How To Adult When You Don’t Know How: Everything You Need To Know About The Really Big Events In Your 20’s


I’ve always read that your teens are an important time in your life, that during the teenage years you really learn who you are and start to grow into the person you’re supposed to be. I think that’s wrong; it’s your twenties when you really figure out how to navigate the world around you.

During this oh-so-eventful ten years, you go through a lot. You might be in college, or you’re learning how to keep a job and start a career. You’re renting somewhere to live. You’re drinking legally. You’re falling in love and having sex. Your friendships are changing. It’s a crazy time. My twenties are almost over and I can’t believe how much has changed since I turned 20.

There are a few experiences that almost everyone has during their twenties, from figuring out how to live with another person to landing your dream job. How do you prepare for these things?

Your first “real” job interview

You busted your ass all through college and now you finally have an interview for a job you really, truly want. You’re excited and nervous and have no idea how to nail it, but take some deep breaths. You got this.

1. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses; ask friends or family members for help. If you’re really freaked out, do a practice interview with a friend.

2. Dress appropriately, but dress like you. Have you ever worn a business suit in your life? Then don’t wear one to your interview unless your interview is at some super-conservative office. A sweater and skirt with a cute pair of (closed toe) heels or flats is totally fine; so is a simple dress and a fun jacket. Your prospective employer doesn’t want to see a boring old clone; they want to see what makes you unique. (Just don’t get too scandalous or casual. NO JEANS or leggings!)

3. Remember that employers can (and probably will) Google you. If there’s anything you’re not proud of, hide or delete it, or make your accounts private.

4. Be sure you come prepared. They’ll probably ask about an experience at a prior job where you had to handle something crazy, or a time you triumphed. Be sure you have something in mind so you’re not sitting there going, “Um … well …” Be self-assured. Be confident. You know you’re awesome. Channel that little girl talking to herself in the mirror! Give the interviewer a firm handshake and a smile.

5. When the interview is over, send a thank you email or note. If you don’t get the job, that’s OK – an interview is always valuable practice for the next time! You’ll find your dream job.

Your first time co-habiting with a BFF or significant other

Living with someone you love, whether that’s a BFF or a BF, can be tricky. How can you spend an entire year in a small space without murdering one another? I successfully lived with my BFF for almost six years, so it can be done!

1. Figure out who does what, and whose chores will be whose. Maybe you’re the cleaner and she’s detail-oriented. She can manage the payments and you can keep the kitchen tidy. Before you sign a lease, be sure you know each other’s big things. Does he or she play their music loud? Do you have vocal sex? Can you borrow each other’s clothes without asking? Who takes care of the cat? You gotta talk about this stuff. Bringing it up beforehand is way easier than trying to wiggle out of a lease later if it doesn’t work.

2. Give each other some leeway. Let the other person have some alone time once in awhile. Communicate! If you don’t tell them why you’re annoyed that they haven’t washed their dishes, they honestly might not notice. Really. I lived with a roommate who simply just didn’t notice the dishes in the sink, and it made me insane. 

Let the little things go. Don’t make mountains out of molehills, as the old adage goes, or you’ll probably commit double homicide. When you’re getting really irritated with each other, remember why you’re friends or why you love each other. That’s why you live together.

Your first big heartbreak

No one can prepare you for your first massive heartbreak. I’m not talking about the three-month breakup or the down-in-the-dumps feeling you get when that dude doesn’t return your texts after a few good dates. No, I’m talking about the crushing, intense, soul-sucking heartbreak. It’ll happen, I promise, and it’ll knock the wind out of you.

1. When it does, let yourself be upset. Don’t try to be strong and pretend you’re not hurting like some stoic Midwesterner. You can have a day where you just cry in bed, in the car, in the shower …

2. Don’t text the other person no matter how badly you want to. Give each other a few days so you can clear your heads and figure out your emotions. I know it’s hard. You might want to lash out or play the sad “you broke my heart” card, but try to refrain until some time has passed. Don’t try to be friends right away, either. Sometimes that takes literal years. Don’t jump into bed with the next person who comes along, either. Let yourself take as much time as you need to heal. If that means dyeing your hair black, go for it. Spend time with people you love and let them take care of you.

3. You’re hurting, and it’s OK. Do things that make you happy or get you out of your own head, like writing or going to an exercise class or taking a little trip for the weekend. Let yourself feel. Let yourself be angry, sad, hurt – but also remember that you’re OK on your own. You’ll survive. I promise!

Buying a car

I bought not one but two cars in 2015 and though I truly hated the experience and would have been fine having my dad pick a car for me, I learned a lot. Buying a car is not easy! It’s boring, it’s a lot of paperwork, and it’s something you need to really think about. A car is one of the most important things you’ll ever buy, and it’s probably one of the first “big purchases” you’ll make.

1. If you’re buying at a dealership like I did, do your research. Make a list of what features are important to you, whether that’s a sunroof or a car that handles well in snow and ice. Decide what you can live without (heated seats?) and be sure you tell the dealership exactly what you use your car for. Maybe you commute quite a distance or sit in traffic every day, or maybe you use your car sparingly. Figure out what kind of budget you’ll need for car maintenance, from fuel to oil changes to repairs. If you’re going to be making a monthly payment, figure out what you can afford that won’t kill you. (I pay $330 for my 2013 Toyota RAV-4.) If your payment is too high, you might have trouble meeting it and that means your credit score could be affected. When you take the car home, give it a week or so. If you hate it, you can take it back! If you’ve found a good salesperson, they should want you to love your car.

2. If you’re buying from someone on Craiglist, be sure you’re getting the best deal. Be thorough when you look through the car. Drive it around for a little while until you know it’s the car for you. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Just because you responded to an ad doesn’t mean you’re required to purchase. Make sure the seller has all the correct papers and information for you if you do decide to purchase it, because paperwork is a bitch.

Repaying your student loans

I’m sorry to bring it up, but you do have to repay all those loans that got you through college. I have a ton, and I’ve accepted them as part of my life. It sucks to pay them, but if you’re prepared, it can be painless.

Before it comes time to repay (usually about six months after graduation), call your lender and talk through your options.

Can you consolidate your loans into one large payment instead of three smaller ones? Do you need to put your loans into forbearance until you find a job? What’s the biggest payment you can comfortably make right now? Ask them what the penalties are for late payments. Cover all your bases, and don’t forget to hang on to your statements for tax time! You have more options regarding your loans than you think, so don’t be afraid to chat with a representative about what comes next. They want your money, yes, but they know they won’t get it if they don’t help you! Repaying your loans is just another step on the path to adulthood, albeit probably the least fun one. Your college experience was worth it, though, right?