Much like the Trump Presidency, the reality of my adulthood hasn’t sunk in yet. I graduated earlier this year, just as the world got much darker. 2016 hasn’t exactly been kind to us all. Many end-of-the-year articles list the catastrophic events that happened this year, and the other half reassure people that the world isn’t as terrible as we think it is.
But good or bad, every year is a chance for self-reflection. So here are some dull but important things I learned this year about post-graduation adulthood.
Taxes & Politics
Now that I have an official paycheck for the government to take money from, I understand why our colonial forefathers insisted on “no taxation without representation.” I’d throw tea overboard too if I couldn’t tell the government how to waste my money.
Joining the workforce full-time gave me a great reason to pay closer attention to politics. While I was in school, much of the interplay between economics and politics was theoretical for me. But now I know how important it is to research and vote for transportation and education measures, just to name a few.
Speaking of education, there should be mandatory course in school on how to file taxes. My ability to fill out tax forms would increase if I could understand fancy tax words like “gross” and “deductible.”
Commuting & Housing
My commute is split between the car and the train. SF Bay Area has some of the most horrendous traffic in the country, created by some truly horrendous drivers, which probably includes me. I suspect many people have leftover bad driving habits from their time on lawless Asian roads (I’ve been there, I know).
It sucks that my commute can take up to three hours of my day. I’d move closer if I could. Unfortunately, the SF Peninsula boasts some of the most astronomical rent prices in the country.
On the bright side, I met some good friends riding the train. Even though the CalTrain is a creaky old beast that constantly breaks down, I still prefer public transportation to driving.
I must have hit the Jury Duty jackpot, because soon after I served in August, I was summoned to a different court. After some miscommunication mishap, I was excused from serving the second time.
Jury duty is inconvenient. But I have to give the government credit for shamelessly pulling citizens from their daily routines to make them fulfill their duty to their nation.
It’s kind of flattering how much faith our government puts in us to participate in the justice system. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s still cool to see how the courtroom actually works.
My Physical Health
As a college student, I wasn’t great at maintaining proper sleep, diet, and nutrition. Now I have to build my body back up.
I also learned that my body does not like wheat. After years of suffering eczema, I finally found out that my body has just been rebelling against all the bread and noodles I’ve been eating.
My Mental Health & Insecurities
When I first graduated, I felt old enough to accomplish anything. But now that I’m surrounded by people at work who are married with graduate degrees and children, I realize how young and inexperienced I actually am.
I tend to overestimate my ability to handle stress. Even when it started affecting me physically during college, I denied it or played it off as the flu. Four years of unmanaged stress has resulted in several meltdowns this year.
Honestly, being fresh out of school has been an emotional struggle. For the first time, life is unscripted. The freedom to decide how life is going to go also comes with plenty of self-doubt about whether I made the right decisions. And of course, the self-doubt helps me compare myself unfavorably to other people.
This is the time to be independent. But It’s been a struggle establishing independence while admitting that I just don’t have the resources for it yet. When I do accept help, I feel guilty for not growing up faster.
I’ve been trying to listen to the right internal and external voices, the ones that say “you can do this” instead of “you don’t deserve to live happily”. I’ve discovered how ugly the side effects of self doubt can be.
Like 2016, graduation was both a blessing and a curse. But as a newly minted adult, it’s my job to be optimistic. There’s no point building a future if doom is certain.
So here’s a partial list of things I’m grateful for this year: my cousin got married. The Summer Olympics went relatively smoothly. I got a job in today’s economy. I love my family and friends. Rogue One and Moana were excellent movies.
And just for comparison, I enjoy this list of other truly awful years in history for perspective.
Happy New Year!