Dear Me, Love Alexis

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Exactly one year ago today, I was studying (or at least attempting to study) for my upcoming final exams, putting the finishing touches on my graduation outfit, and feeling overwhelmingly freaked out about what the rest of my life would bring. It has been one year since I walked across the esteemed stage at my college graduation and to say this first year was in any way what I expected would be a complete contrast to what it actually was.

It was way better than what I expected.

Yes- of course I learned a ton of new skills at my job, how to be semi-successful at managing my finances (key word here: semi), and how to properly get a red wine stain out of a knit blanket. However this past year of real adulthood has taught me far more about myself, and learning who I am is much more valuable to me than learning how to track the ROI of a successful campaign.

And so I give you, a letter to myself one year ago. Maybe I won't be able to ease her mind as she heads into this big scary world, but perhaps I can shed some light on what's to come for those who are just getting ready to embark on the road of life.

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Dear Alexis,

Isn't it crazy that your four years at Iowa have come to an end? It seems like yesterday you were moving into your dorm room (RIP Quadrangle Hall), lugging all the hot pink decor into your new 16ft. x 12ft. home. Right about now, I'm sure I know what you're thinking. How could anything ever top these past four years?

Well, I'm here to tell you- life goes on after college. Sure, you may grow apart from some of those friends who feel like sisters, and your social life may not be on the same level it was when you were hitting the bars every weekend... but you'll manage. Here's some guidance to put in your back pocket as you make your way through this next year:

Spending time with yourself is a good thing

I'm not sure if it's our generation, or just the social norm to feel the need to constantly be doing something. It seems like being busy is all the rage. But don't be afraid to step back, and spend some quality time with yourself. Lord knows, you're going to need it this year. Start that new book while you draw up a bubble bath on a Friday night- because hangovers are tooootally on a different level once you turn 23.

The crazy thing about life is, it never stops moving. Staying on top of your health, relationships, finances, and everything in between can be exhausting. But never lose sight of the importance of taking a step back to look at the big picture. Your journey is made up of all these little things that just magically fall into place and pretty soon, those little things make up your life. This year is going to bring you quite a few late nights at the office, too many nights of restless sleep, and tons of days where you just feel like you're doing a bad job. Cuddling up doing your favorite things from time to time to simply rest & reflect is just what the doctor ordered.

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Working hard and proving your worth at a company is important, but don't lose yourself in the process.

You only have a small window of time in the grand scheme of life to be in your twenties. Please don't waste that precious time away by getting caught up in obsessing over your job. I know how you can get, Alexis! Despite what you may think right now, you don't want to be the girl who is constantly locking up the office after dark and then goes home to find herself falling asleep with her laptop snuggling next to her.

Of course- work hard at your job (and trust me, it'll be worth it), but don't let working hard morph into a life where you never stop working. If there's one tip about your job that I can tell you, it is this:

There's always going to be more work to do & you're never going to feel like you're caught up.

Some nights are undoubtedly going to bring you a wave of productiveness at the unfortunate hour of 1AM, but don't make them a habit. You only have one life to live, and coming home after work to snuggle up with your favorite chick flick or treating yourself to a weekend with your girlfriends is invaluable to your sanity, and yes- your success. Trust me on this one. Oh, and when you and the girls are contemplating that trip to Mexico... book it!

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Manage your expectations, and if they change along the way- that's okay.

I know how you're feeling right now. You're struggling with your identity, because this person you were so certain you'd become couldn't be further from the woman you're growing to be. That's okay! The sooner you realize that the dreams we had for ourselves when we were 6 don't quite match up to the person we're becoming at 21, the sooner you can actually get to work on becoming who you're meant to be.

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I know you want to change the world, but you're not quite sure how you're going to do it. Spoiler alert: you still won't know one year later! But remember, there isn't a rulebook of success that states if you haven't made it by age 25 that you never will. And one of the most important things I've learned this past year is that God knows what He's doing. You'll go through different seasons of life that are all necessary in order for you to grow into the person you're destined to be. Be patient, and trust that where ever you are right now is exactly where you're supposed to be.

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Give yourself some credit, girl!

If there's one thing I know about you, it's that you're pretty hard on yourself. And don't get me wrong- that's a good thing! But you should know, you're kinda killin' it...

Flash forward a year from where you are right now, and you've got a good job, your very own apartment, a boyfriend who also serves as your BFF, and friends that would do anything for you. Doesn't sound too bad, right? You pay your rent on time, you've been promoted at work, and your bank account isn't completely in the negatives... well, at least at this current moment...

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Black & White Flower Print Jumpsuit: Old Navy | Camel & Turquoise Strappy Sandals: Kate Spade

When times are feeling tough or you're feeling displeased with yourself, try and take a step back to look how far you've come. Maybe a few big losses here and there- like your debit card getting declined at the grocery store or ordering a big plate of pasta instead of the salad at dinner can really add up- but don't forget to celebrate all the little wins too. Treating yourself to a Saturday afternoon of yoga, nailing that Pinterest banana bread recipe, or knowing which shirts are dry-clean only in your wardrobe are pretty noteworthy accomplishments, and they should be celebrated!

You're going to have a lot of ups and downs throughout this first year of your big-girl life. When you're shopping for your new apartment and you're deciding whether or not to buy whatever it is your contemplating: definitely buy it. When you live paycheck to paycheck the first couple months, just keep going. Eventually you'll learn how to grocery shop without buying every ingredient that seems slightly bearable at that moment (hint: make a list!), and you'll learn that there are worse things than being tired at work in the morning because a girls sushi night turned into one glass of wine too many.

You'll definitely feel the need to cry at some point (I mean this is you, we're talking about), and you'll learn that if she didn't already have all the answers before- your mom is literally Superwoman. Don't keep the thermostat set at 75 (oops), and when the speed limit is 25mph, don't go 37... trust me on this one.

But most importantly- enjoy every moment, every late night, and every success because just as those four years of college flew by in a blink, life comes at you even faster. You're never getting today back, so make it count!

And when it comes down to it, always buy the shoes.