Lessons in becoming an adult, a 2017 review | CAROLINE luu

Corniglia, Italy. Cristina Gottardi. Unsplash.

As 2017 comes to a close, it is time to prepare for a new beginning. How refreshing it is…knowing that you can click the restart button every New Year’s Eve. What has been done must be forgiven and, if need be, forgotten. Now we prepare our new plans of action and reflect on lessons learned.

I have made many mistakes this year, learned many lessons, and checked a few items off my goals sheet. In 2017, I graduated from university, accepted a promotion, and paid off half of my student loans. I solidified key habits: daily reading, writing, and meditation. I travelled much more, even going on my first solo-trip to the nooks and crannies of Ojai. And faced a few deep-rooted fears and insecurities.

Don’t be fooled. Transitioning into post-graduate life was unpredictably rocky. People inflate how glamorous post-graduate life is to keep our fragile, frightful spirits high. These past couple months were filled with moments of loneliness, epiphanies, and consistent existential crisises. However, all of which is sensible with the new abundance of time; also, necessary for one’s personal growth and development. With the help of loved ones, mentors, and books, I was able to power through the new terrain we call adulthood.

Your problems are problems, but they are good problems.

In all facets of life, problems arise. Some problems can be meager, while other problems can truly shake you to your very core.

Earlier this year, when my company underwent issues that seemed insurmountable, my boss reframed the problem to work to our advantage. She said, “Other companies don’t get these kinds of problems. It is only because we have grown so much that we get to experience these newer, more challenging problems. These are good problems.” This new mindset allowed us to handle the situation with optimum effectiveness and grace.

Approaching problems as “good problems” allows you to accept the reality of the situation with the understanding that conditions could be much worse. This conjures a strange sort of appreciation for the issue, making it easier to mentally craft to a solution.

When you make a decision, it has to be a “hell yes” or a “hell no”. Nothing in between.

This lesson underscores the idea of living with intention. Be intentional with who you hang out with, what you do in your free time, what you buy, what you study in grad school, etc. If you are uncertain of what choice to make, do not commit unless you are aware of and embrace the consequences. If you don’t like something, change it. Renowned graphic designer Debbie Millman says,

“Busy is a decision.”

If you choose to fill your schedule, you are not to complain about not “having time to do what you want”. Take full responsibility and refrain from complaining. It sounds incredibly simple, but in fact, it takes time and patience to rewire your brain to think like such.

Choose skills, not salary.

When I graduated, I was torn between staying at my current job or pursuing another job for a jump in income. I chose to stay at One Mind Learning, because I realized the rare opportunity I was offered: the chance to develop executive-level skills, to autonomously experiment and apply learned skills, and to see the company’s main project progress from fruition.

The amount of learning I have experienced since I made my decision is priceless. Had I pursued a different path with money as my motivation, I might have missed out on an rare opportunity for massive growth.

Perfectionism is the thief of execution.

There have been many times when I drafted a blog post and did not post it. I obsessively picked at my words until I lost confidence in its value or got “too busy” to publish them. Inhibition becomes tiresome the moment you see how much it’s crippled you.

The moments when I catch myself neglecting my laundry, avoiding writing an article I thought of, or procrastinating on a favor, I think of Pablo Picasso’s quote.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Things that I am not willing to leave undone are prioritized, and then slowly I move through my checklist.

Vocalize your appreciation.

This year, I quickly learned that people over-vocalize their appreciation in the business world. Professional etiquette does not come intuitively to me, because it does not follow what I’ve learned at home. For example, my family does not show appreciation through words like “please” and “thank you” but through small acts of kindness. The challenge was realizing that I had to unlearn certain habits from my family culture if I wanted to be perceived well at the workplace.

Vocalizing your appreciation to others (loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers) is uplifting for both the giver and receiver. Send a message via text, email, or social media telling someone how much they mean to you. Thank them for the impact they’ve had on you. Congratulate them on their journey and celebrate their process.

I have done this a number of times this year to various people, from my past and the present, disregarding the awkward randomness of the message. And? Saying people appreciate the gesture is an understatement.

Wrapping it up

In preparation for this article, I sifted through my 2017 journal (I did not consistently journal before this year). I found various entries of pep talk I wrote to keep myself focused and motivated.

Here’s one from August 30th:

Caroline, you deserve everything you’ve ever asked for, going to ask for,
and have had any inklings of desire for.

Be you.
Take on the world.
Don’t care about the effect on others before you think about the effect on yourself. It’s natural that everyone looks out for themselves.
It’s time that you push for your big break.
Create your opportunities.
Establish your own traditions.
Be your own advocate.

Understanding what it means to be your own advocate is a practice. It requires you to continuously reflect on your current self in respect to your ideal self. Truth be told, learning to support yourself is not an easy process. There are a slew of people who never fully achieve this process of self-advocacy. But know this. Investing in yourself will (almost always) provide massive returns in your quality of life.

Every year, there are lessons that are pulled from our personal experiences, but how do we know we have truly learned the lesson? Application. Idealistically, we must engrain the ideas into our mind, so we do not make the same mistakes as the year before. If mistakes are repeated, be forgiving, focus harder, and try again. You working on yourself, despite the outcome, is always something to be celebrated.

Thank you to Leeann Tran, Mike Tran, Uyen Nguyen, and Theresa Tran for editing this post.

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Product designer exploring life + design questions to better understand humanity. Writing from San Francisco, CA. https://twitter.com/carolineyluu

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Caroline Luu

Caroline Luu

Product designer exploring life + design questions to better understand humanity. Writing from San Francisco, CA. https://twitter.com/carolineyluu

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