What I Learned One Year After College Graduation

One year ago, I was standing under the lights of Pauley Pavilion, my robe swishing behind me, my decorated cap on my head. A nervous energy was bubbling up inside of me as I was surrounded by likeminded individuals who were all here for the exact same reason as me — to graduate from UCLA as the Class of 2016. The pent up excitement released and drowned my nerves as I turned the tassel on my cap to the left. From that moment, the rest of my life began.

Since then, real life has shown its true colors and provided me with its fair share of life lessons outside of the classroom. Although I owe a lot of what I know now to UCLA, here are some of the life lessons that I learned and cultivated in my first year as a post-graduate that I would not have known as an undergrad.
  1. Invest in yourself.

    College institutions can be draining and exhausting, both mentally and physically. But with college done, you can really spend time to use that mental and physical energy and focus on yourself. Take time to reflect and think about what you want to do now to make your present and future self happy. What are the areas in your life you want to nourish or improve on? Personally, I invest in myself by following a morning routine, practicing mindfulness and doing hot yoga. Whatever it is that you want to do to invest in yourself, just remember that the next couple of years should be all about developing yourself into the best possible version.

  2. Do what brings you joy and eliminate the things that don’t.

    This life is too short to not do things that bring you joy. If you don’t know what sparks joy inside of you, here is a simple exercise: write down everything that makes you happy and joyful, then write down the things that don’t bring you joy. Deep down, you know what you love and what brings you joy, but it takes recognition and acknowledgement to understand them. Ultimately, those will be the things that fuel you throughout the rest of your post-grad days, and will empower you to use your gifts and talents to share to the world. As Marie Kondo said in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

  3. Mistakes are meant to be learned from.

    Just because you have a college degree and 4 years of college experience under your belt doesn’t mean you won’t make more mistakes, because you definitely will. And that’s completely fine. As long as you do not dwell on it and instead use it as a lesson in your life, it is perfectly fine to make mistakes. Stephen R. Covey said in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment. It is important to immediately admit and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again.”

  4. You will always be a student for life.

    Learning never stops outside of the classroom. There is so much in life to learn, and luckily, we live in an era where education is at our fingertips. Just scroll through the millions of YouTube tutorials that are out there. I personally owe a lot of my knowledge to the internet, and I constantly use it as a resource to learn about things I’m interested in that I couldn’t learn as an English major, such as graphic design and brand building. Recently, I completed my first UCLA Extension course on Design Fundamentals, and it was all for free since I graduated from UCLA (here is the link if you are a UCLA alumnus as well!). There are tons of resources for free online courses besides YouTube, such as Lynda.com, Udemy.com and Skillshare.com (I just recently got 2 free months of Skillshare Premium from Lavendaire, who is also a big advocate of being a student for life. Check out her video if you’re interested!). There is so many resources and different opportunities to take advantage of, so soak it up as much as you can in this life.

  5. Friendships are no longer “convenient”. You truly have to make an effort.

    Sometimes we may be lucky to see some of our old college friends every once in awhile, but the truth is, you are no longer part of a college bubble where your friends are easily accessible. Convenience is no longer something you have when it comes to those friendships. If you want to foster relationships, you have to make a true effort to see and talk to them. It gets more difficult when you start a full-time job and start investing in your life because that means less chances of seeing your friends. As a result, you will most likely not be as close to your college friends as before. To prevent complete erasure though, carve out time out of your week or month to catch up with an old friend and grab dinner to continue building those relationships. It may be hard to find time that works best for both parties but even without the convenience, it’s not impossible to keep those life-long friendships.

  6. Reflection helps create clarity and reach goals.

    The future is not constant, and sometimes things don’t go your way. But reflection really allows you to step back and take a look at what you have been doing so far in your life and how you can adjust and improve. Making reflection a daily habit has been known to develop a clearer sense of mind and self, improved productivity, and higher rate of success. For 2017, I started practicing monthly reflections in my Passion Planner and have always found it helpful to look myself from the inside out and dive deep into how I can better myself.

  7. Find time to live new experiences.

    Life can get mundane once you’re in the work force, so make sure that you spend time to travel and live new experiences. Go to Coachella, check out the free concert series at Santa Monica, be a tourist in your own city, fly out to Portland or Seattle for the weekend. Work should not be meant to only pay the bills and make a sustainable living. You should also use the money to color and enrich your life with experiences and memories. When you think about this long term, carving out time for new experiences refreshes your mind, improves creativity and work ethic, and inspires you to try more new things and explore new passions.

  8. Save, save, save!

    This is something that I still struggle with, but saving is such an important facet of adulthood. You can no longer rely on financial aid every quarter to uplift your bank account every time you’re in a rut. When you get your paycheck, make it a habit to put 10-20% of that money to your savings. Have saving goal buckets so that you have something to pool from when you need it for a specific reason. My paycheck automatically deducts 20% of the money to go towards my travel fund and emergency fund. It’s a bit of a pain, but your future self will send you lots of love for it.

  9. Sometimes serendipity comes out to play. Enjoy it.

    As much as we can plan for our day, our week, our lives, life can still throw curveballs at you and unravel your plans. They can be annoying and discouraging, but sometimes it can be a beautiful addition to the value and meaning of life. Besides, what is life without the struggle? We would just be stagnant and lifeless without anything to learn from. So enjoy that serendipitous moment when it comes and appreciate the fact that it’s happening and enriching your life.

  10. You can live day by day, but don’t forget to think of the bigger picture.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the daily 9-5 and just go home and mindlessly scroll through social media or watch Netflix without a care in the world. Take time during your week or month to sit down and make a plan of what you want to do in one year, in 5 years, and even 10 years. For me, this has always been a difficult thing to do since I can barely plan my week, but it’s so important to think about the vision you have in your life and to not forget about what you truly want out of life. Simply writing down where you visualize yourself in 5 years is enough to help you think bigger picture.

  11. Community is out there, as long as you ask and seek for it.

    Community was the biggest thing that got me through college, so when I graduated, the biggest transitionary struggle I faced as a post-grad was the lack of community. I used to have spaces where I felt grounded in solidarity and comfort. It was a place of belonging. I spent a good deal of my first year of post-grad seeking communities in alumni networks, camp counselor sessions, dance classes, yoga classes, blogs and YouTube channels. Eventually I found a sense of community in places I never thought I would — my old friends and my work team. Community is out there if you are looking for it, it just takes more effort to put in those same community values you’ve learned from your experiences into new spaces.

  12. We have time. Take advantage of it.

    Be proactive and take initiative of your time. It’s hard to believe this, but our 20s is filled with time and space to learn something new, to find a new trajectory for our life, to find and grow new passions. All you have to do is start now. So go out there and show the world your worth!

Thank you for reading, and congratulations to the class of 2017! If you have any other lessons you have learned after graduation, or even from life, let me know in the comments! 🙂

How to Fall In Love with Yourself: Tips and Thoughts on Self-Love

In the month of February, it is common to think we need someone else to love. It is common to think that the solution to filling the empty void is to have other people or commitments fill in that space. At first it seems to work, but it is only a quick fix, a temporary wholeness that can be taken away at any moment. Relying too much on external factors for your own happiness and wellness only makes you unhealthy, especially if you put 100% of your time and energy into something so fleeting.

In the end, the only person that can fill the empty void inside and make you feel truly happy is yourself. That’s where self-love comes in. Self-love doesn’t just mean loving yourself, it means putting energy in living a full, intentional life and spreading that love from the inside out. It means being yourself with confidence despite the flaws and mistakes. It is only when we love ourselves that we begin to see it reflected to other people and spaces. Before you can love and care for others, you have to invest time and energy in the longest relationship you will ever have — yourself. Basically, you have to fall in love with yourself before you can love anything else.

My personal journey to self-love began nearly 3 years ago when I took a giant leap to leave the country and travel to Europe for a study abroad program where I knew absolutely no one. At the time, I was at a place in my life where I relied too much of my happiness in my college academics, in other people and in other spaces. But the happiness and love wasn’t there. I had many doubts about traveling alone, but I knew that it was the thing I wanted to do for myself. Now that I look back, making this choice to study abroad was a life changing decision that propelled me into becoming a better version of myself. When you are out alone in another continent, you open yourself to new people and new places and discover yourself in ways that would not have happened.

I came up with 7 things that have helped me on my journey to self-love. I know a LOT of people have shared their thoughts on how they think you should practice self-love, but I honestly just wanted to share my two cents and contribute to the conversation. These things are obviously not the only ways to achieve self-love, but since I am speaking from personal experience, they have worked for me and if you try it out, I hope they work for you too.
  1. Step out of your comfort zone and do things alone. In other words…have a date with yourself! I know that sounds weird, but I realized that if I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin and find love within myself, I had to do things alone. I used to feel so much fear from doing things alone, but after traveling alone and attending events and places alone, I actually prefer it. There’s less expectation for you to fit a certain mold and you can actually be yourself. You also discover a lot about yourself when you are alone than if you were with someone else. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should neglect your social spheres and there’s a time and place for everything, but it helps to step away from that social life and give time for yourself once in awhile.
  2. Write everything out. Writing for me is an incredible outlet for me. It helps to let go of all internalization of negativity and actually puts thoughts, emotions and memories into words, which can be very therapeutic when you contain it into one place. When I let everything out through writing, I feel like the stress and burden has been lifted from my shoulders and I have more space for myself. If writing isn’t for you, there are many outlets you can try to let go of your burdens.
  3. Understand your flaws and move on from your mistakes. We are human. It is in our blood to have limitations and make mistakes that cause obstacles in our journey to love ourselves. But they shouldn’t make you feel inept or incapable. Understanding your boundaries and moving on from your mistakes will allow you to breach those boundaries and to re-define who you are as a person. There’s an empowering quote from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on the importance of moving on from mistakes:

    “Our response to any mistake affects the quality of the next moment. It is important to immediately admit and correct our mistakes so that they have no power over that next moment and we are empowered again.”

  4. Take time to do the things you love to do. This ties back to stepping out of your comfort zone. If you love something, do it, even if it scares you! It took me awhile to realize that traveling, creating, blogging, spinning and even dancing were things that I enjoyed and loved to do. Doing the things you love will make you a much happier person you can live with and your future self will thank you for letting things you love into your life.
  5. Keep track of what you are grateful for. Sometimes even the smallest recognition of things we are grateful reminds us that there are moments in life worth living for. Gratitude is a strong component of self-love and when you look back, it only fortifies that love for yourself when you see that there is a lot of to love in life.
  6. Reflect. The path to ultimate, true self-love is actually very difficult. One way I try to achieve it however is reflecting every month on what I have done, what I am grateful for and what I need improvement on. This really helps map out my trajectory of my life and my growth and points out areas where I can become a better person. I write about reflection in this blog here if you want to check it out!
  7. Self-love is not selfish. It’s important to understand that yes, you should make an effort to love and take care of yourself. Whether that’s treating yourself to tacos once in awhile or taking a bath after a long day of work, do whatever it takes to make you fall in love with yourself. Just do not forget why you need to love yourself in the first place. It can be to live a happy, intentional life and share that with everyone, to radiate that love they feel for themselves to others, or it can even be an act of self-preservation and political warfare. Whatever that reason is — keep reminding yourself that.

I want to end this post with a poem from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey that really resonates with me and adds to what I think self-love should look like.
“I do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
I want to be full on my own
I want to be so complete
I could light a whole city
and then
I want to have you
cause the two of
us combined
could set it
on fire.”

I hope this post helped somehow! If you have any more self-love tips, please let me know in the comments!