A lot of teenagers think that once they’re able to study in another state or in a different country, their lives will get so much better. They think they’re free from their parents and feel that they’re ready for adulthood.
The truth is, it’s a lot more difficult than you think.
Now I’m not saying every teen is like this. While we were still having our trial exams, my friends already made plans to get jobs the second they finished SPM. These people are on the right track.
It’s the ones that went leisurely about their lives – going for group parties, playing video games the whole day, and spending their money mindlessly – those are who I’m talking about here.
The thing is, life after secondary school is so much different from what you’d imagine.
Here are five things you’ll need to bear in mind growing up as an adult.
You’ll Have to be Independent
A big part of my life involved me having to depend on myself — when I stopped working (thus stopped earning income) during Form 5, I had to make my own lunch. This was anything from instant noodles to leftovers from dinner, because I couldn’t afford to eat out or buy tapao every day. I also did my own laundry and cleaned some parts of the house whenever I had the chance.
So, if you decide to study in another part of the country or even abroad, that’s what you should expect. The time you spend playing video games or going on Instagram or Snapchat all day will have to be used to getting your laundry done or cooking your own meal instead.
It might not sound difficult now, and you might say “Oh, I’ve done that before”, but ask yourself: Were you doing that daily?
The truth is, you’ll have to manage all aspects of your life by yourself at some point. You’ll have to be independent.
It’s something we have to learn early because at least now we still have our parents to guide us if we make mistakes. Don’t wait till you’re living on your own to find out that you still don’t know how to iron your own shirt or how to wash your dishes properly.
You’ll Need to Learn the Value of Money
I took up a part-time job as a waiter while I was still in Form 2 to earn my own pocket money. When I first got that pocket money I spent it like water.
The truth is, I regret that period of mindless spending. I made so many mistakes with my money and ended up with no savings for over a year, but those mistakes have made me smarter. I now know the value of the money I have.
And I live in Kuching! Imagine if I mindlessly spent my money like that in KL. But that’s what I see happening with some people who go to the big city to study – trips to the Good Vibes Festival, eating at all the nicest and priciest places, shopping sprees, etc.
These teens have it way too good. While all those luxuries might sound cool, the money given to them by their parents was for their necessities, not for them to go on a never-ending holiday.
Don’t be like this. It might be fun and joyful now, but you can’t depend on your parents forever. Soon you’ll be earning your own money and making it on your own – can you imagine only learning how to be an adult then, when you don’t have a safety net?
So be prepared to manage your money now. Whatever your parents give you for allowance, start teaching yourself on how to control your spending – limit your outings, skip a few movie nights, eat more cautiously, and walk instead of getting a Grab.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s the reality that we live in. Money is finite, so you can’t just expect it to always be ready in your pockets. You’ll need to learn to manage your finances someday, so why not now, when you don’t have much to worry about?
You’ll Be Faced with Harsh Realities In Life
Once you’re out in the real world, you’ll encounter a lot of shitty moments in life. Whether it’s bad relationships, horrible people, or just having bad days, you’ll realise that the world isn’t kind.
I’ve mixed with the wrong crowds, met a girl who ended up being a gold digger and just had some days where I cursed the world for knocking me down. But all these events made me stronger. I’m now better prepared to face the world and whatever it sends.
Also, criticism isn’t something we like to hear but sometimes there is some truth to it. Learn to differentiate between something that’s said out of spite and something that encourages growth.
Back then I assumed I could just do or say whatever I wanted to and just get away with it. Once, my boss told me to work as the dishwasher for the night. Instead, I acted as if I was above my own employer and told her that I didn’t like being a dishwasher because it required a lot of labor. I was being lazy and acting entitled.
When a close friend of mine and my boss’ came to me and gave me constructive criticism about my attitude problem, I initially shot him down. But slowly, I realised that maybe he was right and decided to take his advice.
Because of that, I’m a better man than I was before – not only as a worker but also as a person, and in general, it’s become much easier to handle criticism.
Look, all of this doesn’t sound pleasant, but whatever life has in store for us we need to be ready for it. The world doesn’t owe us anything, so we shouldn’t go out expecting that we’ll live life without worry or difficulties.
Work for What You Want
If you want something, work for it. That’s always been a way of life for me and I think it applies to everyone.
Ever since I took up a part-time job, everything that I’ve wanted – whether it’s a new phone, a game console, clothes from branded outlets, or a good meal – it came out of my own pocket. For the first year of working, these were also the reasons I had zero savings. But like I said – I’ve learned my lesson since then.
Also, besides working for what you want, make sure that whatever you ask for from your parents is justified. This means you in some way have worked for and deserved it. They’re not obligated to give you whatever you want just because you asked nicely.
If you want a new phone from your dad, make sure you’ve actually been keeping your grades up, or if you’re gonna ask money from your mom make sure you’ve been doing the house chores instead of her. Basically, understand that nothing in life comes easily.
And for some of us, our parents just can’t afford those luxuries, so why not work for them yourself? If you’re fresh out of SPM then try getting a part-time job. For example; be a waiter or cinema attendant, or seek help from a friend of your parents, maybe they have an opening for an office clerk in their business, or become a freelance writer. Earning your own allowance teaches you the value of money and also how to manage your wealth better.
So whether it’s your own money or from your parents, practise how to be more responsible and careful with it. At some point these lessons will come in handy so the earlier you learn, the more good it will do for you in the long run.
Develop a Realistic Mindset and Attitude
Most people are either an optimist or a pessimist, but there’s more to it than just that. Somewhere in the middle, there are ‘realists’ – people who are reasonably optimistic in any situation and focus on finding a solution rather than focus on the problem.
A realist sees what’s actually going on instead of focusing on the negatives or the positives. They look at the situation thoroughly before jumping to a conclusion.
I’m planning to study in KL next year, majoring in broadcasting & film. My parents don’t have that sort of money to send me all the way there without going into debt, and I failed most of my subjects except for English. My mindset isn’t to just assume that everything will be fine without doing anything, or that I should just give up on my dreams now and become an engineer like everybody else.
So, I decided to take an extended gap-year to continue working as a server/barista. I earn about RM1.1k monthly and save up roughly 70-percent of my salary, and my parents also have a few small savings under my name. All these savings plus a government loan should cover tuition fees, accommodation, and food.
Then there’s the problem of my grades. Luckily for me, there’s a college that offers a certification course for people with less than three credits that can go for a diploma afterwards. The minimum requirement is that my English must at least be a C, and I got an A-. This just means I have to spend more money on tuition fees, so I’ll just have to work during the semester breaks and even on weekends.
Basically, I’m not out of the water but I have space to breathe.
But anything could happen which could fuck up my plans — I might not be able to save up as much money as I planned to, or an emergency might come up, or property rental prices might increase, or I might even get culture shocked once going to KL. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that regardless of what happens, I’ll just need to reassess my situation and focus on the solutions.
I’m not trying to make this about me, this just shows what a realist does – they look at the problem and analyse the positives and the negatives, then come up with a plan.
At the end of the day, putting effort into finding a solution is better than just giving up easily or waiting for the stars to align.
I’ll be honest, I was once everything I say you shouldn’t be. But these five changes made me a more prepared person for the world.
And while I can’t be certain others will turn out exactly like me, I can assure that learning to change and finding better ways to live your life is better than sitting comfortably in a bubble that will eventually pop.
All in all, nothing is simple and we have to be prepared for that, but I wish all my fellow teens the best of luck in their rise to adulthood.
For more articles on self-improvement, read 3 Things Which Are Making You Lazy Right Now, and Forget Perfection, Live a Purposeful Life Instead. Here’s How to Start.