Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 1.56.19 PMWhen I graduated from college almost 10 years ago, I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief. Finally, I thought, I’d arrived at the finish line and could begin the new, exciting chapter in my life. I walked (well, more like rolled, considering I’m in a wheelchair) across that stage to proudly accept my diploma, which I saw as my ticket to adulthood. I was on my way – or so I thought. And then life happened. Or didn’t happen, I suppose, depending on how you look at it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not jaded. I’m proud of where my post-college journey has taken me; it’s just that the path looks different than I thought it would. After all, a decade has passed since graduation day – a decade full of ups and downs and twists and turns – so I’m not exactly the same person I was back when I donned my cap and gown. Looking back, it would have been nice to have a little advice to go along with that diploma – you know, a sort of cheat sheet for the “real world.” So, in the name of continuing education, here are five things I wish someone had told me about life after college…

1. You haven’t really figured out life yet. No, no, stop shaking your head at me. I know you think you’ve got it all figured out, but you really don’t. So you took intro to philosophy and wrote investigative articles for your college newspaper? That’s all well and good, but let me be the first of many to break it to you: You’ve still got a heck of a lot to learn. About life. About love. About the ins and outs of your checking account. I’d even be willing to bet that life is something you never truly figure out because it’s always changing. Instead, I’ve found, it’s all about learning to roll with the punches.

2. You have to laugh as much as you can along the way. Be clear: Life can get incredibly messy. It can explode and feel overwhelming. Just when you find yourself sobbing on your best friend’s shoulder, try something a little radical: Laugh. I know it sounds crazy, but as I’ve been saying a lot lately, “if you don’t laugh, you cry.” And who wants to go through life crying?

3. Your family can get you through anything. Right now, you might want nothing more than to break free from your family, you know, in the name of independence and all that good stuff. It’s a tempting proposition, but the older you get, the more you come to appreciate your loved ones. So do yourself a favor and keep them close, even as you forge your own path. It’ll be easier that way. They can even give you advice on that checking account business.

4. You can never stop working hard for what you want. As you’ve probably figured out by now, a diploma isn’t an all-access pass to fame and fortune. It’ll give you a leg up in your career, sure, but don’t let it fool you into a false sense of complacency. Never stop working to improve yourself in every aspect of your life, from something serious like work to the fun things like organizing your Pinterest boards. Put in some hard work and you’ll see a payoff. Then keep working.

5. And finally…you can’t eat ramen every night anymore. Newsflash: It’s not a balanced diet, and deep down, I think you already know this. No, the chicken-flavored packs don’t count, either. Get out there and expand your tasting palette – there’s a whole world of food just waiting to be devoured. Fruits and vegetables, for one. Try ‘em. You might like it.

This looks all sorts of overwhelming. But it’s quite an adventure, I promise. Your life is just beginning, and it’s a wonderful, wild ride, so hold on. And who knows? You just might find yourself willfully snacking on veggies someday! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Frisky

This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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