This post is aimed more towards my age group, but my point is applicable to anyone trying to do something new: find someone who’s already done it and ask them to help you.
Having several older siblings, I was a little less “shocked” than some of my peers upon leaving college and realizing what real life was like… having to pay rent and other monthly expenses (sewer AND water? who knew!), finagling to live within your means without much (if any) of a financial safety net, figuring out what to do if something happened to your car (your access point to your job and to the rest of the world). It can be overwhelming and scary, especially if you’re doing it on your own. Some things you just have to learn and figure out… but often, you’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and protect yourself from bad decisions if you ask for and accept help and advice from people who know a lot more about grown-up life than you do. You’ll probably learn a lot more that way, too.
There’s all kinds of tricky aspects of being a grown-up, but here are my experiences with two fairly universal examples (for our culture, anyway): buying a car and buying a house.
Buying the Car: A few years into living on my own, I realized that my beloved college car wasn’t going to continue for much longer to be as dependable as I needed it to be. So, I decided to start looking for a new car. I knew that walking into car dealerships by myself–young, female, and not knowing the right questions to ask–that I’d be quite the easy target for salespeople. I honestly don’t remember why or how I got this idea, but I asked my coworker (and mentor) if she thought her husband would be willing to go with me to look at cars. He’s retired, likes bargaining, and loves cars, so I knew that not only did he have the time and ability, he’d also probably enjoy it.
Not only was he a huge help–getting me to look at and test drive several types of cars and talking to the salespeople so that I could focus on the car itself–his presence took the pressure off of me and gave me the space to develop my own skill. Just before meeting up for our first car-shopping venture, I remember anxiously wandering around a store, reminding myself to breathe. We’d walk into each dealership and I’d let him do all the talking. In contrast, hardly a few months later, I sat confidently in a salesman’s office, calling another dealership to confirm that yes, they were offering a lower price for that model… and negotiating with the salesman in front of me to lower his price to match it.
Buying the House: I was even more clueless about buying a house than buying a car (if that’s possible!). Once, a loan agent was explaining about different types of mortgages, and I just started laughing… it all seemed so ridiculous. “If you buy your house on a Tuesday with a 2.596% down payment–not counting the closing costs–and your dog signs as joint mortgage holder, that qualifies you for the government mortgage mania program…” Of course she didn’t say any of that, but she might as well have!
I actually did wade through most of the financial nuttiness myself (AKA God graciously paired me with a kind loan officer who made sense to me), but I had plenty of help looking for and deciding on my house… something I wouldn’t have had the courage to do on my own. I can’t remember how many places I looked at, but I didn’t have to go by myself a single time. That may not mean much to you, but that’s really incredible to me. My three teaching-team colleagues were the ones consistently involved. They’re all older than me, own their own houses, have lived more life in general, etc. Their companionship made the whole ordeal much less scary… and much more fun and exciting. It was like an adventure every time we went out. On one trip, one of my coworkers brought her young son with him. He made us laugh with his ready opinions on every place we visited!
My friends had just enough investment in the house-searching process to care about it for me, but not enough to hold back comments or questions that I might have been hesitant to ask a realtor. They could be honest with me, too. After one house, my friend simply told me, “I’d hate to see you living here.” I probably wouldn’t have picked that house, anyway, but on my own, it’s really easy me for me to talk myself into things and convince myself that I can live with something that I really shouldn’t if I don’t have to. When I finally walked into a house and had that immediate feeling of not just being ok with it, not just liking it, but really wanting it to be my home, my friend exclaimed again and again how the house was just so “me.” What a helpful affirmation!
My friends’ help didn’t stop with the “shopping.” A friend’s husbands showed up at the house inspection before I even did–and rather confused the current owner and the inspector as to who he was! My other friend’s son joined us again for the inspection, and informed me that my stairs were “cozy” but that the front door needed to be fixed (it squeaked). 🙂
I am really blessed to have such wonderful, giving people in my circle of friends–people who are beyond my stage in life and are just plain good at navigating life. You may not have these people in your immediate circle, but I bet it wouldn’t take much effort to come up with some people who would be (family friends? people at church? that coworker you always share stories with across the cubicle?).
Some people will offer, but usually they don’t want to impose, don’t realize that you need help, or don’t expect that they could be helpful to you. Most often, you need to ask. Sure, you run the risk of them balking and trying to come up with an excuse… but it’s a risk worth taking. The more you get used to asking, the more you’ll get used to the variety of responses you’ll get… and the more you’ll come to naturally recognize ways that you can offer your help to other people, too.