I'm moving out, living as a real adult - finally! How can I do it well?
March 17, 2014 12:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm 22, graduating in a month. I'm finally moving out on my own to the big city, starting a new corporate job - starting real, adult life basically - how can I make a smooth, healthy transition into independent life?

Though I'm doing okay in general, I struggle with body image issues, fighting against drug relapse, lack of friendships and relationships, self esteem issues in general. I'm nervous that moving out on my own is going to be a tough transition on me emotionally and may exacerbate these issues- though I went on exchange last year, it was a completely different kind of experience, one with no real roots, one where the primary focus was to have fun.

Now, I'm starting to build my own life with no parental support, few university friends (well, never had many real best friends to begin with until recently), paying rent, managing my finances, trying to be fit and healthy... I'm going to start living an independent, grown-up life.

What tips and advice do you have for me, a 22 year old mama's girl who's excited about the changes in her life, but struggles with anxiety/slight depression...How can I make this transition as smoothly as possible over the next few months to a year? What anecdotal advice do you have for me?

Thanks in advance, my dear green.
posted by rhythm_queen to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
1) Maximize any retirement benefits NOW. If you're employer offers matching--take full advantage. Even if it hurts.

2) Once your move and job are stabilized, you need a friend group. Jump in and invite people to do stuff you like to do. Don't skip the nerds--often, these are the best people.

3) Keep your family part of your life, even though you're working hard to separate. Call them regularly and go home for key holidays and events. This might seem the opposite of what you want now, but it will become much more important later. You don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water.

4) Consider staying away from the drugs. When you're in your twenties it's the time to take on the awkward stuff (not run from it) and go fast in many areas. Besides, you can't underestimate he confidence you obtain from making good decisions.

5) If you have anxiety and slight depression, you might go ahead and consider starting to find a therapist that you groove with. They really help.

6) Relax and enjoy your life. You're 22. You will be so surprised how quick it goes. Really. Be spontaneous. Try new things. Explore. Travel. Live. You don't have money and power and all those things that money and power leverage but you do have energy, flexibility, agility and time: leverage them.
posted by Murray M at 1:22 AM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

Make time to take care of yourself. If there are physical activities that you enjoy like yoga classes, intramural sports, etc then make sure you keep the time in your schedule for them and don't skip them unless you really have to.

Create good habits, especially financial habits. Make sure you pay your bills on time and in full. Make yourself an emergency fund that will cover projected costs for 3 to 6 months. I absolutely agree with the advice on retirement savings - you are at the perfect time to start. If you don't get an IRA with your job, get one separately. They really don't take long to set up and you can set up auto-deductions from your paycheck, invest into something fairly foolproof like an index fund, and that's basically all you need to do.

If the anxiety and/or depression are getting in the way of you being able to live your life the way you want to, yes, consider therapy, also consider seeing a doctor. Getting yourself set up with a good primary care doctor is a generally good idea so you have someone to see when you need to. Don't forget to find a dentist, too!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:08 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Take the time to make your new living space comfortable. You don't have to spend a lot of money - there's lots of great decorating stuff available at thrift and dollar stores, but having a place that you feel at home in can be a big comfort when things get stressful. Spending a few minutes every day to keep the place clean will pay back in spades on the days when you need to be able to get home from a hard day at work, sit somewhere cosy with a book and a cup of tea and unwind.

Another bonus to having a nice living space is that it becomes easier to strengthen new friendships - you want to hang out with someone, you can just say "hey come over let's watch a movie and order pizza"

Have a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. It takes way less time to put a thing away than it does to look for it frantically when you needed it 5 minutes ago.

Can you cook? knowing how to make basic healthy meals will save money, and keep you from eating too much junkfood - there's so much tasty takeout available downtown it's all too easy to eat poorly. Making your own work lunches is great too - get some tupperware, and bring big salads for lunch, they are the best.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:44 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Try to do things that will relax your mind: meditation, yoga, and nature. Make a list of things that help you and DO them.

Remember this: life is a journey filled with constant learning about ourselves and our world.

Enjoy the ride!
posted by learninguntilidie at 3:06 AM on March 17, 2014

Be open to invitations from your co-workers for lunch or coffee or whatever. Find a club of some kind that incorporates an interest of yours. It could be a sports club or community theatre (which offers a raft of positions, not just acting), book club or anything that appeals to you, really.

Make sure you always prioritise things like rent and utilities, health insurance and an adequate food supply. If you haven't cooked much for yourself before then try and acquire a few staple dishes that you can cook without a recipe (spag bog and beef strog are good starters) and make sure you've always got the ingredients on hand.

Try and clean as you go as much as you possibly can. If you leave it, it's just going to get worse.

Take a risk now and then and if it doesn't work out then remember that there's always next time. People have amazing things happen to them all the time, why not you? It may not happen every day but staying open to possibilities, even if it doesn't work out in every case. Don't take a misfire too personally. Also, be open to constructive criticism (but only constructive, arseholes should be ignored).
posted by h00py at 5:03 AM on March 17, 2014

If you were raised in any particular faith and are still comfortable with it find a local place of worship. You'll meet people there and have something to do once a week that might give you comfort. Your new job will probably be exhausting at first. Resist the temptation to veg in front of the tv every night. Join a gym, take some movement classes like yoga Pilates, zumba. Find out about local cultural and natural treasure like museums, botanical gardens, parks, and explore them all. Locate your nearest public library and get a card and borrow some books. Don't jump into friendships too quickly
posted by mareli at 5:06 AM on March 17, 2014

I'd say get your money straight. If you've never made any, it's exciting to get a real paycheck. You think you can afford everything.

One thing you don't want to get surprised about is money. You'll be amazed at how much you can piss away if you're not mindful.

So set up a budget, with savings, and be pretty pinch-penny until you have a few thousand in the bank. This will bail you out in an emergency. You will sleep better at night.

The other thing is to not live your life based on what others think of you. For example. If you have a vehicle, and it's an old beater that gets you from point a to point b, don't let the ribbing you'll take from the jerk with a BMW get to you. Sure, if you never ate lunch again, lived in an alcove with 6 roommates and only drove it on the weekends, you could afford one too. WHO wants to live like that?

Also, tell your friends early and often that you're broke. "I'd love to go to dinner at that new place with you, but I'm strapped this week. How about I meet you for dessert?" "Oh! I wish I could afford to go in on a house share at the shore this summer, but I'll be dipping my piddies in the kiddie pool on the roof of my building this year."

My inability to say no, even when it was stuff I didn't particularly want to do, kept me broke and in debt in my younger days. I would have been a much happier Bunny with money in the bank.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:43 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh man I wish I had started cooking when I was in your position instead of waiting until I hit grad school and had no money and couldn't afford chipotle except as a big thing.

Even simple pastas, salads, chicken with rice or couscous or something (if you're not a vegetarian) will save you money and make you feel like a champ if you haven't cooked much before, and you can move on to more complicated stuff later to impress friends/dates or as a hobby if you enjoy it.
posted by dismas at 5:46 AM on March 17, 2014

Oh and nthing the money stuff.

One trap I (and many of my coworkers) fell into was feeling like I could afford to go out to the bars on weekends and not pay TOO much attention to how much I was drinking/spending because we had money for the first time in our lives. This is a bad use of cash and is bad for you. Go out and have fun obviously but try to discipline yourself. (I swear I'm not your parents!)
posted by dismas at 5:50 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd also say, you know, temper your expectations. Becoming an adult is a process. For many of us, it's a long process. Or a painful process. Don't be surprised if it's hard and lonely and you have some setbacks. It's OK. This happens to just about everyone.

I think sometimes we get the idea that when we enter a new phase of our life - new job, new boyfriend/girlfriend, new home, new whatever - we're starting over and embarking on our lives all fresh and shiny and new. But you're still the person you were before. You're going to change, but it's not instant or automatic.

So when stuff gets you down, just know that that's normal and not something to beat yourself up over.
posted by mskyle at 7:09 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

As said above, in your early 20s, it's easy to piss your paycheques away in a weekend. Watch out for that.

Try to keep your place organized and clean. Don't treat setbacks as the end of the world.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:10 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're getting lots of great advice; the main thing I'd add is to Prioritize. Doing ALL THE THINGS in your first month on the job will exhaust you. So think about your priorities, and pay attention to things in order. For me, that would be something like:

1. Find home, get it very basically liveable. Then ->
2. Figure out basic budget and how to live within it. Then ->
3. Self care. Find a gym, maybe a therapist, some yoga, a teashop - whatever works for you. Then ->
4. Socializing. Go to meetups, build social networks.

I just realized that this bear some resemblance to Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. That makes sense, because the main priorities are to meet your basic needs, then work your way up from there.
posted by ldthomps at 8:26 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of advice here about money and so on, but if you aren't someone who's ever had to do a lot of actual cleaning, you're going to have questions. Jolie Kerr has the answers. Seriously just buy that book and I guarantee you it will come in handy. I'm an actual adult and I've learned things from it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:41 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

At 42 looking back on my first 5ish years of living on my own, and struggling with depression on and off during that time, my biggest problems by far were refusing to understand my own money situation and assuming that cleaning could wait until I felt like it, which turned out to be never.

The money part...you just do it. Pay attention. Live far more carefully than you think you need to for the first 3 months until you are sure that all the stuff coming out of your paychecks before you get them has settled down correctly, and so that you have several bill cycles to know how much your living costs really are (or at least really are in the spring). Don't go nuts on new-house stuff right away, because you'll have a better idea of what you really want/need in 3 months anyway.

Very few individual tasks take very long, and making them a habit sort of makes them invisible in your life. If you do dishes twice a day, it's 2 5-minute-or-less chores. If you do them once a week, it's an hour and your sink is full and you don't have any forks. Tidying your bathroom every day takes maybe 2 minutes.

From one depressed person to another: keep your place visitor-ready. You will feel better all the time from not having to look at a mess, you will not constantly feel as if there is a massive task hanging over your head to be done, and you will be able to have people over as you make friends and expand your social network. If you live your life in a way that you could get a call that a friend is 5 minutes away and you only need to tidy the coffee table, wash a dirty mug, put your laptop away, and put the kettle on, you will feel happier and lighter in your life.

And if you develop slob habits, you will fight them all your adult life. Make it easy on yourself.

I have been thinking a lot lately about Future Me and spending more time taking care of Future Me. When I got up this morning, Past Me had already made breakfasts for me and my husband for the week and wraps for several days' emergency meals. I was feeling terribly lazy yesterday when I did all that, but I knew I'd be glad I did. I apply the same premise to exercise, and implementing routines around cleaning and other life-maintenance tasks. It makes it a lot easier to get those things done even if you don't feel like it when you're focusing on the good feeling it will make later.

I swear I spent my entire 20s acting like every single crisis I encountered was the first time anyone in the entire world had ever had that problem, that I was forbidden to ask for help or advice, and that the world would surely end because of it. Oh, and things would never ever ever change or be different. Good lord was I melodramatic and a complete ostrich, and yet also the center of the entire universe.

Unless you work with highly unstable substances or live inside the Large Hadron Collider, there is no mistake you can make that is unique or really even all that interesting. Just about anything you can screw up is fixable - often in less than 15 minutes - if you'd just chill for a minute and focus on a solution. Don't avoid, don't run away, don't lie or cover up, just do Future You a favor a deal with it calmly and rationally now. Apologize whenever necessary, learn lessons from every experience.

Statistically, you are probably least likely to meet your permanent partner in the next 2-3 years than at any other point in your adult life. Focus on yourself and friends and career right now, not lovers.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:13 AM on March 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

Good for you that you are excited about getting out on your own.

Things I wish I'd done in my early 20s (or even my early 30s).
1. Savings/retirement accounts - I know it seems a million years away and you probably don't have any extra money. Even just $10 a week right now will make your life so much easier in the long run. Really. Here's a quick little calculator online to show how quickly that will add up. If you can get direct deposit and have that $10 put into a separate savings account, it'll be that much easier.

2. Skip the credit cards - Don't get any credit cards if you can possibly help it. I totally fell for the BS in college and paid for it for many years after. Only spend the actual money that you actually have in your actual hands.

3. Write a budget that includes entertainment/treats for yourself and try your best to follow it. I totally mismanaged my money when I was young and I still cringe when I think of how often I asked for my money from my folks. They didn't mind helping but I could have done things much differently.

It's interesting to me that lot of the answers here are about money. It seems to me that those would be the easiest issues to fix if we could go back and do it again. The other, how to be an adult type stuff, is less concrete. A few vague pieces of advice I think would have helped me:

4. Trust your instinct. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. If your gut instinct says that person seems off or weird or vaguely threatening, proceed with caution.

5. Travel before you get too tied down with mortgage/family/whatever. Travel before you get arthritis. (I love our property and animals and garden but some days I wish we had a little rental where we could just pull up stakes at the end of the lease and go.)

6. Try to exercise regularly. Get in the habit of it now. It will help combat almost all the things you mentioned - depression, self-confidence, relapse. And your health in general will be better in the long run.

Best of luck to you. The way you are going about this - asking questions, making conscious decisions, mindfulness - that's how you do adulthood well.
posted by Beti at 9:41 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're going to mess up.

Don't worry too much. If you're not getting evicted, having your electricity turned off or your car repo'd, being fired from your job for gross negligence, etc, you're doing just fine.

I've been living partially on my own since I was 16, and completely on my own since about your age. The first decade of that was pretty much constant fuckups. It turns out your credit rating kind of matters. It turns out they WILL turn off your cell phone. It turns out that just doing dishes as you dirty them is easier in the long run than throwing them out after they sit in the sink for weeks and get moldy. It probably took until I was 25 to start to be on Mostly OK At Being An Adult footing, with basically zero fuckups over mundane things like not leaving damp towels in the dryer lest they mildew.

And even now, at almost 33? Shit happens. I quit smoking at 22 but still bum a cigarette every now and again. I left a bunch of cardboard recycling on my porch and then it rained and was totally gross to clean up after the fact.

Unfortunately there is no stark line between Being A Dumbass Kid and Being A Perfect Repsonsible Adult Who Never Screws Up.

You're OK. Don't beat yourself up about the little failures that are sure to happen.
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2014

i've been living on my own since i was 22. i'm just about to turn 34. here are some ramblings...

definitely start the retirement account. i was SO PROUD that i had one at 22 and so disappointed in myself when i had to cash it out when i lost my job a few years later. if you can help it, don't ever cash out the retirement account until you're actually retired.

22 is super young and drugs and alcohol are super fun at that age. you may think you're having all the fun and it's not taking a toll on your work life/school life, but it is. in small ways that you don't even notice until you look back years later. i'm not anti-drugs or anti-drinking exactly, but tone it down if you want to be a Real Grown Up Lady.

when you start a new job you're going to be so excited and you're going to want to jump in and Help and Show Everyone You Know What You're Doing. tone it down, especially if you're in an office with older (boomers +) workers. you absolutely might know how to do X procedure better, but they don't want to hear it. because you're 22 and you just started there. unless they specifically hired you to innovate, don't.

public transit is gross and claustrophobic and gross. but cheaper than taking taxis. save the taxis for true emergencies or going to job interviews.

at 22 most people will not treat you like an adult, especially in the work place if you are in an office-type situation. it is so frustrating, but try to keep the frustration inside. eventually someone younger will be hired and that person will get all the patronization.

it's okay to have a secret stash of paper plates and plastic forks for the days when the dishes can just fucking suck it.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above self-care is really important. I think this is something that can take a very long time to learn in our society because it's not instilled in us and then we finally learn it (if we're lucky) in our thirties. I think many people, especially when in their twenties, are oblivious to how the way they live, eat, sleep, socialize, and spend their time actually makes them feel bad. It was the case for me. Even if it's not a cure all, and its effects may seem subtle at times, doing things like regularly cooking your own food, and taking time for some kind of (mindful) exercise makes a big long term difference when incorporated as a natural part of your life.

So I recommend learning to cook at least half your meals (even if you're using jarred pasta sauce, say), and anyway your cooking skills and repertoire will get more complex over the years if you cook regularly. There is something subtly soothing and uplifting in caring for your own basic need this way (for food), and handling vegetables, fruits, etc while chopping them (they are part of nature, after all).

Also, for exercise, even if it's only once or twice a week, do yoga, go for a walk in nature, anything that's mindful and not mindlessly pushing yourself through a bunch of reps at the gym while staring at a big screen or blasting your MP3 player. Basically any kind of mindful exercise or "mind/body" practice.

Get lots of sleep and a good sleep routine (sleep hygiene). Don't spend too much time on the internet, especially after 9 pm.

Try to hang out with your friends as much as possible. Even if it's just talking on the phone.

Try to spend time in nature on the weekends and as much as you can.
posted by Blitz at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Learn to meditate (or similar). If you think you could use a therapist, just do it.

Learn to take a deep breath and address mistakes early and head on: everything is easier to fix the earlier you do this (health, finances, whatever). Knowing and fixing is scary, but much more empowering and successful than being scared and avoiding. The sooner you do it, the sooner it's over. Knowledge is power.You will make mistakes - you're human; we never stop...

Learn to take a deep breath, calm yourself, and just have that awkward conversation... and then learn to wait and listen. Once the elephant in the room is identitifed, the tension breaks and you can move forward.

Do not spend more than you earn. Use YNAB software to identify and stick to a budget.

Do not lend money to anyone unless you're happy to think of it as a gift and are 100% ok never seeing it again.

Make sure you have health inurance and know how to use it.
Find a doctor you like and don't be afraid to see them periodically. Take charge of your sexual health: talk to this doctor about birth control, STD checks, pap smears, etc. Use your birth control as flawlessly as humanly possible. Know what your options are in the event of an "accident", what you're comfortable with, where to go, etc. Again - knowledge is power. Read Taking Charge of Your Fertility: the flip side of knowing how to get pregnant is knowing how to NOT get pregnant. Shockingly few people seem to have a good grip on how their reproductive systems work.

Be consious of the company you keep, both socially and at work. Joining a church group, meditation group, even yoga... are more likely to introduce you to positive-influencing friends (folks who are also into health, positive body image, etc).

Call your mom (but not too much!). Learn to cook. Good sleep hygiene. Small bits of chores all the time... what everyone above is saying!

*Self-care is NOT indulgence. Self-care is, as someone above mentioned, making a week's worth of sandwiches even though you're tired because you know it'll be a godsend on Wednesday. It's going ahead and being an adult and Taking Care of Things. It's doing the yoga/meditation/banking/laundry, forgiving yourself for making mistakes, etc... not overspending on a spa weekend you can't really afford "because you deserve it".

Most people don't have "many real best friends" - this is normal. Making friends gets harder as you get older I think.

If you get a chance to travel again (and volunteer? teach? study?) do!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:07 PM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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