Five Things I Wish I Knew at 22
Confession time: I’m about 9 months away from turning 30.
You know what that means, it means that if you’re younger than 30 it’s a mythical number where you seem to cross that bridge from young adult to adult, it’s a cusp, a marker, a line in the sand. If you’re older than 30 you probably know this is complete garbage but I’ve yet to cross the line so I still look at it with awe and trepidation.
So, instead of focusing on the things I wish I had DONE by the time I’m 30 (yeah, I’m avoiding my 30 before 30, so what?) Here are a list of things I wish I knew at 22, that OTHER magical year, that first year most people are truly expelled into the real, post-collegiate world.
1) Keep living with your college roommates, at least for a little while
When I graduated from University, I immediately went looking for a ‘serious roommate‘ who wasn’t a university or college student. I wanted to live with a roommate who had a grown-up job, somebody whose lifestyle I could emulate! Very aspirational, but unfortunately it was a bad financial move. The problem was that this search led me to spend significantly more in rent, and subsequently, lifestyle inflation. My student roommates may have partied a little more than I did, but it was unlikely that I would’ve felt any sort of need to keep up with them financially. It took me almost a year and a half to realize my mistake and I overspent on rent by about $4,000 in that short amount of time. Money which could’ve been much better spent elsewhere!
2) Branch out and move to a new city, at least for a little while
I went to university in the same city that I grew up in. It is a rather large city (Toronto) but I never had that fish-out-of-water experience to give me perspective on myself and the world. Now that I’m paired off and have three cats, it’s significantly harder to move away to a new city to practice my survival skills. Even if it turns out that the move is a BUST and you want to come home, at least you know you can make this kind of life change. I wish I’d even done it for a summer. The less stuff you have, the fewer PETS you have, the easier it is to accomplish this.
3) Don’t be afraid to aim high
I graduated from university in 2007, just before the recession hit. So I didn’t have any doom and gloom predictions to my career path, but I definitely didn’t have rose-coloured glasses on. I, unlike some of my peers, did realize the limits of a degree in the real world, and I think it made me more risk-averse when it came to job opportunities than I should’ve been. I felt like I was a complete novice while job-hunting, and didn’t realize that through all my employment in university, my work studies and participation in clubs and groups, I actually had a lot of real-world experience, I was just too uncertain to apply it to jobs. I eventually figured it out, but it would’ve been nice to have that confidence in myself a year or two earlier. (Also, sidebar, learn how not to be afraid to fail every once in awhile.)
4) The importance of making some new friends
I think this is especially difficult for any recent graduate, when you’re thrust from your ivory tower to the cold, mean streets of real life. You won’t see your friends in lectures or tutorials, or sitting in the same cafes or bars, your little insular student world is suddenly blown apart. Now you need to make friends with your co-workers, or that person in your gym class. Real world friendships can be more rewarding than ones that only survived due to late-night cramming sessions and partying, but they definitely take more work. I think I spent the first few years out of university a little bit lonely.
5. Start saving in an emergency fund
I know, I know. There’s a lot of drain on your resources straight out of college. You have student loans staring down at you, adult-things that you may need to pay for, rent for an apartment, etc. But the importance of putting even a LITTLE bit away (think, $25 a paycheque) can reap so many benefits. Luckily I learned this fairly quickly and always had some money set aside for unexpected bills, but I know many of my friends floored by financial surprises simply because they didn’t have an emergency fund. Then when you’re on your feet, an RRSP isn’t far away.
And if you need that first boost, sign up for a Tangerine bank account and use my Orange Key referral number (39814304S1) to get a bonus $25 into your new account! Every little bit helps.
So there you have it, five small financial and personal tips that I wish I’d known at 22. But even if somebody had told me, I’m not sure I would’ve taken this advice to heart had I not lived through it myself. Despite learning some of these lessons the hard way, it made me the person I am today.