set goals to get you there. But don’t stop there – ask someone to hold you accountable. This will significantly increase your likelihood of reaching those goals, and in a timely manner. I find myself setting a lot of goals, but falling short of achieving them because I don’t commit to them to anyone but myself. Remember in school when you were assigned papers – do you think you would be inclined to write them, and write them well, if you weren’t being held accountable? The same applies here.

#5: Use a Time Management System that Works for You

It’s true what they say – time only goes by faster as you grow up. Damn them. If someone can create a product that slows down time, or allows us to have more of it (like the time turner Hermione Granger uses in the 3rd Harry Potter book – shout out to all my fellow HP fanatics), they will be the richest person on earth – I am sure of it.

Anyway, allow me to stop wasting your time and get back to the point; learning to manage time has been one of the most difficult lessons life has thrown at me. There is always too much to do, too many priorities and far too little time. Luckily, there are a number of time management systems and tools out there to help you do this – however, you need to find one that is right for you. This is the unfortunate part – it’s not as easy as you think; it will take time. You can’t just wave your magic wand…sorry, couldn’t resist (I not-so-secretly want to be a witch – life would be easier if I could do magic.)

Me…yeah I haven’t found one, yet. However, this is one of my GOALS, which I have asked my MENTOR, as well as my supervisor, to hold me ACCOUNTABLE on. (See what I did there?) 

Well – that’s all for now. Good luck being grown-up – I hope some of my thoughts are helpful in your journey called life.


Topics: Life Lessons | Culture