Getting older happens fast. One day you’re a carefree college kid, the next thing you know, you’ve got a family, a job, bills, responsibilities and all the other fun stuff that comes with adulthood. Some of these things are great. Some are stressful. Some are amazing. Some are hard. Some are rewarding. But, if you approach adulthood with the right perspective, they can all make you a better person.
Thankfully, knowing what you’re in for can at least help when grown-up life starts to creep up on you. Here are 11 things every millennial needs to know about getting older.
Success May Look a Lot Different Than You Thought It Would
Growing up, many millennials were told we’d be responsible for “changing the world.” It wasn’t a bad message, but for a lot of people now in their twenties and thirties, it led to some unrealistic expectations. Not everyone is going to be a best-selling author, successful entrepreneur or world-famous activist. And that’s OK. Getting older should show us that “success” in life may look different than we thought it would. Contributing to a community, helping to grow the Church, being a good spouse or parent—these are all measures of success that have nothing to do with our job title, our income or the amount of Twitter followers we accumulate.
Faith is More of a Roller Coaster Ride Than a Slow Climb
One of the big misconceptions many of us learned growing up was that faith is a gradual ascent: The older we got, the stronger we’d grow in our faith. In an ideal world, it’s a great message. In reality though, faith has its ups and downs. In adult life, bad things happen. Doubts creep in.
Thankfully, those are normal parts of following Christ. There’s a reason God promises that it’s in our weaknesses that He’s made strong—because He’s knows we’ll always have them. We need to pursue growth, of course. But getting older is not about trying to get more perfect. It’s about getting more comfortable with the realization that though we aren’t perfect, God always is.
Time is More Valuable Than Money
Trying to balance a job, a social life, a family, friendships, church involvement and any sort of personal hobbies is already tough. Try throwing kids, a mortgage or a promotion (or all three!) into mix, and time quickly becomes a precious commodity. As you get older, it’s easy to let time get eaten up by the busyness of day-to-day life. Money can always be earned or saved, but don’t realize too late that time—spent with family, pursuing your passions or being alone with God—is the only thing you can’t get back.
Your Parents are Cooler Than You Gave Them Credit for
Somewhere along the line, we all come to the point when we realize, “I’m as old as my parents were when they had me!” Suddenly, a lot of things start to make sense, and imagining yourself in your parents’ shoes gives you a whole new respect for the people who raised you. And now that you’re an adult out-on-your-own (with new respect for your folks), mom and dad can start to seem more like peers than just parents. When (and if) you start having kids on your own, knowing that one day they’ll look back and wonder how you did it at your age is reassuring during all those not-so-fun moments.
A Job and a Calling Are Two Different Things
Even if your 9-to-5 involves doing something you’re passionate about, a job and a calling are still two different things. If they happen to intersect, that’s just a bonus. Getting older, it’s important to remember that job titles don’t define people, and where our paychecks come from doesn’t determine our callings. If you’re called to be an artist, a writer, a minister, a mentor, an advocate or an entrepreneur, the only thing standing in your way isn’t a job opening—it’s your willingness to embrace your calling despite your circumstances.
Real Friendship Takes Time
For a lot of people, as kids and through college, friendship was easy. Playing with neighbors, goofing around with classmates in high school and the close proximity of dorm life lent itself to easy friendship. But when you start commuting to a job and spending your day at an office, creating new friendships gets harder. Developing close ones is even more difficult. Close, meaningful friendships take time to build and sustain, and making time for the people you care about is just as important as time spent on yourself.
Grace is a Lifestyle
The older we get, the more likely it is that we’ve made more mistakes. Sometimes, big mistakes. We can hurt people unintentionally, make poor decisions or simply do things we later regret. Fortunately, imperfection has an upside. It allows us to see the grace God affords us, and helps show why we need to constantly give it to others. Learning from mistakes is important. But making grace a lifestyle is the real lesson of maturity.
Comparing Your Life to Others’ Isn’t Healthy
Facebook and Instagram are convenient ways to see what’s going on with co-workers, old friends and family members. But when browsing your feed turns into a never-ending exercise in comparing your life to other people’s, things can get unhealthy. And, beyond comparison’s tendency to lead to feelings of inadequacy, what you’re seeing probably isn’t even accurate in the first place. Social media allows people to let others only see what they want them to see, meaning what you’re comparing yourself to is a perfect version of imperfect lives.
Downtime is a Discipline
When you’re responsible for your own income and opportunities, it’s easy to fill most of your time attempting to figure out ways to meet long-term goals. Suddenly, taking time to reflect or relax seems more like a luxury than a reality. But there’s a reason God commanded us to take a Sabbath. Rest is a biblical mandate—even if you’ve got a family and a job. The older you get, the more you need to treat it like one.
Worry is Pointless
The more junk you go through in life, the more you realize how pointless worrying about your future really is. Sure, being intentional in big life decisions and thinking through future plans is a good idea, but there’s a fine line between being proactive and worrying about things that are outside of your control. Trusting God isn’t always easy, but it’s the antidote to wasting your time worrying about things down the road.
Church Isn’t a Place
If you grew up in a Christian home, there’s a good chance that “church” and “youth group” were places you went with friends and family. But along with getting older comes new jobs, new cities and schedules. Church becomes less about the place you go and more about the people you’re with. Being plugged into a church community is important for any believer, but understanding that Church is much bigger than the place you go on Sunday morning is even more essential.