It sounds like such a cliche, but nobody is perfect. Certainly, no one is born perfect. All of the good stuff we do with our lives comes after a lot of effort, hours of hard work, and a little bit of finessing.
I find myself having to actively participate in learning so many different things every day, especially recently, since I’ve only been out of my parents’ house for a year and out of college for less than that, and I am still trying to figure out all the stuff that certified Grown-Ups need to do every day, and how to successfully do them. And that’s not a bad thing! No one assumes you were born with the skills necessary to be 100% competent in your career (even after a good amount of schooling, there will still be days where you feel a little lost), or the ability to easily understand how to file your taxes without nervously reaching out to your relative who is an accountant, or an innate knack for keeping your bathtub from growing mold. It all came from somewhere — a class in school, a lesson your Mom gave you, or a great deal of Googling.
Learning is how we grow. A lot of what distinguishes adults from children is the information the adult has learned and grown able to understand, and the tasks they’ve figured out how to successfully complete. Those bits of information, the pearls of wisdom, and the learned behaviors are what got us to where we are today. I decided to ask a bunch of people what the most important thing they learned how to do when they hit adulthood was and rounded up all of the answers here (mostly because I needed some suggestions — I still have a ton to learn!). This is what they had to say.
1. “One of the most important things I ever learned was how to just properly maintain my home. I’m a single woman in my twenties and I live alone, and not saying that all women aren’t capable of this kind of stuff because they obviously are, but I know that a lot of shared-home relationship dynamics come with an ‘I’ll cook, you repair broken stuff’ deal. Learning how to do really simple things early on that I just wouldn’t have thought of before has saved me from calling my dad to come over and help me every time I need to change a lightbulb or hang a picture frame on the wall. I got some tools and really learned how to use them, and now I don’t panic at the prospect of snaking my sink when it won’t drain, which I definitely would have when I was a little younger.” — Rebecca
2. “Understanding how to control my money in a very basic way was a turning point for me, because I had my checking account linked to my parents’ until I was like 25. I wasn’t given money by them or anything, but since the parent-account was the main one and mine was just an attached student account, I never felt like I had the responsibility of going to the bank and opening the account, reading and understanding the terms, knowing what to do/who to contact if there was a problem, etc. It wasn’t until I had something that was all mine, opened and fully controlled by me, that I became more aware of my personal financial life.” — Hannah
3. “Well full disclosure I’m in my forties and I feel like learning how to really use a computer has been extremely important for my career and growth opportunities. I didn’t like, grow up with a computer like my daughters did — I didn’t really use one on a regular basis until I was already a full-grown adult, so really taking the time to learn how to do things that the younger people around me were growing up learning how to do meant that I wouldn’t fall behind in my career and helped me keep up-to-date.” — Elena
4. “I have always been naturally messy. My parents were always messy, and not in a disgusting way, just that we were never the family that like needed all of our stuff to be put away at the end of the day, and the kitchen was never sparkling, but it wasn’t filthy or anything. I carried that over a bit and when I got my own place, I quickly realized that I needed to change my ways a little bit and kind of teach myself how to be a lot cleaner and neater. I feel like I’ve done a complete 180 but I love it because it feels so much better for me personally to take pride in my belongings and my space by keeping it clean and tidy.” — Audrey
5. “Hands down learning a second language in college was the greatest thing I’ve done, because it opened up so many doors for me career-wise and it feels like it opened up a whole new world that I have the ability to comfortably communicate with.” — Molly
6. “We both came from a ‘frozen meals and takeout’ families, so getting a few basic recipes down was really important for my husband and me when we first lived together. It was a journey, and we’re definitely not great home cooks or anything, but we can make pasta and chicken and tacos and that is truly more than we could say for our parents, lol.” — Natalie
7. “Learning in general how to stick up for myself in a lot of situations was a turning point for me. From getting what I want during phone calls with my cable company to getting the necessary attention and treatment at doctors appointments. I never had to interact with these types of people growing up, so learning how to take care of myself and the things in my life in small ways like that felt a lot bigger than it probably seems to other people. Simply calling to schedule my annual checkup or going to get my flu shot feels like a big adult win.” — Brie
8. “Understanding big-picture financial planning — I always was under the impression that I could do so much more ‘right now’ with my money, but I’ve realized that having $2,000 in the bank doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford a $2,000 handbag — it means that the two grand is extremely important for you to take care of necessities and leverage into more money/assets/security for your life. There’s definitely a difference between having enough money to buy something and truly being able to afford it, which I learned after many mistakes in my youth buying concert tickets with allowance money because ‘I had enough!’ but then not having lunch money at school.” — Sam
9. “My most important learned behavior is just…patience. I’m a huge fan of instant gratification, I have been known to carry out fights with partners via text because I can’t wait to see them in person and have a grown-up discussion, I get my paycheck and want to spend it now, etc. I’ve had to really teach myself how to slow down and approach things in a more calculated way to make sure I’m not jumping the gun because I move so quickly.” — Madeline
10. “I will always cite learning how to say ‘no’ as the turning point in my life, when I genuinely felt myself make the switch from flailing child to strong, confident adult. You grow up in a school system where you really can’t even make the decision to use the bathroom at your leisure, so growing up it always felt like I needed to ask permission to do anything I wanted and didn’t really have much autonomy when making choices for myself. Which I know makes some sense as a very young child, but it even feels that way in high school, so I found myself at 18 feeling like I needed to ask a grown-up’s permission to go to the bathroom or do something I wanted, which is just weird. I’ve learned how to speak up for myself, ask for things I need, and most importantly, say no to things that I need to say no to instead of feeling like I’m at the mercy of some sort of powerful authority figure all the time.” — Taylor
11. “Being reliable. I was always a ‘sorry I’m late!’ ‘I didn’t finish the homework assignment, oops!’ ‘actually I can’t make it tonight, my bad!’ person, and I didn’t realize until I got a bit older how disrespectful that is, and what a disservice I’d done myself by showing the people in my life that they couldn’t count on me. I’ve made that change and it made such a dramatic difference in my life. It feels good to be prepared and to be someone others can count on, both in my personal life and professional life.” — Mia
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