An Unacclaimed Guide to Growing Up
  • March 7, 2017
  • At some point over the last few years, I stopped being the girl who blacked out at bars and became the girl who judged others for blacking out at bars. That’s when I knew resistance was futile: I had become an adult. I should have seen it coming when my body stopped metabolizing tacos but I was too busy feeling immortal. Now that I’m here, I have to admit: growing up is not so bad.

    For the sake of transparency, you should know I am an unemployed, socially awkward, cat-owning and single 35-year-old, so I’m not exactly your typical “expert” on adulthood. However, despite the aforementioned evidence to the contrary, I do love my life. Everyday I get to wake up and do what I love. Somehow, through a series of fits and starts, and a prolonged period I’ll just call the “dark ages,” I finally figured some proverbial sh*t out.

    There are plenty of sage adulting tips about self-discovery, self-love and letting go of [exes / guilt / trauma / negativity]. A 45-minute SoulCycle ride usually covers most of them. However, there are other important life lessons that aren’t “sexy” enough for the mainstream. Yet, I’ve found they are worth learning nonetheless.

    Growing Up

    Save Your Money.

    As a recovering splurger, I know how sometimes “want” can seem a lot like “need.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t occasionally treat yourself, especially if it’s a reward for accomplishing a big feat. However, you SHOULD start to think of money as your lifeline to reaching your dream, and the lack of it as a metaphorical handcuff to the status quo. Do you ever dream about traveling the world or starting your own business? Guess what, it costs money. So spend wisely and dream big.

    Confront Your Fears.

    Fear can sometimes be your friend – warning you of hidden hazards and getting your adrenaline pumping when you need to fight or flight. However, it can also be crippling, irrational and stand in the way of what you want most. A few years ago I started doing little things that scared the bejesus out of me. I’d take the fear (let’s call it: SHARKS) and determine: does this fear have merit or am I more likely to be struck by lightning? If it was the latter, I made it my lunch. Overcoming smaller fears was good practice for when I was inevitably confronted with bigger fears, such as quitting my desk job. By then, I had built up the courage to face them head-on.

    Be Nice to Your Parents.

    I say this not because one day, after they are gone, that stupid, petty fight will fill you with soul-crushing remorse (although it may). I say this because there’s probably no one in the world who loves you more and who has sacrificed as much to give you the smorgasbord of opportunities you enjoy today. That love may lead to some behavioral flaws – like incessantly asking you when you’re going to get married or expressing disappointment when you squander the opportunities they’ve given you – but that’s a small annoyance to suffer in exchange for unconditional love. A few years ago, I invited my mom to join me on a business trip to Paris. That small gesture meant the world to my mom, who grew up in Indonesia and never dreamed she’d be able to sip champagne while cruising down La Seine. It’s one of my favorite memories and brought us so much closer together.

    Read Non-Fiction Books.

    If there’s anything the current political climate has taught me, it’s that the compilation of all of my life’s experiences and relationships are a mere sliver of what the world has to offer. And the social media channels that promised to bring us all closer together have also created echo chambers that serve to confirm our existing biases. Traveling overseas is a great way to broaden your worldview, but it can be too expensive and time consuming for most of us to do often. A cheaper (and, possibly, more enriching) alternative is to pick up an autobiography, biography or memoir, especially those written by people or about people who had vastly different backgrounds and perspectives. If you need a starter guide, I humbly submit a few of my favorites for consideration:

      • “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance
      • “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah
      • “Son of Hamas” by Mosab Hassan Yousef
      • “Starman” by Piers Bizony and Jamie Doran
      • “Decision Points” by George W. Bush
      • “What is the What” by David Eggers

    Love Your Body.

    A lot of people equate loving your body to accepting it even if it sits on the couch all day and stuffs itself with pizza. But true love is not about enabling bad behavior; true love consists of listening, nurturing and empowering the other party. Listen to your body when it tells you it’s hurt, tired or hungry. Nurture your body with plenty of nutrients, water and sleep. Empower your body to be strong, flexible and enduring. True love also consists of prioritizing it’s well-being while also forgiving the occasional (and inevitable) mishap. Trust me, your body will love you back.

    About Kathy Lai

    Kathy is an entrepreneur, freelancer and recovering investment banker. She recently left a 10-year career in Finance, which spanned positions at JPMorgan, Blackstone and Lincoln International, to pursue a life of greater purpose. Kathy is a fanatic animal lover, a proud mom to Luke Skywalker (who was born cat but identifies as dog) and a former intern at the Farm Sanctuary. She also serves as a member of the Midwest Regional Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her spare time, Kathy enjoys party planning, cooking, traveling, going to Paper Source and working out. Kathy does not enjoy injustice, heights and sharks (although she respects their place in a healthy ecosystem). She earned a BA in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.

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