Five Lessons From Five Weeks in the Real World

Life after college teaches you a few lessons the hard way.
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Now that I've been out of school for six whole weeks and working for more than five, it's time for me to share the wisdom I've accumulated from living on my own for 42 days.

I've made more mistakes, financial and otherwise, in the last month and a half than I have at any time since I started college -- and I learned the hard way that it's not OK to vomit all over all of my roommate's possessions.

If you're anything like me and just starting out all by yourself in the world, I don't want you doomed to follow in my footsteps.

So from my limited but very recent experience, what is important for you to know?

Moving is worse than losing a loved one

: At least, that's what my mom told me only


I'd finished my move from Cambridge, Mass., to New York City. I don't know if I'd go that far myself, but moving is pretty bad.

If you're young, you probably have never had to experience the emotional horror of a full-scale move. It isn't pretty.

Like a complete idiot, I accumulated a lot of furniture during my last year of college. Trust me -- there's no reason to have furniture.

Living off campus was the best decision I'd ever made at that point in my life, but filling my apartment with a queen-size bed, a full dining-room table, three coffee tables, six chairs, two bar stools and a big wooden chest for my clothes from the Chinese crafts shop across the street came back to bite me when I had to hire someone to move it.

What's so bad about moving?

First of all, it's the only job I can think of for which you actually pay people to be late. The movers I hired, who seemed like terrific people, took eight hours to drive from the Boston metro area to 18th Street in Manhattan. I had to pay them for every hour they sat in traffic. If I were in their shoes, I know I would've spent at least a few of those hours screwing around, but maybe they're more honest than I am.

The movers got to my building at 6:30 p.m., but the building's policy is that no one can move their stuff in after 5 p.m. I had to get down on my hands and knees, figuratively, and beg the superintendent to stay late so that my stuff wouldn't get left out on the street.

All in all, the experience cost me over $1,800, along with an unquantifiable amount of emotional pain, a broken lamp, a broken coffee table, and an incompletely reassembled dining-room table.

If you have to move, all I can recommend is to try to get your hands on some Valium beforehand; otherwise, it's going to be miserable.

Never, ever be late paying your electric bill

: Everybody knows this, and yet people like me still screw it up all the time.

My excuse: I got my building maintenance bill on Friday, June 29. It was due Sunday, July 1, which I assume meant Monday, July 2. I left town for the weekend and didn't actually get the bill until that Sunday.

I could have hand-delivered my check to the company that administered my building, and knowing what I know now, that's what I should have done.

What I did was mail my check on Monday and live without air conditioning on Tuesday and Wednesday as I waited for the Postal Service to deliver the check.

There are no excuses, and while I advocate living it up as irresponsibly as possible, that requires air conditioning. I can live with a dinged credit score because of a late mortgage payment, or with having my cable cut off, but don't take my climate control.

Drink plenty of fluids

: You don't think this is serious advice? Two weeks ago I woke up with the worst headache of my life and had to stumble over to an emergency room because I hadn't yet received my health insurance card.

After I watied for a few hours, the doctor told me I was seriously dehydrated, put me on a drip for a little while and then sent me off to work. He also told me I had to come back in a week so someone could scan my brain. The real culprit was caffeine and not enough water.

If I didn't work for a man (yes, I'm referring to Uncle Jumbo, aka "Jim Cramer") who has taught me the gospel truth that there are no such things as sick days, I might've been tempted to spend the rest of the day in bed.

Working two jobs, one here at

and one writing for


's "Mad Money," requires a lot of coffee, but if you don't want to feel like crap all day, listen to me or your mother and drink plenty of other, noncaffeinated fluids.

Life without blinds isn't worth living

: I moved into a brand-new apartment six weeks ago, and it didn't have any blinds. The first thing I did after moving in was call a guy to measure my windows and put in an order for them (I got an off-white, 2-inch honeycomb pattern, if anyone's curious). I put a rush on mine, but by some cruel accident of fate, they got lost in the mail, and I spent a month living without.

Every morning that I woke up with the sun glaring in my face, I lost another chunk of my will to live; every night, I wept bitter tears as the light from the city kept me from sleeping. Every time my girlfriend freaked out about getting dressed because she thought some guy in a building 10 blocks away was staring at her through binoculars, I came a little closer to losing my mind.

If you move somewhere with no blinds, you'll regret it. Make sure they're installed before you take up residence.

And finally, a bonus observation that's probably applicable to more people than you'd expect:

Nepotism is a two-way street

: I'm not complaining about the fact that my uncle Jim Cramer has been throwing great opportunities in my face for the last two years, but don't ever let anybody tell you that a job gained through nepotism is always a cushy sinecure.

Forget the emotional price I pay when



Page Six of the New York Post

pokes fun at me; that's not something most beneficiaries of nepotism will have to deal with.

I'm talking about the fact that nepotism requires you to work harder, not to prove to your colleagues that you really do deserve your job -- that's the definition of a lost cause -- but because letting down a relative is much worse than letting down a boss.

If I ever really dropped the ball, I don't think I'd be able to show my face at Thanksgiving ever again, and forget Passover!

Don't get me wrong. Nepotism makes the world go round, and also makes my life awesome -- but don't think it doesn't have its hidden costs.