By Lauren Dichter, Marketing Coordinator at Heinz Marketing

As I sink into an outdated couch with floral upholstery that old friends of mine used to cuddle into at many a sleepover, I’m reminded that everything is different now. In my mind, this big comfy couch still belongs in the dingy basement of my parents 70 year-old house. In reality, it’s parked right here in the apartment I moved into a little over a month ago.

The contrast is striking to anyone who walks in. Without the couch, the unit is clean, cool, and modern, albeit lacking in character or warmth. Because of this couch, I may not ever be able to design my apartment in the mid-century style that peppers every corner of my Pinterest board (poor me, right?)

But that’s just fine, because this couch is unexpectedly comforting as I transition from childhood to adulthood, from college to the working world. This couch is the past.

It’s the end-zone my sister and I would crash into after yelling, “Hut oneeeee…… hike!” while our dad feigned defense and played on his knees to even the score. It’s Disney Channel Original Movies on a school night, that started at 8pm and ended at—gasp—9:30! It’s where butterfly hair clips disappear to. It’s where I slept for a couple nights that one summer when my upstairs room was unbearably hot. It’s laughing hysterically as popcorn flies from youthful smiles and lands between the cushions, only to be found years later, along with the butterfly hair clips, when two large strangers lift this couch with all their might and take it to the Penske moving truck idling in the driveway.

And just like that, I’m moved out of the daylight rambler my parents brought me home to in a yellow blanket almost 23 years ago—a blanket that’s now tattered and packed away into a big cardboard box somewhere.

I’m on my own, free to live my life the way I see fit.

A wise woman once said, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

Eleanor Roosevelt was definitely on to something with this sobering statement.

Going to college and living near campus gave me my first real taste of independence. While it’s not like I moved across the world (my parents were only a 40-minute bus ride away), I no longer had anyone to answer to. No more, “Be home by 12:30 at the latest.” No more “I know you’re sick but it’s just a cold so suck it up.” No more “You just wasted $5 at Starbucks for empty calories.” No more “Make your bed!” every morning or “Is what you’re doing right now productive?”

Okay, so besides the pretty reasonable curfew, I may have just made my parents look a little intense. They’re actually great! But it’s true; I am who I am today because of their penchant for discipline. Not having that constant parental discipline—from the moment I started college, to the moment I started my first full-time, salaried job—has forced me to grow up and discipline myself. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but the journey has been eye-opening in a positive way.

Here are 3 challenges I’ve faced during my transition from childhood and school to adulthood and the working world.

Challenges

  1. Going from a fluid schedule to a firm one.

Back in college, some nights were long and some days were whatever I wanted. What I mean is that if I went to a party and stayed out until 2 in the morning (throwback to freshman year), I could either:

  • roll out of bed at 8:15 for my 8:30
  • Stay up until my 8:30 and then sleep the day away, or…
  • Skip my 8:30 altogether, and get the notes from a classmate

The world was my oyster! The way I spent my time and finished my work was all up to me, and at times, it was glorious. But eventually, it became exhausting; you can only neglect your health and wellness so much.

Since it feels much more natural to me to stay up late and sleep in until noon, the transition to the working world has been difficult. I’ve had to force myself to stop looking at my phone an hour before I plan on falling asleep and to get up at 6am even if I couldn’t fall asleep until 2:30am.

Though I’m a night owl at heart, I’m sure that in time, I will become one of those people who falls asleep in the first 10 minutes of a post-dinner TV show. And in some sense, I look forward to it, because nothing feels better than getting a good night’s sleep. Not even waffle fries from Earl’s on The Ave at 3am. #GoDawgs

  1. Getting used to sitting on my booty for at least 8 hours a day.

Right now, I’m at my desk and it’s 1:20pm. I haven’t been outside since walking out of my car and into the office around 8am… and it’s getting to me!

It’s a beautiful day and my butt is sore from so much sitting. Is there enough coffee in all the land to keep me focused?

In college, the most classes I’d have in one day were three. The University of Washington’s campus is so big that in some cases I’d have to fast-walk from Paccar to Thomson, jumping into a seat just as beads of sweat threatened to creep up and out from under my skin.

As you can probably tell, the short time slots between some classes annoyed me. But the scenic campus walks that required no rush whatsoever were refreshing. It gave me a break from studying, taking notes, reading books, writing essays and worrying about how in the world I was going to ace the midterm, only 3 weeks into the quarter (if you know, you know @Dawgs).

It forced me to appreciate the crisp Seattle air with a steady inhale, exhale, inhale… so that when I got to class, I felt ready to concentrate.

The first month of working full-time definitely tested my ability to focus consistently; when you’re not used to it, it’s common to fall into a sleepy haze. Now, when I feel that sleepy haze coming on, I stand up and walk to the bathroom (even if I don’t have to go… sssh!) It’s so simple but moving allows your body to reset.

That said, if you need a full body and mind reset, do yourself a favor and go for a short walk outside around lunch time. It’s only 5-10 minutes of your day, but the quality of your work will be noticeably higher than if you had tried and failed to push through the brain fog.

  1. Knowing when to ask for help, who to ask for help, and how much help to ask for.

In college, I had so many different resources at my disposal. There was the counselor for my major, my general counselor, workshops, the Writing Center, friends, peers, professors, etc. The list could go on forever. I felt spoiled in many ways; just look at that library! And the greatest setting in college football! And this mascot! Okay I’ll get back on track now…

It’s not like I didn’t know it before, but now that I’m in the professional world, I’ve realized that people who would help me in college—besides good friends—were getting paid to do just that. It was their entire job to counsel, teach, or revise essays.

In contrast, the working world is full of people who wear all the hats, even hats that are not in their job description. Everyone is trying to get their own work done, while also lending a helping hand to the new employees in the office. It’s a careful balancing act for most professionals, so it’s important to be thoughtful when deciding what’s worth asking about, and how much time it should take.

If you’re completely lost on how to accomplish a task, and you know this task is important or time-sensitive, it’s definitely appropriate to ask for guidance. If you’re somewhat lost but know that you can do a part of a task well, finish it first and then ask for guidance. If you authentically respect your mentor’s time, they will authentically want to help you succeed.

That said, if you’ve pushed through being lost a few times and it hasn’t panned out—meaning you’ve gone in the wrong direction completely and therefore the work you did was fruitless—it’s time to have a conversation.

Confidently tell your superior that you would like some direction before starting a task. But don’t expect it to be laid out for you completely… (like it would be in a study file for a class with a professor who never changes the test).

While the transition to full-time work from college has been challenging, it’s taught me a valuable lesson:

I have to own my learning. I have to decide when it makes sense to teach myself something, and when to ask for help. I have to do what’s best for myself to make sure I can deliver the highest-quality work for my company.

To all my fellow millennials: Grow up. Take responsibility. Be your own champion.

And root for a Husky championship while you’re at it 😉