Starting out in a new stage of life as a young adult is full of a million unknowns and mistakes waiting to be made. As Christians, we take our first steps into these stages with faith in a God who has a plan. While mistakes will undoubtedly come and teach us along the way, sometimes we are saved from a few mistakes or encouraged to make better choices through the practical advice of trusted friends, family, and mentors.
I was so blessed to receive helpful advice from wiser and more experienced women as I embarked on the newness of adult life, and I want to share some of the most valuable pieces of that advice. Some of these I followed perfectly and was blessed to find my advisors had been 100% correct. Other pieces of advice I set aside and learned the hard way that I should have listened, and in the consequences of my ignorance they continue to echo in my mind as wisdom I desire to pass on and somehow save others from the mistakes I made.
So here it is, a list of the best pieces of practical advice I have ever been given, put into my own words in most cases. Pass them on or chew on them for your own benefit, and feel free to add to my list with your own bits of wisdom gathered over the years.
As a First Time College Student
Credit cards can be tools, but they become weapons of self-harm when used carelessly.
Schedule an 8:00 AM class every semester of college and never miss it, no matter how much you like starting the day at noon. You’ll make better use of your time and stay on schedule with the rest of the world.
Sit in the front row for lecture. Whether you excel at the subject or not, sitting in plain view of your instructor will almost always have a positive impact on your grade.
If you use a dish, clean a dish. If you make a mess, clean it up. Leaving it until later will almost always lead to bigger messes and annoyance for you or the people with whom you live.
Read your written assignments out loud to yourself before they are due. You’ll catch and correct more mistakes, usually resulting in a better grade.
Get internships, even when they are not required.
Take time to send written thank-you notes to potential employers and others in your field of study who have shared any kind of time and wisdom with you. Job shadow, thank-you note. Help with research, thank-you note. Internship opportunity, thank-you note. Feeling thankful? Thank-you note.
At the Start of My Career
Always ask someone you trust, two people if possible, to proof read your resume and application letters. (No matter how good you are at catching your own mistakes.)
Don’t hesitate to apply for jobs for which you feel only slightly qualified. Sometimes the perfect candidate comes from a related field, and employers are often open to a variety of educational backgrounds.
For an interview, dress yourself a level above the dress code of your potential employer. If the employees wear jeans to work, be interviewed in dress slacks. If the employees wear dress slacks, wear a skirt, dress, or pants suit with jacket.
Take care of your finger nails.
Don’t participate in the office gossip.
You always have a lot to learn, but especially when you start out. Stay humble and pay attention in training.
If you meet resistance, change your approach. (This is particularly applicable in my field of counseling, but can apply in other areas as well.)
An honest employer with a likable character is worth far more than a large paycheck and the alternative.
As a New Bride
Don’t keep secrets. Surprises are usually okay.
Don’t get ahead of yourselves. Your parents did not start out with the spacious home, furniture, and income you came to know as a child. There is much wisdom in starting small and being content with simple and frugal.
It’s okay to disagree and argue, but stay kind to one another and always maintain a goal of unity.
Talk through differences in your marriage with your spouse, not your best friend, your mother, your sister, your cousin, or the neighbors.
Figure sex out together, not with a book or a video. If problems arise that can not be resolved through honest communication (and practice), agree to seek trusted counsel together.
Cooking and meal planning are not as easy as you think. Get started right away, because you’ll need the practice before the children come along.
Not every meal needs to contain meat.
Choose neutral, cool colors for the majority of your home decorating space (walls, carpet, large furniture), and utilize bolder colors as the accents. This will make redecorating cheaper in the long run, make a home you own easier to sell, and will also create a more soothing home environment.
As a New Mom
There are no stupid questions.
Pregnancy will cause changes in your body that your mother never warned you about.
Lanolin ointment can be used during pregnancy to prepare your skin for breastfeeding, and it REALLY helps. (I used Lansinoh brand.)
Wait until after you have the baby to buy most of your nursing bras. It’s hard to anticipate what size you will be.
You do not need all the items that your baby registry suggests you need. (Not even close). Talk to a real mom who lives on a budget and find out what is actually necessary and at what age the baby will need it.
If you are already worried, you probably shouldn’t Google it. Call the doctor instead.
You can survive hours of intense physical pain, weeks without enough sleep, and a year of breastfeeding on demand, all while keeping a positive attitude.
All the advice you’re getting is truly meant to be helpful, no matter how annoying or unwelcome it may become. Say, “thank-you” and smile.
It’s okay for your baby to cry for no reason, get cold, eat germs, run a mild fever, and about a million other “bad” things you’ve been warned about.
Keep up with your friendships. Mothering gets very lonely without them.
What about you? What words of wisdom were you given at these stages of life that have stuck with you throughout the years? Are you as thankful as I am for this kind of practical advice?
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