So you’re burnt out. Now what?

It is only Wednesday and I feel like I have already had a full week. I had a fantastic weekend visiting some of my grandparents, but was still a bit travel-tired going into the work week. And then the work week exploded. Or imploded. Whichever you prefer.

I’ve been nonstop busy at my job, putting in extra hours on tight deadlines and praying I haven’t made a mistake somewhere. A freelance project that’s been slow-moving completely ramped up in its final stages, and long story short it was 1 a.m. yesterday (technically today) by the time I felt like I could really take a breath.

The feeling sucks. And I want to clarify that this is brought on mostly by good things, that other people of course handle more, and that I know I’ve handled more. That perspective helps some. But it doesn’t extend my deadlines or get my projects done, nor does it make my stress dissipate like a summer haze. The fact is — even if you love what you do and life is generally good — some days are going to get to you. Things are going to go wrong, your to-do list will pile up, and there will be some final straw that makes it feel like Murphy’s law is out to get you. You’re going to feel burnt out.

Unfortunately, it seems like many of us emerging adults are crap at handling burnout. Some of that is having not developed skills; but it isn’t helped when the expectation for success is to have a 4.3 high school GPA with sports and volunteering to get into a good (expensive) college and have the time of your life while also studying and doing multiple internships to have a job right when you graduate so you can put in 50-hour weeks and support yourself and make new friends and work and start saving for retirement.* But it doesn’t have to be that intense — even small seasons of stress can lead to brief burnouts. The good news is that it isn’t permanent.

If you can, take a day off. If you can’t, or are realizing that your burnout has settled in more deeply than what one day off can fix, there are still things you can do. The important thing is to remain conscious of how you’re holding up without hyperfixating on it to the point of making it worse (which I have a tendency to do if I’m not careful).

Life doesn’t slow down, so the first step is to simply keep going. Draw temporary motivation from commitment or spite or stubbornness if the goodness of your heart isn’t getting the job done. (Of course, make sure that your actions toward others are kind no matter where you’re pulling motivation from.) If you just needed a little dogged effort to push through, great.

If you’re still feeling burnt out, try to incorporate things that make you feel more you where you can. Maybe that’s going for a walk or listening to music or carving out time for a hobby. I try to make sure that I spend a little time outside every day and that I take a break for my meals instead of working through them. If things are particularly rough, I might step outside or default to a playlist that gets me through.

If it persists, know that it’s okay to consider taking something off your plate. Your friends and family are there to support you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Figure out a way to shift your routine once the grueling season is over. After my worst semester of college I spent more than a month almost entirely alone, and while I no longer have any desire to be a hermit, it was the reset I needed to get out of the funk I’d been in for months.

And, as always, it’s also physical. Pay attention to how your body responds when you get stressed or overwhelmed. My boyfriend recently pointed out the extent to which I force tension I’m feeling mentally or emotionally into my shoulders, so now when I’m stressed one of the first things I do is relax them. Sleep is good for you. I promise. Drink water and take deep breaths. Just get up and stretch for a minute if your work is mostly sedentary. Way too often we ignore the physical consequences of stress, and being nice to your body can take some of the sting out of stress, which helps fight burnout.

What ways do you avoid burnout, or recoup after a stressful season? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


*If you’re an emerging adult, you probably know that person (or are them). If you’re not an emerging adult and that scenario sounds far-fetched, it’s pretty average among my peers.


Income talks

What socioeconomic class would you place yourself in? How much do you make compared to your coworkers or other people with your job? A lot of us are uncomfortable thinking about answers to these questions, and some people refuse to discuss them at all. It’s understandable. Your money is your business, and thinking you have or make significantly more or less than our peers can be awkward.

But I’m going to push the envelope a little here: Avoiding talking about income isn’t helpful.

Reason 1: Not talking about income allows us to lose perspective on the reality of large-scale socioeconomics. Feeling broke is different than truly being broke. Emerging adults are a little notorious for feeling — and sometimes being — broke. Some of us aren’t able to work while in school full-time, and the U.S. national average of student loan debt for the Class of 2016 was $17,126. That is, frankly, a ton of money. A lot of us are dealing with minimum wage or entry-level jobs, which often means a limited income. Sometimes ramen is all you can afford until the next paycheck comes.

But perspective is important. When we lose perspective, we risk becoming blind to the needs and realities of people around us. Think for a minute — what socioeconomic class would you say you (or your family) are in? My guess is a whole lot of people would answer middle to upper-middle class. In the U.S., you’re probably right. (Check here to see.) What about globally? According to Pew Research, here are the per capita socioeconomic breakdowns as of 2011:

  • Poor: less than $2 per day
  • Low Income: $2.01–10 per day
  • Middle Income: $10.01–$20 per day
  • Upper-Middle Income: $20.01–$50 per day
  • High Income: more than $50 per day

The median annual household income in the U.S. is $51,915 as of 2013.* Globally, it’s $9,733.

Of course, purchasing power differs with region, not just time. What I can get for $5 in California is different than what I can get for $5 in Copenhagen, which is different than what I can get for $5 in India. The cost of living is *ahem* not low here (nor is it the highest in the world). To balance the numbers a little more, consider that the global low income threshold is 41% of the U.S. threshold, while the global median income is 19% of U.S. median income.**

Reason 2: Not talking about income holds people back. To collectively move higher, we’ve got to help each other out. One of the most interesting patterns that has surfaced with the rise in folks demanding equal pay for equal work and speaking out against unreasonable income disparities is that oftentimes those disparities persist because people have no idea that their pay is significantly different from a coworker or counterpart.

There have been a number of stories about this issue coming up in Hollywood recently, and while I would never suggest taking life lessons from Hollywood willy nilly, I love that a number folks are being more open about discussing pay so they can try to ensure that those in similar job roles aren’t being paid unfairly compared to their peers.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life too. At an old job, a few of us realized the discrepancy in our compensation seemed like more than the basis of rank or responsibility. It turns out, the ones making more were doing so because they had asked to. Knowing how much work I was doing, I felt a boost in my own pay was appropriate, and asked my bosses what we could work out (they responded well and we worked out a deal everyone was happy with). But following that, I made sure to tell coworkers in similar spots that they could consider asking for more, and shared what I made for reference as appropriate.

Of course, if you’re not able to talk to coworkers or peers about income, you can always start by researching the average pay or pay ranges for the job you have or are aiming for. (Pro tip: This can vary widely by region, so make sure to include that in your search.)

The goal here is not to be a downer, and I realize that everyone’s situation is different. But since I started learning more about these topics in the last few years, I’ve tried to keep a larger picture in perspective and be mindful of where I am within it, make sure I’ve done my research so I’m being paid fairly, and when possible to speak up so that I can help ensure other people I know are also being paid fairly. It’s a big, intimidating, adult-ish kind of responsibility, but it’s one that I’m really proud to be working toward.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned about income? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


*The median household income for the U.S. increased to $56,516 as of 2016, but it would have been statistically irresponsible to compare data from different years, and 2013 was the most recent global data I could find.

**The math on that: Less than $10 per person per day is considered low income. Breaking down the worldwide median annual income for a family of 4 and 260 working days (which is the U.S. standard, and not necessarily applicable to poorer regions/occupations), that’s $9.36 per day per person, which makes even the rough median estimate qualify as low income. In comparison, the threshold for low income in the U.S. is about $22.72 per person per day, which means that the global low income threshold is 41% of the U.S. threshold, while the global median income is 19% of U.S. median income (all based on Pew Research data).

(Photo credit goes to the ever-wonderful Megan T.)


How to eat vegetables and not hate it

I get it. As an emerging adult, you get to be the boss of you. Dobby is a free elf, yada yada. Most of the time, it’s really nice being able to decide what you want to do with your free time and when, how long you can ignore your laundry, decorating a place the way you want, and eating what you want. The less fun part is when you also have to be your own parent. Which, unfortunately, has to occasionally include eating vegetables.

If you like vegetables, awesome. This will be way easier. If you like vegetables and actually eat them frequently (caught some of you there), then please remind me to eat my veggies. Because I’m definitely not the best at this.

Of course, you are an adult, and no one — except potentially your family — can force you to eat vegetables. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you what you should do. You should think of your future self, current self, and overall health and longevity goals, and realize that eating healthily is probably a significant component of that. Lots of foods are good for you: fruits, whole grains, proteins, dairy in reasonable portions, etc. Even small portions of sweets and alcoholic drinks can be beneficial, especially with letting go of stress. (Note I said small portions, and indulging inconsistently helps prevent such things from becoming a habit.) But of course, veggies are the ones we often have a problem with.

Don’t get me wrong. I think some vegetables suck. You physically cannot make me eat zucchini, and I have enjoyed cauliflower exactly once. I think kale is horrifyingly bitter, and don’t understand why anyone bothers with eggplant — ever. So if there are a few veggies you really can’t stand, don’t feel obligated to eat those ones. Take a look at what nutrients they’re rich in and find alternative sources.

But it’s probably a good idea to find some veggies you like. Or at least, like well enough. Here are a few ways to make your veggies suck less, and suggestions for which ones are ideal when prepared that way.

Raw. If you’re really into eating your veggies raw, more power to you. As a kid, I would only eat vegetables raw, and frankly it’s really easy. Just wash them off, cut them up if you want to, and enjoy!

Best for: celery, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers

Roasted. Vegetables roasted in the oven (or sautéed in a pan) can be awesome, and it helps keep them interesting — especially if you add seasonings or toss them in a little olive oil. It also opens up options of veggies that, frankly, most people aren’t into eating raw.

Best for: squash, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, bok choy, eggplant, Brussel sprouts, onion

Salad. If you’re anything like me, salad usually feels boring. Good news! It doesn’t have to be. Spice up your salads with more varied ingredients, including things that *gasp* aren’t veggies. Nuts, croutons, meat, whatever. I love salads that also include cheese and fruit, like berries or avocados.

Best for: leafy greens (kale, arugula, lettuce, baby spinach, etc. — there are seriously so many), carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, snow peas, sugar snap peas, onion, radishes

Steamed. This is actually my favorite way to have vegetables. Plop them in a pan of water so they’re 1/4 to 1/3 covered, bring it to a simmer, cover and let them steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on what vegetable and how much.

Best for: broccoli, carrots, artichoke (cook this one longer!), green beans, cauliflower

Grilled. Not just for your burgers. Throw a couple on a barbecue (or a cast-iron skillet preheated in the oven) until they get a little tender, and enjoy.

Best for: asparagus, bell peppers, artichoke

Sneak ‘em. If the taste — or I guess, appearance — of vegetables is truly horrid to you, you can always sneak them into other things you’re eating. Mix a few veggies into a well-seasoned stir fry or stew, add a couple into a smoothie, or even purée them and add them into a sauce. Personally, I like to face my vegetables head-on, but this has worked really well for other people I know.

Best for: carrots, dark leafy greens, broccoli, beets, onion or most peas (for stir fry/stew)

Often some of the biggest issues when people don’t like vegetables are that they’ve only had overcooked or under-seasoned ones, or they haven’t tried enough to find some they like. I’m often lazy about it, so if they aren’t easy to prepare I usually won’t eat them — at least not on my own. But I happen to love carrots, broccoli, and green beans, so I’ll often steam those up to add to a dinner and boost its healthfulness.

I realize this is not an exhaustive list of veggies, and that none of the cooking instructions here were very specific, but Google is your friend, and so are recipe sites like Allrecipes and Epicurious. One of my goals is to try eating a bit healthier, which starts with more fruits and vegetables.

What are some of your favorite veggie dish? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo, since I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while and didn’t have enough veggies around. Oops!)


Kindergarten 2.0

Sometimes life’s parallels are uncanny. Okay, so maybe emerging adulthood doesn’t look quite like the kindergarten playground, but it can feel like it. Lots of things are new, you’re thrust into a flurry of activity you may or may not be prepared for, and oh yeah — you have to make friends.

This is probably the thing that has been most difficult for me since graduating college and leaving the relative safety of the education world. Of course, school has a lot of risks and challenges and lots of people you don’t want to be friends with, but at least there are a ton of potential opportunities built into your daily schedule.

Once school’s out, not so much. For the 8ish months after graduating college that I was living with my parents, I was back in the same place I grew up, so luckily I had a couple of old friends and familiar places to go back to. Still, the majority of my friends were far away, so being able to see them was a trip that had to be planned instead of just a door that had to be knocked on. Since I moved out and started working full-time, it’s been a bit more challenging.

The good news is I’m good friends with the people I live with, but my nearby friend count outside of that is pretty much zero. My coworkers are all kind, and a few in particular are really easy to chat with over lunch or during a lull in the work day. But because for the most part people are working autonomously and on something different than you, you’ve got to go much more out of your way to develop friendships out of acquaintanceships.

I’m an introvert. I like people, and enjoy friendships and being social, but initiating that is a beast I’ve never been fond of. I met my best friend because we had a mutual friend, got to know my boyfriend because he sat next to me in class, and made my best friend in college because we lived in the same dorm and then worked together. Proximity is a huge help in forming friendships, especially proximity with downtime.

Now that we’ve established all that, this is usually the part where I have some helpful advice. I have to admit I’m still struggling with this one, so my advice is painfully limited, but these are the things I have found helpful:

  • Find the kid coloring the same picture as you. In other words, find a group or activity outside of work and home where you can meet people with mutual interests. I recently started going to a new church, and am hoping to connect with folks as I invest time there, as well as find a place to volunteer semi-consistently.
  • Share your snacks. Everything is easier over food. Ask coworkers out to lunch, or say yes when they ask you. I’ve brought in treats for the office just to be a positive presence, and as an easier excuse to say hi to folks than just randomly meandering up to their desk.
  • Don’t cry. Tell the voice in your head to calm the heck down. Your acquaintances are probably not avoiding you or whispering behind your back, so please try not to worry about it.
  • You know, be friendly. Ask about things people care about, listen attentively, and remember what they say. Having a vested interest in someone’s life — even if it’s just for the sake of conversation — will create the opportunity for friendships to form.

Okay guys, that’s it. That’s all I got. However, I would absolutely love to hear suggestions on what you’ve found helpful for making friends in new places because I need all the help I can get. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


International Women’s Day

I had a post all prepped for today, but upon remembering that tomorrow is International Women’s Day, knew that was what I had to talk about. Though it’s been observed by some since the early 1900s, technology and social movements have boosted its prominence in recent years.

Women are an amazing, impressive, phenomenal part of humanity. I actually wish we didn’t need a special day to recognize those qualities, or to acknowledge the challenges that so many women face every day. But sometimes the reminder is helpful.

I am grateful beyond words for all of the amazing women in my life, and everyone who supports them. I have a sister, two moms, best friends who might as well be sisters, cousins, aunts, grandmothers, and peers who have shown me how resilient we can be, how tenacious, how compassionate. Who have shown me that a person can be both gentle and strong. Who have reminded me that opportunities are meant to be sought after — or created if need be. Who have picked me up and held my hand and stood by my side. Who have pushed me to be better. Who have taught me not to take crap from anybody. Who have chosen kindness and perseverance when it would have been so much easier to be less. Who go the extra mile because it’s the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, injustices still creep into a broken world. I refused to wear dresses for years when I was small because some boys had laughed at me and convinced me that being girly was a bad thing. I was 7 and outraged when I realized the Constitution and Declaration of Independence only said “all men” (and then horrified when I learned it didn’t even mean all men). As an adult, I try not to walk alone at night, don’t walk with headphones in, try not to have my hair in a ponytail when I go for a run. I have friends who are expected to cook, clean, and work for no other fact than that of being female. I have been in homes where women are not allowed to be equal shareholders. I have been in churches where women speaking was scandalous. I am saddened when the stories of women who changed the world were overlooked, and embarrassed that I didn’t go looking for them.

I don’t lament my experiences — but I don’t want my little sister, my young friends, or anyone in the generations to come to have to be told that they are lesser, to be threatened, to be put down, to be pushed aside, to be hurt senselessly. We still have work to do. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re nothing less than wonderful. No one is perfect, of course. But you’ve got potential and worth and, I hope, ever-increasing opportunities.

None of us got here without remarkable women. If you are a woman, I hope you start to understand how remarkable you are. It took me until well into emerging adulthood to start valuing myself the way I should, and I cannot say thank you enough to the women and men who helped me do that. I hope we use this moment to appreciate the women in our lives for not just all they do, but all they are, and keep working toward a future that prioritizes equity and common humanity.

What is something the women in your life have taught you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy International Women’s Day!


The future doesn’t save for itself

Recently a friend asked me about how much I typically save per month, just to get perspective from someone else. I had a rough idea, but when I looked at the numbers realized I’ve actually been saving a little more than I even thought. Of course, most emerging adults feel pretty broke, and the prospect of being able to afford huge purchases like a house can feel nigh impossible. So sometimes the goal is just to be, you know, less broke.

Noting all of that, I thought it might be helpful to share some savings tips and tools that I’ve found helpful. But let’s start this off with a couple of clarifying facts:

First, there is no “right amount” to be saving other than as much as you can without creating unnecessary strain on your current financial situation. Whether that’s spare change or more than half your income, do what you can. You’ve got to start somewhere, and saving even a little will mean you’re better off down the road.

Second, I am not the expert on this. I wasn’t serious about saving until I started getting serious about my finances, which (unfortunately) was in the later part of college. I never had insane spending habits, but it took me too long to start being proactive about saving. Once I was serious about it, I got really serious. In the 8-month stretch between graduating and getting hired full-time, I saved like a maniac. At least 75% of what I earned — and more when I could manage it — got saved.

Now that I don’t have to pinch pennies quite so hard, this is my plan:

  • A static emergency fund of 3-6 months’ expenses (it’s currently at about 4 months, and I’m working on building it up). This fund is not to be touched except for emergencies, and just sits in my savings account until I should need it.
  • At least 30% of my monthly income into general savings, more whenever possible. This is a catchall pot that can be used for emergencies if necessary, but ideally will keep growing until major milestone purchases come up down the road.
  • 6-7% of my monthly income goes to repair/replacement savings, specifically for my car and furniture (though it’s in the same savings account as everything else). You don’t want the refrigerator going out to keep you from paying rent.
  • About 2.5% of my monthly income goes to “gift savings,” basically so that I set a little money aside every month and then when birthdays and Christmas comes around I’m set instead of stressed.

In total, roughly 40% of my income gets saved, plus I have the emergency fund. I realize that’s a way hefty number for some people. While saving should never be an afterthought, it should also never outrank a roof over your head and food on the table. But if you’re treating yourself more often than you’re setting money aside for the future, it’s time to reassess. Here are some ways to help:

Set a savings goal. I can’t emphasize this one enough. If you’re just saving to save, there’s less motivation to do it well. If you’re saving for something, or to a certain amount, you’ll be more likely to remain committed to the plan.

Invest, or at least get interest. If you’ve got a big chunk that doesn’t need to be touched soon, invest it in safe stocks/mutual funds that show consistent appreciation over time. (Pro tip: Appreciation means it grows in value.) If you don’t have a lot or want to be able to access it quickly (called “liquidity”), then at least throw it in a savings account. It won’t make you money per se, but it will at least keep it from losing value due to inflation.

Rule of 5s. Every time you get a $5 bill (or a $1, or a $10, up to you), that gets saved. My grandma does this, and especially if you deal in cash fairly often it can add up quickly.

Make technology your friend. Set up your bank account to automatically transfer a certain amount into your savings every month, or use a savings app like the ones that round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and transfer the change into your savings account.

Save what you spend. Anytime you spend money on a non-necessity (groceries are a necessity, eating out is not, etc.), put the same amount or even half that amount into savings. This one requires some discipline not to fudge what is or isn’t a necessity, but can help curb spending while also adding to savings.

Budget the fun stuff. The less complicated but more intense version of the preceding tip is to just don’t buy stuff you don’t need, but it kind of sucks. The best compromise is to set a budget for what you’re allowed to spend on fun stuff, and save whatever extra you have beyond that.

Immediately save any unexpected funds. Tax refunds, gifts, or any other money that comes to you apart from regular income can go straight to your savings. If that bums you out, think about it this way: it’s money you wouldn’t have had otherwise, and since it’s extra you can afford to save it! Your future self will thank you, I absolutely promise.

Saving can be a little bit of a painful and slow process, but getting set up for the future is smart, even if boring. What tools do you use to save? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!



Recipes: Slow-roasted pork tacos

Ta da! Finally another recipe. I will start off with the disclaimer that this is a more time-intensive recipe than others I’ve posted, but it’s still super simple. I love eating tacos, and when I don’t want to go all-in on effort I default to ground beef and taco seasoning. But 1) sometimes that gets boring, and 2) for the life of me I have not been able to find any good taco seasoning at my local Safeway. (I looked for the kind in packets and legit stuff like Goya — couldn’t find anything. But I digress.)

However, pork shoulder was on sale, and I am trying to learn how to be as good at cooking meat as some of my elder family members. I’m humble enough to say we’re not there yet. But I also don’t suck.

This recipe was a bit by the seat of my pants from techniques I’ve learned over the years and cooking temps/times that I googled on the fly. So I’ll add comments of things I think might have improved the recipe along the way. Last note: The amount of ingredients here isn’t integral to the recipe, so feel free to scale it as needed as long as you keep the ratios roughly the same.


  • 2.5lb. pork shoulder roast
  • 5-8 cloves crushed garlic (don’t be shy here)
  • about 1.5 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 limes
  • 1 can dark soda (I used Dr. Pepper, but Coke or Pepsi work too)
  • salt & pepper
  • tortillas
  • cheese, salsa, or other toppings as desired



  1. Make sure your pork roast is thawed all the way and put it in a large bowl. Season it liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. (Pro tip: Do the side with less fat first, then flip it over and leave the fatty side facing up.)
  2. Stab the meat. This is your opportunity to be violent in the kitchen. Grab a knife and stab it into the roast as if you were aerating a lawn — holes should be an inch or two apart and a few inches deep.IMG_5353
  3. Spread the crushed garlic and minced ginger over the meat (I also added a little more salt and pepper at this stage), and then take your fingers and poke the seasonings into the holes. It is very weird, but it gets the marinade to soak in better. Trust. Also, make sure you wash your hands well after.
  4. Time for the liquid part of the marinade — lime and soda. I need you to hear me out on this: DO NOT SLICE A LIME BEFORE ROLLING IT. EVER. That is for people who hate flavor. Lay the whole lime on the counter and roll it under your palm like if you were rolling out bread dough, putting moderate pressure on it. Then you can slice it. Squeeze one or both halves of the lime over the roast (up to you), and then follow that up with about 1/2 can of soda. Feel free to drink the rest!img_5358.jpg
  5. Cover the bowl (mine has a handy lid), and stick that in the fridge to marinate. How long is ultimately up to you — I’d recommend a minimum of 4-6 hours, but ideally overnight. I actually let mine marinate for like 36 hours, but that much time isn’t always available.
  6. After your meat is all marinated and such comes the actual cooking part. I really wish I’d done this in a crock pot because you basically turn it on low in the morning and leave it alone all day, then it’s pull-apart tender by dinner time. But I don’t have one yet, so we tried it old-school.
  7. Preheat the oven to 475ºF. When it gets there, pull your meat out of the marinade and set (fatty side up!) it in a baking dish with at least 1″ walls to collect the juices — you really don’t want that dripping into your oven. Top it with some more salt and pepper, and bake it for 15 minutes to pseudo-sear it. (You can also broil or sear it if you’re feeling fancy.)
  8. Then drop the temp to 275ºF and bake it for about an hour and 45 minutes. This will vary with the size of your roast and each oven, but when it’s getting close you can check it one of two ways. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temp should be 160ºF. If like me, you’re not that cool, make a narrow cut as close to the center of the meat as you can. If the juices run mostly clear, you’re good. If they look too pink or are red, leave it in.
  9. Once you pull it out of the oven, let it rest for 20ish minutes. This traps the juices in and keeps it tender.img_5371.jpg
  10. Because mine wasn’t as pull-apart tender as I’d hoped, I then chopped it into small pieces. Either way, once you pull it apart, toss it in a big skillet on medium-high heat, squeeze another lime over it, and brown it up a little.
  11. Serve on warm tortillas (my absolute favorite homemade recipe is here), and top with cheese, fresh guac, or homemade pico de gallo! (You will note in the photos that I had store-bought tortillas and a stark absence of guac or pico. I wasted my good toppings on a different taco recipe earlier this month, so don’t @ me.)img_5372.jpg

Cost about $15, makes about 8-10 tacos (the meat is the only pricey part)

As is often the case, this recipe was new to me. The meat came out a little less seasoned than I would have liked, but to fix that you can add in some regular taco seasoning or Goya, which are available at most local grocery stores. Also, I’d hoped the meat would be tender enough to be shredded, but a crock pot would have fixed that issue. I actually liked this recipe best when I made it as a quesadilla! But I’m looking forward to making it again with those changes.

What are your favorite ways to make tacos? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!


Loss & grief

Today’s post is a little less than chipper, but unfortunately it’s a topic that’s inevitable. I have a huge family and a lot of friends that feel like family, and though I feel really lucky to not have experienced more loss than I have, I’m no stranger to it. My guess is that no one reading this is.

The upside is that this means other people know what you’re going through. The bad part is that does nothing to change the fact that it sucks. Unfortunately, emerging adulthood is a time of life when loss tends to be more common than it was in younger years, and can be even more difficult to deal with when so much else in life is uncertain or in transition.

But there are some things that can help:

  • Get a hug. Comforting physical touch — or even just being next to someone — makes a huge difference. It gives you someone to lean on, reminds you you’re not alone, and can actually lower your heart rate and release oxytocin (aka it lowers stress and stimulates bonding).
  • Don’t bottle up emotions. It’s bad for you in pretty much every way. Instead, give yourself some time to feel all those things, and then temporarily set them aside when you have to.
  • Write your way out, or whatever that looks like for you. Honestly any tactile hobby can be a good way to keep your conscious mind occupied while your subconscious mind processes the information. When I’ve lost family members in the past, I usually wrote a poem or two and/or journaled, but you can cook or craft or do anything that gives you something to focus on.
  • Talk to someone about it. There’s no rush on this. It’s when you’re ready, as much as you’re ready for. This can be a friend or family member, a mental health professional, or even your pet. Sometimes just speaking is a good way to process your feelings, and though no one knows exactly how you feel, almost everyone knows what loss feels like.
  • Find a metaphor. Unfortunately, pain is one of those things that is nearly impossible to accurately describe — the only thing to compare it to is more pain. But that can be enough. For me, grief is like waves. It comes and goes; sometimes I have my head above water and sometimes I feel like I’m drowning; sometimes I’m being pushed down or tumbled; sometimes I can’t see anything else until I wait for it to ebb. It’s often calm on the outside, but always dangerous under the surface.
  • Get outside. Go to the park or look at the stars, whatever. But fresh air will do a lot more for a heavy heart than we often give it credit for.
  • Do or buy a small thing that reminds you of them. Don’t go crazy out of budget here, but if it’s flowers or a small decoration, or going to a particular place they loved to visit, the reminder can help you focus on the happy part of knowing them instead of just the loss.

Grief is a process, and it will take time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Admittedly I’ve even had to write this post in pieces, because sometimes I’d be midsentence and all the feelings the topic brings up would crash on me for a little while.

Whether you’re dealing with recent loss or not, I hope these tips prove helpful for others as they have for me. If you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear what things have helped you handle loss in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.


Yours for the reading

Anyone who knows me knows that I am, as my dad once put it, a voracious reader. After the initial kindergarten outrage that the words didn’t follow the rules, they started to come together into stories and facts and tapestries that have captivated me ever since. I mostly have my parents to thank for the fact that I grew up loving books so much, and for making sure I never, ever ran out of things to read.

A book I recently finished was looking at some of the differences between kids who grow up to be successful adults*. One of the most significant factors? Books. Not everybody loves reading, and I get that. But reading — well, frequently, and on a variety of topics — is genuinely one of the most indispensable methods of learning and preparing for success. Reading expands your vocabulary, sharpens your cognitive processing, and fosters empathy; which is something the world sorely needs more of.

When I was a kid, I was remiss to go anywhere without a book. I would pack a quarter of my suitcase full of them on vacations, and used to follow behind my mom in the grocery store, just using my peripherals to navigate so I didn’t have to put the story down. College made reading what I wanted more difficult because I was busy, exhausted, and all my homework was reading, but I’m slowly picking up books more frequently.

Of course, some books are just for fun. But some made a huge difference in how I saw the world, and how I wanted to live in it. So just for fun, below is a list of some of the books that have influenced me most. (Disclaimers that I get no compensation for any recommendations I put up on this blog, and though I’ve included links to them on Amazon because it’s convenient, please consider supporting local and independent bookstores!)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Don’t knock it — this was absolutely my favorite book as a kid, and the one I always wanted to read after a rough day. Fun fact: I can still recite the whole book from memory (though I sometimes muddle up Saturday).

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

When I was in 4th grade, my mom recommended I read this for a book report, and frankly I didn’t want to. I reluctantly started it, and didn’t put it down for the next four days. This book is one of the first that made me not just fall in love with stories, but with words, in addition to igniting my love of all things C. S. Lewis.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

To be honest, this book isn’t particularly high on my list of favorites. But it had a lasting impact on me, and one that I only realized the extent of later. Stargirl is flawed and thoughtful and leaves an impression, and showed me all the potential of quiet, everyday magic.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

History has rarely afforded us the preservation of firsthand accounts from any besides the most powerful, and this slim autobiography is honest, harsh, and hopeful — it implores the reader to open their eyes, and deepened my dedication to looking for stories and perspectives beyond my own. (Also y’all, this one is $1.62 on Amazon right now — pick it up if you haven’t read it.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This remains my favorite book in the world, and no other book has caught me the same way. The narration is striking, the story is poignant, and it talks about things we can’t imagine in a way that is surprisingly, hauntingly familiar.

Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis

This books dances on the line between essays and fiction, but it helped teach me how to view life— in all its pain and pulchritude — as even more wondrous. The book talks about prayer while not shying away from any questions or challenges that might arise.

It’s also worth noting that books are by no means the only thing worth reading. Newspapers have taught me more than I could possibly put into words, magazines have been a consistent source of ideas and inspiration, and comic books tell far more true and relevant stories than we often give them credit for. There’s something to learn everywhere you can find words to read. What stories have impacted you most? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

*The book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell if you’re interested — he’s one of my favorite nonfiction authors.


Debunking dream jobs

Although I doubt it comes as a surprise, your first job more than likely isn’t going to be your dream job (and if it is, it’s really likely that your dream is going to change). Most emerging adults these days are more than aware of that fact, and a job at all is great, while a job in one’s field is pretty sweet.

My very first “real job” (aka not babysitting) was working at the call center at my college. I worked part time in the evenings calling potential donors, and it sucked. My co-workers were great, but asking a bunch of people who usually didn’t want to be bothered to give money over the phone usually isn’t a recipe for a fun experience. Sometimes people would be kind or chat for a bit, some people would be irritable or angry, and sometimes the computer would accidentally dial a fax machine and an insanely loud tone would blare through the headset. Understandably, I didn’t stay there super long.

My first paid full-time job is the one I’m in now. It is, thankfully, infinitely better than the call center. Pay is good, I like my co-workers, and the work is something I’m both skilled at and decently enjoy. But like any job, it’s not perfect. My desk is in a weird spot and my work is super feast or famine — I’ll be slammed with a bunch of assignments, and then may have nothing come my way for multiple hours. I still do side jobs now and then for the extra income, and I honestly have no idea how long I want to stay in this role.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a job I’m both happy with and super grateful for — but dream job? Like any other little kid, growing up I went through a host of jobs I thought I wanted to do when I grew up, from waitress to teacher to writer to grocery store bagger (and yes, the last one is for real). But here’s the thing: Just like how what a little kid wants to be when they grow up often changes, your dream job can and probably will change as an adult too.

One of the most noticeable differences in terms of career with today’s emerging adults when compared to generations past is that we don’t start working with one company and then stay there for 40 or 10 or sometimes even 2 years. Today’s culture means each of us will likely change jobs and even career paths multiple times. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will hold more than 11 jobs in their lifetime. That’s kind of a lot. But the moral of the story is simple. Don’t freak out if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t freak out if your first job isn’t the dream. And don’t freak out if your dream changes over time. (Are you sensing a trend here?)

In his book Outliers, which is about what patterns contributes to success, Malcolm Gladwell explains that there are three necessary characteristics for meaningful work: complexity, autonomy, and a clear relationship between effort and reward.

Not every job out there is going to fulfill all those things for you. And a job that does for one person may not for another; you are perfectly allowed to have your cup of tea. But if you’re still trying to navigate jobs and career paths — which in truth, is most of us — it can be a really helpful tool to see if the work will feel meaningful while being less intimidating (and less potentially misleading) than “Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Try some stuff you’re good at. If you’re still in college, take classes or do internships in things that interest you. Do research online. If you know exactly what you want to do, awesome. But if you’re still figuring it out, or realize what you want to do has changed, that’s totally okay. I still love bagging my own groceries, but that’s no longer my career aspiration, ya know? I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear any feedback you have in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Something like love

Today was going to be a recipe for y’all, but honestly I wasn’t pleased with how it turned out and I won’t put up a recipe I don’t stand behind. Which forces me to face the calendar. When it comes to Valentine’s Day, I only have two modes: all-out (for friends and family) and forget this (for forced romance). I have friends who are single, dating, engaged, and married — and sometimes having peers at significantly different life stages than you can feel odd or even make you question how you’re doing.

Therein lies the great challenge of emerging adulthood. There is no longer an instruction manual, there is no longer one standard path (or at least a standard timeline), and it leaves a lot of us feeling confused or stuck in-between. The good news is no matter where each of us is at, there’s a lot of love to go around.

So today we’re doing something different. No romance, no expectations of flowers and chocolate, no candy hearts that no one wants to eat anyway. Instead, I took some time to list out all the people and things that remind me of love.

  • Family – Some family we choose and some family we don’t, but these people are the ones who taught me more than any what love looks like
  • Friends – My best friends know they’re in the family category, but whenever I’m with good friends it reminds me just how much love people have in their hearts
  • Faith – When everything else is cracked or crumbling, there’s a hope and love that rest here, and it’s what I always return to
  • The ocean, the stars, and the forest – These three pieces of nature are my touchstones and my constants when the world feels too harsh or too cold, and in each of them there’s a peace I haven’t found anywhere else
  • Food – Y’all think I’m kidding. Nope. Food (in reasonable levels of indulgence) reminds me of all the love and care people are willing to put into things, and the simplicity in familiar things
  • Music, books, and other stories – All of these remind me in different ways that none of us are alone
  • Animals – Dogs, (friendly) cats, and pretty much any other little creature that makes our collective hearts melt — because some things remain joyful no matter what

So if today isn’t your favorite day — or even if it is — take a little time to think about the things that make you feel loved. If there are particular people (or pets!) on that list, go ahead and let them know. How do you remind people you love them? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! As always, thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. If you need a song for the day, I highly recommend “Candy Hearts” by Relient K

(Photo credit goes to my second mom, for always sending pictures when I wish I could be there.)


You don’t need to be sorry all the time

I say sorry all the time. I saw it when I’ve made a mistake on purpose or unknowingly, when I feel bad for someone or a situation, and sometimes when I don’t know what else to day. And I’m really trying to stop.

A lot of us say sorry too much. Of course, if you hurt someone or genuinely screwed up, please apologize. It’s kind and helps heal things. But if you say sorry every time you pass someone in close quarters, make an insignificant error, or even do your job, it’s probably best to cut back.

I’ve realized that my tendency to apologize needlessly is massive. While it is indicative of caring and not wanting to inconvenience others, it builds up poor psychological habits and patterns. To explain a bit further, I’ve broken down times I needlessly say sorry with what I often say, what I mean, and why saying sorry isn’t helpful.

  • When passing along an assignment at work
    • What I say: “Sorry to be giving you more to do on this.”
    • What I mean: “I feel badly that me doing my job creates more work for you.”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: It suggests that me doing my job (and doing it to the best of my ability) is something to feel guilty about. Not cool, or true.
  • When I feel bad about someone else’s situation
    • What I say: “I’m really sorry.”
    • What I mean: “That sucks, and I wish I could do more to help.”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: I (usually) had nothing to do with it, and it gets off the more important topics of their feelings and/or any help I could give.
  • When I make insignificant errors, like a mishit in tennis
    • What I say: “Sorry!”
    • What I mean: “Oops, I did not mean to do that.”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: Mistakes happen, and when the stakes are low, constant apologizing just reinforces guilt that it does zero good for me to be feeling.
  • When someone goes out of their way to help me
    • What I say: “Sorry, I could have gotten that.”
    • What I mean: “I appreciate the help, but don’t want you to feel obligated to help me.”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: I’m literally making myself feel bad that other people are being nice to me. That’s harmful to me, and doesn’t properly appreciate their helpfulness anyway.
  • When I take up space
    • What I say: “Sorry.” (usually very quietly)
    • What I mean: “I don’t want to take up too much space and inconvenience you.”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: This one gets a longer explanation. I don’t care who you are, listen closely. There is absolutely no need whatsoever to feel bad about the physical space you take up existing in the universe. Ever. If you’re spreading out to take up extra space in a crowded spot, or purposely not making room for someone who has less room than you, that’s a jerk move. But if you find yourself scrunching up or making yourself smaller to accommodate people pulling that kind of jerk move, stop. You don’t have to shrink yourself just because they’re rude.
  • When I’m contributing to a conversation or solution
    • What I say: “Sorry, but what if…” or something similar
    • What I mean: “I’d like to add/suggest…”
    • Why that isn’t helpful: This is something called hedging, which means basically softening what one is saying with less direct language or phrases that self-impose inferiority. It can cloud the value of what you’re saying, and give people who don’t want to listen to you (which is on them) an extra excuse to think what you’re saying isn’t a big deal. If what you’re saying has caveats, by all means voice them — but there’s no need to undercut your own message.

It’s worth noting that these behaviors tend to be significantly more common from women than men. But they’re also something a lot of us as emerging adults — aka young and less experienced than a lot of other adults we’re around — tend to fall into. If you find yourself apologizing unnecessarily, spend some time analyzing that and utilizing helpful alternatives (getting to that in a moment). If you don’t tend to over-apologize, be conscientious of when people around you might be doing so. You can gently remind them that there’s no need to say sorry during whatever situation, as well as monitor your behavior and expectations to curb anything that might be making other people feel like they need to say sorry.

So here’s the helpful part. Here is a list of a bunch of things that you can say instead of sorry:

  • “Thank you for taking care of this” or “I appreciate you doing ___” — one of my favorites to use at work
  • “Thank you” — sometimes that’s enough!
  • “Oops” — I try really hard to substitute this one when I make insignificant errors
  • “Excuse me” — when I inconvenience someone slightly, especially things like passing in close quarters (note to say this one nicely! Sarcasm undercuts the helpfulness)
  • Whatever else I was going to say — when speaking up in a conversation or contributing to a solution; sometimes “excuse me” is also appropriate, but often it’s okay to just pipe up
  • Nothing — particularly in terms of how much space I take up. I purposely have just kept quiet when walking down one edge of the sidewalk and someone else with more room refuses to scoot over, or when I take up one seat and one armrest on crowded transportation. It can feel kind of rude initially, but if I’m not taking up more space than is reasonable, there’s no reason to feel badly

As a last note, take some time to thank the people in your life who help you in this area, regardless of what that looks like. There have been people in my life who made me feel like I needed to apologize all the time, but I’m fortunate enough that a lot of the people close to me have reminded me that I don’t always need to be saying sorry. I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear any feedback you have in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or on Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Nobody gets to decide your dreams for you

What did you dream of when you were younger? Do you dream of the same things now? As much as I am a planner at heart, I was always very careful not to dream about my own future too specifically. I knew things I wanted: to travel, to enjoy my work, to write, to eventually get married and probably have kids. But I wanted feelings more than things; feelings like hope and peace and wonder.

That meant that trying to explain my future goals to people often felt difficult, and often led to me likely coming across as more indecisive than I really was. Most of the things I dreamed about when I was younger are still things I want, and some of them I’m a lot closer to. I have a job I enjoy, graduated in 4 years with a degree I deeply cared about from a place I by and large enjoyed my time at. I’ve gotten to travel, and had my eyes opened. I’ve got a ton of people who care about me, and still live within reasonable driving distance of most of my favorite places.

When I was in the process leading up to those things, I had a lot of encouragement. I also got a lot of questions, and even some doubt and opposition. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today — or who I am today — without all of those things. The challenges made me reconsider what I wanted until I was sure beyond anything, and the encouragement picked me up every time I stumbled, so that the goal was never lost.

Emerging adulthood is a time when a lot of us are trying to figure out if we can finally make happen all the things we’ve been dreaming of — and when there are more opportunities than ever to veer or get knocked off course. Maybe your dream is college or getting married or going to Thailand or being an auto mechanic. As long as you’re positively benefiting your environment and the people around you, and you enjoy it, guess what? Go for it.

There will always be someone to tell you that it isn’t a good idea. As is my usual policy with advice, listen, but do not necessarily live by it. I realize that it’s very much an upper-middle class, individualist attitude to take, and not everyone is willing or able to seek out the things that most draw them in. But it is important to figure out how to live a life you’re content with.

When it comes to big decisions, I tend to consider three main questions, and the answers usually tell me what the best decision is.

  1. What and who is it going to help? Is there anyone or anything it will hurt? I’m not saying I’ve never made decisions that came with hurt, but the benefits have to outweigh the drawbacks.
  2. If I don’t do this, will I regret it? Regret itself isn’t something I spend a lot of time focusing on because it’s rarely helpful to get mired down in the past. But considering whether I might regret a particular choice is usually a good metric of my gut instinct on a decision.
  3. What story do I want to be telling my grandkids one day? I make mistakes all the time, but especially with big decisions I want the stories I tell my grandkids to be ones I’m proud of, with thoughtful reasons behind them — not things I’m ashamed of or disappointed in.

It can be really difficult to commit to following a dream or goal, and sometimes it might be wiser to take it in small steps rather than one giant leap. But as emerging adults, we’re still relatively early on in life, and have the chance to do some things we’ll be really proud of. One of the challenges we face is actually making those decisions, and dealing with the risks and rewards they bring.

What dream or goal are you most excited about? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


When old-fashioned is worth it

I’m not a hyper-traditional person. I like traditions when they mean something, but am perfectly willing to toss out ones that are antiquated or empty. However, sometimes us younger folks — particularly with how busy emerging adulthood can be — leave worthwhile traditions by the wayside when we shouldn’t.

So here are my favorite old-fashioned habits, all driven by practicality, kindness, or both:

  • Never return a dish empty. If someone brings you food or sends you home with leftovers, always clean the dish and bring it back with something in it. I usually go for fruit or something that requires minimal cleaning on the part of the dish’s owner. (Thanks to my stepmom and grandma for teaching me this one.)
  • Thank you cards. Every year, my January is full of writing thank you cards from both Christmas and my birthday. It’s not the kind of thing that most people think of as a must anymore, but it makes people feel special and lets them know their gift/card/etc. was appreciated. (Thanks to my mom for enforcing this one when I was young.)
  • Newspaper subscriptions. If you read your news online that’s totally cool, but subscriptions to outlets your support keeps it so good journalists can do their jobs. I’m currently researching my first subscription now that I have a full-time job. (Thanks to Elizabeth Smith and Courtenay Stallings for teaching me why it matters.)
  • Buying music, books, etc. There are a million and one ways to get free stuff, but if I like it, I try really hard to buy it so I can support the artist or author. This not only allows them to keep doing what they love and I enjoy, but makes an economic statement, however small, that emphasizes the value of art that’s often ignored over numbers. (Thanks to all the artists who showed me this, whether I’ve met you or not.)
  • Charitable giving. This one is perhaps less old-fashioned, but for too many of us is only remembered when there’s a crisis. If you’ve got time or money or any way to give back, it’s worth it — more on that here. (Thanks to the folks who support the places I’ve donated and volunteered for making a difference I can add to.)

As a note, I’m aware that pretty much everything I’ve listed requires spending of some sort, and while I feel fortunate to (usually) be able to afford these things, I realize that isn’t possible for everyone — and wasn’t always the case for me. If price is an issue, try creative solutions like homemade thank you cards, leaving positive reviews for books/artists/organizations, or any other ideas to convey the same thought while staying within what you can afford.

What are your favorite kindly traditions? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!


Professional can be relative

A lot of emerging adults hear about and fear the word “professional.” That is by no means a negative mark on the age bracket — new and unfamiliar things are just intimidating. Part of the problem is that, like a lot of cultural phraseology, the word professional doesn’t mean the same thing to every person or in every context.

I work in California, specifically a rather urban part of it. So “professional” here looks very different depending on what you do. Of course lawyers and high-rise business execs still dress out in more formal business wear, often with the office atmosphere to match. But a lot of places are startups are simply more focused on the product than appearance, and tend to be a lot more casual. Most of the folks in my office dress on the nice side of casual, or the very casual side of business. Everyone in the office jokes around and our Slack channel is full of reaction gifs, but when we get to work we do it well.

Different regions or companies will all be different — one woman I did an informational interview with was one of only three people in her office but still dressed business casual. What’s expected under the term “professional” can also change temporarily. When I first started my job I purposely dressed a little nice than was necessary because I wanted to make a good impression during my first few days.

So if you’re interviewing with a company, or looking to get started in a particular region or field, do some research. Find out as much as you can about the company culture, or what offices/managers in that area typically expect. To be safe, dress a little nicer than you need to for both your interview and first week or so.

Clues can include not just the type of profession (obviously lawyers generally dress more formally than software engineers), but even any pictures you can find of the office. Cubicles and white walls usually mean you should behave and dress more formally. Open floor plans and bright colors mean things are probably a bit more casual. As general rules of thumb, East Coast is usually more formal than West Coast, and downtown is usually more formal than midtown, old town, or suburbs/industrial.

If you really can’t find any info to help you out, the default should be at minimum business casual. This means a button-down shirt, slacks, and probably a tie for guys, and a blouse with slacks or a pencil skirt for women. A blazer or a nicer sweater can be a good addition, but for guys, if you’re adding a blazer you can lose the tie and still be business casual.

Of course, attire isn’t the only means of being professional. In any professional environment, use extra manners and keep an extra filter on conversation — coming across as rough or crass is never a good look. Address people how they introduce themselves to you, and default to traditional titles if you’re not sure. This is especially the case if someone has advanced degrees — they worked hard for them!

Any company or office culture will take time to assimilate into, but putting in a little extra effort is sure to help you out in the long run. What’s the most helpful tip you’ve received for presenting yourself professionally? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Go the heck to sleep

Good morning — how did you sleep? Hopefully at least pretty well, but I’m guessing not as long as you might have liked. I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to getting enough sleep. It’s probably a safe bet that you don’t either. Especially when the National Sleep Foundation suggests those age 18-25 need 7-9 hours per night.

Emerging adults are busy. We’re tired. Many of us are overworked. Most of us have to make time for things we enjoy doing, which often means sacrificing sleep. College in particular is notorious for ruining any good sleep patterns us young adults might have been holding onto. Ridiculous homework problems, studying for exams, and writing papers — not to mention actually doing fun things — all pull away at our time until there’s not enough left for a good night’s rest. Junior year of college, I would get back from work at 4:30 in the morning, just in time to say hi to my roommate as she headed out the door on the way to her own job. Or I would get up between 5 and 6 to finish an assignment just as my boyfriend was texting me goodnight after finally finishing his homework. Of course these are extremes, but they’re not anomalies.

Staying up late and getting up early can feel like the only way to fit everything in; and sometimes, that’s true. But it’s not sustainable, and I am slowly being forced to admit that getting extra (read: enough) sleep at least helps with almost every problem I encounter during the day.

The obvious is just being tired. Sleep kinda helps with that. (However, this actually only works if I have a consistent pattern of at least close to enough sleep, and also don’t make a habit of oversleeping. For me, the ideal is about 7.5 hours.)

Appetite and energy. If I get insanely little sleep, all I want to do the following day is eat. But if I’ve been getting poor sleep for a while, it actually throws my whole appetite out of whack and I don’t eat enough. Following that, my body metabolizes food better and actually feels more capable when I get adequate sleep consistently.

Skin. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve struggled with acne for a long time. There are lots of things I do to try and mitigate it: drink lots of water, wash my face every morning and night, wearing makeup infrequently, etc. But I’ve realized that even if I am religious about doing all of those other things, getting too little sleep will override it all and cause me to break out. Which sucks. But it means that there is a straightforward, even if not easy, way to help.

Mood. It’s not a secret that people are cranky when they’re tired, and virtually no one is entirely immune to it. But prolonged seasons of poor sleep can aggravate more serious mood imbalances, and make it extra difficult to deal with things like depression and anxiety.

I fully realize and admit that sometimes more sleep isn’t a realistic option, or that something else takes priority. But your body can’t function on emergency mode forever. Different people need different amounts of sleep, and there are tools like the ones offered by sleep.org to figure out what works best for you. So whether it’s 6 or 8 hours a night, taking naps or going to bed early, it’s crazy what a difference a good night’s sleep can make.

Getting enough sleep may not make mornings fun, but for me at least it makes the day way better. Feel free to share thoughts in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope your day is restful!



Yesterday was my birthday, and reflecting on the past year still makes my head spin a bit, so today I’m going to keep it simple. There are few things in my life which have remained as steady and constant as the influence of music. Though the music changes over the years, the way it guides me through difficult times and bolsters me through joyous ones never changes. So today my post is just a playlist of the songs that have meant the most to me over the last year. They’re in listening order, not order of significance, and I’ve included a link to the playlist on Spotify if you feel like giving it a listen!

  1. Empty Apartment (acoustic) – Yellowcard
  2. Bloodstream – Stateless
  3. John Rawls, Jr. – JJ Wong
  4. Can You Feel My Heart – Bring Me the Horizon
  5. Whispers in the Dark – Skillet
  6. Lips of an Angel – Hinder
  7. New Romantics – Taylor Swift
  8. Colors (stripped) – Halsey
  9. Creep – Radiohead
  10. Empty House – Relient K
  11. Car Radio – Twenty One Pilots
  12. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) – Hillsong United
  13. Don’t Blink – Relient K
  14. Wait For It – Hamilton Soundtrack (Original Broadway Cast)
  15. Letters to God, Part II – Angels & Airwaves
  16. Twenty-Somethings – Judah & the Lion
  17. The Shadow Proves the Sunshine – Switchfoot
  18. The Messenger – Linkin Park
  19. Castle – Halsey
  20. Africa – Toto
  21. American Oxygen – Rihanna
  22. Be Still – The Fray

What songs have you had on repeat lately? I’m always looking for new music, so let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy listening!


Media literacy

Finally, the big bad post I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while — media literacy. I am going to be very blunt here: Media literacy is crucial regardless of your life stage, age bracket, or what job you hold.

To start, let’s define media literacy. Media literacy is essentially having the ability to access, understand, and critically evaluate media. The term can be applied in a number of ways, but it is most critical where the audience is most vulnerable — generally the realms of marketing/advertising/PR, publications, and politics*. In an information age, we have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the crap from the truth.

A lack of media literacy leads to:

  • the proliferation and internalization of false information
  • further polarization in an already incredibly polarized era
  • the prolonging of ignorance and, in many cases, increased difficulty in recognizing it

Okay, so it’s important. But what to do? Part of the problem is outside of an individual’s control — I can’t force governments to be honest, media outlets to be objective, or advertisements to stop playing on viewers’ insecurities. (Even if I could, I alone probably could not be trusted.) But we can each do something.

When it comes to ads… Think it through. Not all advertising is bad, and of course companies need to push their products to stay in business. But if you note yourself having an emotional response to and advertising or PR campaign, ask yourself what you’re feeling, and what about the campaign is making you feel that way. The typical example is various retailers only hiring the thinnest, tallest, fittest models and then airbrushing and editing their images even further. It drives a lot of people nuts, but more quietly it also makes a lot of people feel that they aren’t living up to a standard that isn’t even real.

What to do? Don’t underestimate the power of your pocket — if you don’t like the way a company advertises, try to choose from another company. For me, this doesn’t mean loud boycotts or starting a fight on the internet. It simply means I choose to purchase from companies I can support, and there are fast food chains, retailers, etc. that I avoid. If you feel strongly enough to say something, find someone to write at the company and (calmly and politely, please — have someone proof it first) explain why you disagree with their choice and ask them to make a change. It might not work, but you will have done your part without making a larger mess.

When it comes to publications and media outlets… Again, think it through. Does what they’re saying make logical sense? Have you come across conflicting information elsewhere? Is the organization usually reputable? Do they offer sources for their information? Is the author/publisher making subjective claims, or inserting their own opinion?

What to do? FACT CHECK. Google is your friend. If you can find the same report from multiple sources, it’s got a way higher chance of being legit. You can also check out places like Snopes and Politifact, where a lot of popular mistruths and false stories are debunked. Tune in to/read from reputable organizations. Local broadcast news stations are usually super reliable, and have fewer embroiled issues than larger cable news networks. I favor The Washington Post and The Hill for news, and The New York Times has an excellent world news section. Check out whether a story is legit before you share it, particularly using the questions and tools above. If you figure out that it isn’t, call in or write a letter to the editor (again, calmly and politely please) explaining the error. There are a lot of dedicated and ethical journalists; supporting them and respectfully distancing yourself from those who aren’t can make a really big difference.

When it comes to politics… I am not claiming that all politicians are incorrigible liars or horrible people. But I do believe that power is a corrupting influence, and that everyone has an agenda. It might be a good agenda and sketchy means, or simply repeating false/misleading information, or a goal and means you wholly disagree with. It also might be legit, so it isn’t safe to assume either way.

What to do? Your research. First things first, you can look to reputable news organizations for information on a candidate. This can be great if you don’t have loads of time but do make sure the organization is reputable. Next, I hate to be such a pessimist, but follow the money. When I’m deciding how to vote on a measure or proposition, I always look at who’s funding it. I do the same when considering a candidate. Funding information can usually be found on voter’s guides, sometimes on ballots, and always with enough research, and will give you some insight into what persons or organizations are behind a political push. I also really highly recommend Politifact. The whole organization is devoted to objective fact-checking, and is one of the best places to research the whole story behind an issue or claim (you can also suggest a fact check if you can’t find it on their site).

The big message here is don’t believe everything you’re told. There is a lot of good in the world, but there is also a lot of untruth. Think about it and look into it before deciding what to believe or how to act. I also fully acknowledge that doing the things I suggested is a not insignificant thing in terms of time and effort, but I hope that at least some of these resources prove as helpful to you as they have to me.

If emerging adults in particular develop this skill for ourselves and begin to hold larger organizations more accountable, a lot of the problems we face today will begin to wane. No big question today, but I would love to hear feedback in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Also a huge thank you to one of my old bosses and mentors, Elizabeth Smith, for weighing in on this post with her considerable expertise and consistent patience. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

*As a disclaimer, I’m not here to push my political views, and I critique the opportunity for information abuse in those three areas as a journalist who is working at a marketing agency. This post aims to be as objective as possible, so that anyone reading can improve how they assess and interpret information, no matter your background or beliefs.


Experience for the inexperienced

Meeting the qualifications for a job isn’t easy. Being actually prepared for the job is even more difficult. And though I will admit that my experience is limited, I’ve found that the big long list people often cite of things that will prepare you for the working world can really be boiled down to a few major things.

So, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re lacking in experience or are just starting out in the emerging adult world, focus on these things:

Interning. Interning somewhere you love is great, but this is really about base experience. Get your foot in the door somewhere. First, future employers will see that you’ve at least put in some office time, or the equivalent for your field. Second, you get to know if you do or don’t like the type of work before you commit to an actual job. Third, you’ll just become more familiar with the working environment and hopefully feel a little less lost once you step into it permanently.

Of course, a part-time or full-time job is also great experience, but in a lot of fields that’s nearly impossible to get without internships. NOTE: This is not the case everywhere, but in lots of places there are legal requirements regarding compensation, usually meaning that if you aren’t being financially compensated you’re obligated to receive school credit. If whomever you’re interning for isn’t on board with either of those, it might be time to consider other options.

Group projects. I know you hate them. I do too. And there was a time when I was naïve enough to look forward to being done with school so that I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. The truth is the rest of your career will be, in some way or another, filled with group projects. In other words, learn how to handle them well. Also keep track of significant experiences in group projects as examples to give during interviews with potential employers.

I’m really fortunate in that my major in college provided a billion and one opportunities, including multiple classes where we had semester-long, large-scale projects. None of the direct results were groundbreaking (though one project did get published!), but the skills I got to hone in those projects have made me much better-equipped to handle myself now. So yeah, they suck, but they can actually pay off.

Hard skills. I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s great that you know stuff, but employers want to know that you can do stuff. I actually wish this is one that I had been more proactive about, because while I have some hard skills (particularly with Adobe CS), more computer skills (like HTML) would have qualified me for a wider range of positions. I made up for it a bit in this area by having very specific softer skills under my belt, like experience with writing/editing styles, certifications, and work samples — so it can also be worth looking for opportunities like that if they can apply to your field.

The good news is you can always learn hard skills, whereas the window of opportunity on interning and group projects is a bit more limited. But that doesn’t mean you should put it off until post-college or late in the game if you can help it. Find a basic coding class, or take a shop class that relates (even loosely) to what you want to do.

Be nice. This one feels obvious to the point of debating its inclusion, but it’s no joke. Being not only polite, but amiable and gracious, can do just as much to help you land a job as a lot of experience. And guess what? You can gain experience in that literally whenever, and it very well may set you apart from other applicants. Just remember, people hire people who they want to work with.

I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear what you’ve found served as the most valuable experience. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!


Long-distance life

As I mentioned in a previous post, my boyfriend and I did long distance for almost 4.5 years. Starting a couple of weeks ago, we semi-permanently live near each other for the first time since we started dating.

The very brief explanation is we were friends in high school, and got together a couple of weeks before leaving for college. The problem is those colleges happened to be 400 miles apart. We had no idea if it would work, but felt it was worth seeing if it was something we could handle. Lucky for us, we’ve managed to grow a relationship in spite of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that maintaining or growing any sort of relationship long-distance sucks.

I realize not everyone has been in or is in a long-distance romantic relationship, but nearly everyone has friends or family that are much further away than we’d like. So I’m going to do my best to take that into account throughout this post. I also have a special treat! My boyfriend, Parker, was kind enough to co-write this post with me so it isn’t limited to my perspective. Below are some questions, with each of our answers, regarding how we’ve learned to manage long-distance.

Did you think we had a good chance of making a long-distance relationship work when we first started out?

Parker: Yes.

Rachal: Care to elaborate?

Parker: From an objective perspective, we already had a long-standing friendship with good communication habits, we already texted regularly and made an effort to consistently reach out to one another. From a subjective perspective, we cared about each other quite a bit and are both the type of people that typically put in the effort to make difficult things work. And as people we were very similar and compatible, so if one of us was going to try and be committed, there was a good chance both of us would be, and that often lends itself to a successful relationship. So I thought we had a good chance of making it despite the distance.

Rachal: I hoped that we would, but as people who know me are well aware of, I don’t like to make bets on things that are not guarantees — as my boyfriend rolls his eyes and laughs. So I thought it was worth it enough that I wanted to try, and I had a lot of faith in us, particularly given that we had been such good friends for a fair amount of time, but admittedly I was a bit nervous that it might not work.

What have you found beneficial about long-distance?

Parker: [laughs] It forces you to become really good at the habits that often slip for people who aren’t long-distance, like communication and working out a schedule, because all you have is phone calls and Skype and the very occasional visit. If you have bad communication habits in long-distance, your relationship is going to fall apart, so long-distance really teaches you to form a good communication system with your partner, which then helps once long-distance is no longer a factor.

Rachal: I would definitely second that, and emphasize it more if possible. Because distance is difficult to deal with it can be weird to think about upsides, but in addition to that I would also say that it makes the time you do have in person feel way more valuable and special.

Parker: Took the words out of my mouth (again).

Rachal: It definitely makes it easier to not take each other for granted.

What sucked about long-distance that you didn’t expect (or was worse than you expected)?

Parker: Two things mainly. One, that it didn’t really get better over time. You would think that after doing long-distance for a while, you would start to get used to it and it wouldn’t feel as difficult. And there was some element of that, but there were certain things that got more difficult, like as you’re reaching the end of long-distance your patience with it grows shorter and shorter because you know it’s almost done. Second, even though our issues were relatively infrequent, when struggles did come up, it’s hard because you don’t have the ability to give little physical reassurances like holding someone’s hand or giving a hug. So it’s just words and voice, and there aren’t accompanying physical motions or actions that can give that reassurance that everything’s going to be okay even if it’s a rough patch.

Rachal: I think the first one that you mentioned is what stands out to me the most. Not that I ever specifically thought, “Oh, this is going to get easier,” but I definitely didn’t think it would get harder. So it was weird to be caught off guard after we had been together for a few years and, by all objective standards, had a grip on how to handle things, but from an emotional perspective, the distance took more of a toll than it had previously. I also agree with the second point, and would add that it was just really disappointing to not be able to share the little things as often — like pointing something you passed by or just the small things that are easy to share with someone who’s right next to you, but not necessarily significant enough to save for a nightly phone call.

How have you handled long-distance family relationships?

Parker: I called my parents once a week or more, occasionally spoke to grandparents, and tried to go to family gatherings and stuff like that.

Rachal: Since I have a few younger siblings, I try to keep in better touch with them through facetime or sending them cards on occasion, but for most other family it’s occasional phone calls and visiting when possible.

What about friendships?

Parker: I’ve kind of had mixed success handling long-distance friendships. Some people I’ve had a really good experience keeping up with online, and have a few friends that I’ve never met but have developed friendships with online. Some other personal friendships I haven’t had as much success with but try to text to check in and see how things are going and then try to make the effort to see when I’m in town and near them.

Rachal: I’m either really good at this, or really bad. There are some friends who I text or otherwise communicate with very frequently, and other friends who I am just really bad about keeping in touch with. Part of that is a time thing — there’s only time to stay really close with so many people — but part of it is just having not developed as strong of communication habits with some friends as with others.

What tools were the most helpful for dealing with long-distance?

Parker: Phone calls, text messaging, Skype/Google+. That’s pretty much it.

Rachal: I’m going get kind of communication meta here, because it’s me. Technology is obviously a huge thing — I genuinely don’t know how people did this before cell phones and texting.

Parker: Mail, dude.

Rachal: I know people who did it, but that would suck. Worse. But beyond just technology, the sort of shorthands that we developed for things were really helpful.

Parker: What do you mean by the shorthands?

Rachal: So like early on, we had a very specific conversation about what certain things meant if we texted them. If one of us texted “Okay :)” then everything was fine, but “Okay.” meant that we were upset about something. And we could always ask if we were confused about tone or if we needed to talk later, and things like that. Though it was maybe less of a tool, we also made sure to vary how we communicated. So we texted and did phone or video calls a ton, but once in a while I would send a letter, or you would have a particularly funny Snapchat video, or things like that.

How do you think it changed our relationship?

Parker: It’s almost impossible to answer, because we don’t have a frame of reference. In high school we were friends but we weren’t dating, so how it changed our relationship exactly is hard to say, because we don’t know what it would have been like if we hadn’t had to do long-distance. Long-distance made us learn each other very well, because we had to figure out how to sustain a relationship for 4.5 years, where all we would have were brief periods of time together. So we learned a lot about each other because we would talk a ton, and come up with little games to keep our talks fresh or interesting, so it wasn’t the same thing over and over of “How was your day? How was your day?” I do think it made our relationship a lot stronger in the sense of if we can make it through rough patches where we weren’t even near each other, then it made us more confident that we could sustain a relationship when we were actually together.

Rachal: I agree. I think it really forged and strengthened not only our communication, but our commitment. Because if we weren’t sure about this whole thing, then it would not be worth putting in the amount of effort that we did. And like I mentioned before, it made it easier to value our time and each other, because it was not only rare, but something that had to be worked harder for. I have no idea what it would have been like if we had started dating not long-distance, but despite the challenges, I’m very grateful for the way things have turned out.

What did the distance cost us?

Rachal: I’ll go first on this one. The first thing it cost us is time, which is a funny thing to say because we didn’t get to spend as much time together as would have been nice, but it was a lot of time planning or working to set aside specific windows for us to talk, so the combination of time and effort were significant. I think it also cost us a little bit of the spontaneity that’s fun, especially at the beginning of a relationship, because we had to plan, and you couldn’t just swing by my dorm room and say let’s go get pizza.

Parker: I agree. The only other thing that I’d add is that it cost us flexibility. We did have to be a bit flexible with how and when we talked, how long, and things like that — especially given college and the fluctuation in our workloads. But it did cost some inflexibility in our overall lives. We made an effort to have a phone call at minimum every single day, and at least once a week longer talks. So if friends wanted to go out and do something and we had scheduled time to talk, we’d sometimes have to say no because that was important to our relationship. But then also on breaks and holidays, it led to some inflexibility with schedules because we chose to prioritize our time together. We had to balance spending time with each other, and family, and friends we hadn’t seen in a long time, which led to some conflicts and difficulties. Time windows being so limited as far as what we could spend together made it difficult.

How did you go about balancing the priorities of our relationship vs. being independent, and how did distance play into that?

Parker: Not to sound like a broken record, but it does come back to the constant communication. We would talk about what was going on that night, if there was something we knew we wanted to do, and not only making sure the other person was aware, but we had a good system of making sure the other person was okay with it. If needed, we would make up for that time somewhere else. Then there were some set things, like on Friday nights when I would go hang out with friends and play video games and eat pizza, and we would be okay with a short phone call that day — especially if you also made your plans for that day. We were very deliberate in terms of not wanting to limit each other; we want each other to have our own lives and our own friends, but also devote the proper time to our relationships. And we were in near constant communication to try and achieve that balance to the best of our ability — we weren’t always perfect.

Rachal: Yeah, this is the part of our relationship where I feel like we have been really flexible. We both want the other person to have a social life apart from our relationship, so we made sure that we each got take time to spend with friends or even on our own while still maintaining our relationship as a priority.

How did our relationship change when we had stretches where we weren’t far away?

Parker: Scheduling became a lot more stressful because we really wanted to maximize our time together, but also had to balance friends, family, other stuff with spending time with each other. Sometimes life throws a curve ball and it would really eat away at our time, or one of us would have a certain expectation of how much time we would have, and significantly less than what we were anticipating would cause some tension and some stress between us. That’s the negative side of things. But for the positive, obviously we would get to be together. We could try new restaurants and make recipes we really like, and really focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company, laughs, smiles. Again, because the time was so valuable and so limited, we both loved spending every minute we could with each other.

Rachal: Yeah, it really depended on the stretch in my opinion. When we didn’t have a lot of other commitments, it was awesome because we actually got to be near each other and do all the things you mentioned. But when there were a bunch of other things we were also trying to do, or circumstances became challenging, then it could definitely be pretty stressful at times. But like you mentioned earlier, it was also easier to work through those tensions when we were in person.

What are your top three pieces of advice for people managing a long-distance relationship (romantic or otherwise)?

Parker: The biggest one, which feeds into everything else, would be to just work extremely hard on your communication. Don’t be afraid to ask almost oddly direct questions to your partner, because it’s more important to figure out what works and what doesn’t and why than it is to avoid asking a slightly awkward question. It makes everything easier if you’re both very clear and aware on what your position is and what your expectations are. Another, as much as it does have its drawbacks, is scheduling things out in advance. When we knew we were going to have time at home together, we’d plan what days we were going to hang out and what movies we’d watch, because even the planning process was fun for us. Of course, leaving some room for spontaneity can be fun as well. Lastly, just both people making the effort. Obviously, we all have bad days where we’re exhausted or overworked, or generally feeling off or cranky. But making the effort not to let those things seep into your relationship, and trying to do something special over the distance occasionally — whether it’s an extra long goodnight text or sending a letter or when they come to visit making a little surprise care package. Small things that are thoughtful can be really helpful. Even not letting yourself get bitter or going to bed angry with the other person; you and I used to have some pretty late talks to make sure we were okay with where things were at after a rough conversation or a rough night.

Rachal: Number one: COMMUNICATE. Please. Clearly. Ask obvious or weirdly direct questions, because the distance makes picking up on nuance more difficult, and there’s a smaller grace area for not communicating clearly. Second, just talk a lot. Be thoughtful and make the other person feel like a priority, even if that means more effort or time than would necessarily be convenient. It’s always worth it to make someone you care about feel valued. Last, I would say really make sure that effort and contributions feel equitable. Particularly with distance, it can be easy for that to start to feel out of whack, and few things damage a relationship quite the same.

I know that was quite a long post, but I hope that was informative or helpful in some way! Distance is a big hurdle in any type of relationship, and one that emerging adults often deal with to a greater degree than other age groups. A huge thanks to my boyfriend for contributing — and for dealing with me for all these years, even with all the miles often between us. What advice have you found most helpful for surviving long-distance relationships? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up!

(Photo credit goes to the ever-wonderful Megan T.)


So your commute is a prison sentence

As stated in my last post, I just moved. I also started my new job this week! Today is day 3 and I have been reminded in no uncertain terms that areas with lots of jobs and things to do also have lots of traffic.

My commute is honestly not too bad. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to work and about 35 to get back — but it would be 17 with no traffic. Yesterday after getting home I realized I needed to run to the ATM. Except that 3-mile roundtrip venture took 30 minutes. Needless to say, I have not been stoked with the traffic so far, and I’m really wishing my drive looked more like the picture above.

I’ve had commutes before (my last job was a 35-minute drive from my house), but I was lucky enough to be on the road at off-peak times. No longer. So for those who may also be subject to traffic or commutes (I realize many are longer than mine), there are things to help it suck less.

  • Jam out. My standby is to listen to one of the 15+ CDs I keep in my car, and sing along until I am no longer annoyed by all the brake lights in front of me.
  • Listen to something else. My mom really likes listening to audiobooks, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I really enjoy podcasts on longer drives.
  • Call somebody. This one isn’t always feasible, but if you have a friend or family member who you’re able to call while you drive, it will make the time go way faster. Plus then you’ve already caught up with them and there is less on your to-do list when you get home.
  • Think things through. I’m a hardcore planner, so I’m often thinking aloud about the upcoming week or what I need to do, but also sometimes I just play out hypothetical conversations (don’t pretend you never do).
  • Run errands. If you can stop somewhere on the way and let some of the traffic die down, it can be well worth it (as long as you’re not late to wherever you’re headed!).
  • Bring a treat. Having a favorite snack or drink — I tend to go for tea and pretzels — balances the scales a bit in terms of enjoyment and annoyance.
  • Research other routes. If your route has a ton of traffic, see if there are other paths that will let you skip some of it. A 2-minute difference might not be worth it, but a 10-minute one well could be.
  • Road rage doesn’t do anybody good. After living in LA for 4 years I am rather prone to snarky comments while driving, but I promise it’s still better to take it easy.

What is your favorite way to make commutes less bothersome? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! (Seriously, I could use more ideas.) Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


The big move

So there was no post on Wednesday because I moved! It’s been a long time coming and I’m (mostly) settled in now, which means a new chapter is starting that I’m very excited about. However, the process of moving is always, ahem, interesting.

Moving itself doesn’t scare me — I had moved more than 19 times before I graduated high school. All of that, plus moving most of my stuff twice a year during college, has made me kind of an expert. But this is the first time I have moved all of my stuff to a whole new region, several hours from where I’ve lived most of my life.

Luckily, I’ve been planning and prepping for a while. I started planning for moving out when I was 7 and put dibs on the plaid couch my parents wanted to get rid of (spot it in the picture above), and I haven’t really stopped. Of course, the last couple months have been the bulk of actually making it happen, as opposed to just daydreaming and reserving old furniture.

The good news is I know the area a little and I’ll be living with people who 1) I know, and 2) I like hanging out with. But it’s still real intimidating the first time you move out, or any time you move. To help me process it, and hopefully help someone else in the future, I’ve made a list of my favorite pieces of moving advice:

Plan, plan, and then have six backup plans. This is partly just my nature, but I want to know all my options, rank them in order of preference, and then have contingencies in case things go wrong. This could be in terms of where you live, who you live with, when you move, etc. For example, before this move, I had a list of housing options, rooming setups, and had at least three possible timelines for when all of that would go down.

Do the math. Aka know exactly how much you can afford, and how much you cost. This means household stuff, clothes, food, going out, saving, gas, insurance, phone, and the like need to be part of considering how much you have to spend; it’s not just rent and utilities. If you know how much you’ll be making, start subtracting. (I didn’t, so I did the math backward to figure out what my job needed to pay to make it work.)

On that note, rent isn’t the only thing you’re going to be paying. All places charge for rent and utilities, and no one lives without wifi these days. Make sure you know which utilities you’ll be responsible for (for example, my new place covers water, trash, and sewer, but my roommates and I are responsible for gas and electric). Many rentals — particularly apartment complexes — also charge for parking, pets, and laundry. Some places, mainly houses, have Homeowner’s Association fees, so be sure to be aware of that. And if you are renting, get renter’s insurance. Most places require it, but either way it’s usually an inexpensive way to cover yourself.

Weed out your crap as you pack. I have too much stuff, and I’m willing to bet most of you do too. It’s more to move, and more to unpack. Get rid of anything you don’t have a darn good use for or massive sentimental attachment to — your new living space will thank you. (Pro tip: You can do a second round of this as you unpack, but know that it’s usually less effective on this end.) As proof, I got rid of at least four trash bags full of stuff (some donated, some just trash) when packing, but so far in unpacking have only found four small items I want to ditch.

Ask people for empty boxes. I lucked out in that family and friends offered me a ton of boxes to pack, so I ended up not needing to buy any. But it’s an inexpensive way for a lot of people to pitch in, and then you can save money for bigger purchases.

Pack smart. In other words, organize it as you pack. Actually label things. Know where the most important things are (especially documents and electronics), and keep them safe throughout the process. Fun fact: During one move when I was little, I was instructed to put anything I really didn’t want to lose into one box, and then that box proceeded to be lost for more than 10 years. Don’t let that happen to you. If you have some stuff that is going to keep being stored when you get there, put it in a plastic tub instead of cardboard boxes. Wash all your bedding before so you can just make the bed when you arrive. Wrap breakable items in literally anything soft and then know which boxes to handle carefully. For this move I put the most delicate and important items in my car so they wouldn’t be at risk of damage or loss in the moving truck.

Coordinate supplies with roommates. If you’re moving in with people, talk ahead of time about who has what. Nobody needs three vacuums and two toaster ovens and four coffee tables. This can also be a good way to make sure you aren’t missing a couch for the first two months. My roommates and I had a Google spreadsheet to keep track of it, which was really helpful.

See if people you know are getting rid of furniture. Ikea is cheap, but friends are cheaper. Because my family is tolerant of my penchant for doing this, I moved out with a couch, dining room table and chairs, full dish set, armchair, bed, and a few small bookshelves. Roommates brought a coffee table, dvd player, more chairs, and some other things their families didn’t need anymore, and now we have almost everything we need.

Decorate slowly. Do not go out and blow your budget on decorating right after you move in. First, find a place for everything you have. If it really doesn’t go anywhere, consider getting rid of it. Then, buy anything you really need. For one of my roommates, this meant a bed. Since none of us brought a tv, we also made that an early purchase. But art and accessories should be added slowly, for the sake of your space and your budget. I will admit that I am bad at this, but it’s a reliable way to rein in the budget on what can be an expensive process.

I’m going to do my best to keep posting regular, and am very much looking forward to a new phase of emerging adulthood. If there are any topics that you want to see featured, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Setting goals you won’t hate yourself for

Happy New Year’s Eve! As much as I enjoy the holiday, and am grateful that I get to spend it with family and friends, there’s one part about it I really don’t care for: New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I’ve made one in years, because for me (and quite a lot of other people) it’s just a nice little goal that never gets fulfilled.

For me, that meant I simply stopped making resolutions. Instead, if there’s something in my life that I want to change, I change it as soon as I’m able. And then if I mess it up and stop following through, the easy excuse isn’t to wait until the next New Year. Amidst all the other changes this year, I didn’t have a ton of goals that I worked on, but starting to exercise consistently was one that I am really glad I’ve stuck with. At some point last year, I decided I wanted to go to more concerts, and I ended up going to seven in less than a year.

If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, more power to you. There’s no reason to knock them if you can keep them. But there are also other ways to approach goal-setting. So if you’re iffy on making a resolution this year, but have something you want to change, these are some of the tips I’ve found most useful:

  • Have multiple reasons to motivate you. When I started exercising consistently, the main motivation was to reduce my asthma symptoms. But the additional benefits are getting in shape and building strength; so when one of those reasons doesn’t feel like enough, the other gets me to put my shoes on and get going.
  • If you slip up, that isn’t the end. I haven’t exercised the last two weeks (oops), but the first week I was traveling, and last week I was both working long hours and sick. This week, I’m going to pick it back up and keep going. As much as it’s a bit of a bummer, breaking a streak doesn’t mean your goal is out the window.
  • Goals that stretch you are good, but don’t set ones you can’t reach. Because goals are centered on change, they should push you a bit outside your comfort zone. But if you set goals that are too lofty, you won’t reach them, and then it will be harder to stick with a new goal.
  • If a goal isn’t working, adjust it. If you set a goal and find that it was too much or something doesn’t fit well with your schedule or needs, don’t feel bad changing the goal. It needs to be something that can reasonably work for you. (Note: This should not become an excuse to adjust because you haven’t kept up; make changes for circumstances, not laziness.)
  • On that note, you can always move the finish line. If you set a goal and reach it, or are making progress more quickly than you had anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your goal to something bigger. Maybe it takes you longer to reach your new goal, but earning a new goal is an accomplishment to be proud of.
  • Set rewards for reaching (or even sticking with) a goal. If your goal is to eat healthier, maybe set up a small treat for the end of every week or two that you keep with it. The treat also doesn’t have to be relief from the goal — if you’re eating healthier, your treat can be dessert or it can be taking yourself to a movie.

Because I’ve got so many changes coming up, I’m not sure I’ll be setting new goals for a little while, but I’m excited to keep pushing toward progress on the goals I have set. How do you keep up with goals? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and have a happy New Year!



As mentioned in my post last week, I’ve got some pretty big changes coming up. And as much as I am looking forward to all the new things, moving on is not something I’m great at. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a deeply sentimental person, and the last stretch of anything — but especially a significant phase in life — always sneaks up on me.

Despite getting me every time, it’s a familiar feeling. It was the same feeling when I moved out of the house I’d spend the first 10 years of my life in, when I graduated high school and college, at the end of stretches of time spent with loved ones or traveling in new places. There’s a pre-separation missing that sets in, along with a nostalgia-like film over every sight, sound, and action.

For better or worse, emerging adulthood is a stage that’s full of changes. Moving out, going to college, getting a job, becoming financially independent, developing a serious relationship or starting a family. I have several friends who are living, at least for a while, in other countries. Several friends will be getting married in the near future. And as exciting as all of those changes can be, they’re also weird and often intimidating. They’re things we can never be fully prepared for (although being at least slightly prepared is advisable).

So even though change is a constant, I never quite get used to it. Two weeks from now my whole setting and day-to-day routine will be different. Though I will still care for and talk with all the same people, some will be closer and some will be further. And I’m trying to take in the last bit of this life stage with not just open eyes, but open hands, so that I don’t hold too tightly.

I’m realizing that I just spent my last Christmas living at home, and this is the last week of my current job and soon it will be the last time for at least a while that I live less than 20 minutes from my best friend. A little over a week from now will be the last time I get to walk my brother to school for a while. I’m on the last few pages of a journal I’ve spent the last 5 years filling up. I’m busy trying to squeeze in last visits with friends and family and last trips to favorite local places.

On the flipside, there are a lot of firsts coming up that I remain excited for. And in the midst of all the bittersweetness, there are things to be done like packing up all my junk. Life really doesn’t stop for anybody. But I am hoping that as bummed as I am to be leaving some things behind, the path ahead feels like the right adventure. And I hope that, if you’re reading this, your path feels like the right adventure for you.

Leaving behind the lasts for a moment, I would love to hear what your favorite first has been in your journey so far. If you’re willing to share, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and happy adventuring!


Thanks, Mom (tips I never would have known)

Because it’s Christmas Eve and I am both jet-lagged and sick, today’s post is a little late and a little shorter than usual. But tomorrow is my mom’s birthday, and over the years I have been compiling an odds and ends list of random tips she’s given that you don’t know you need until you need it*. I’ve put them in loose stage-in-life order, and hopefully it proves useful:

  • With your first apartment, buy a small toolbox — you should be able to hang pictures and build Ikea or Target furniture on your own
  • If you’re ever driving really late, don’t be in the fast lane; it puts you at more risk of getting hit by flip-over accidents or wrong-way drivers
  • Baking soda in your fridge will help keep it from smelling
  • For kitchen dishtowels, bar mops and flour sack cloths work best — plus they’re cheap and don’t go out of style in 5 minutes
  • If you wipe a counter, dry it. It makes it look cleaner and then people won’t accidentally put stuff on a wet counter
  • Zout. Aka the best stain remover to as of yet be created by man
  • If you sprinkle baby powder on stains (especially oily ones), they’ll also come out better in the wash
  • In a pinch, salt and dish soap will also combat stains right after you spill something
  • Lemon juice will get rid of armpit marks on clothes
  • Don’t cook without clothes on. It might seem cute, but burns from grease/oil/other are not
  • If the smoke alarm goes off in your home and there’s no danger, stick it in the freezer to shut it up faster
  • Every girl needs a good tote for work — for you lunch, extra shoes, files, whatever
  • If you’re going to get your hair done before a big event (as in cut or dyed more than styled), leave enough time between the appointment and event to fix it in case you hate it
  • Put a Pyrex 9×13 with a lid and insulated carrying bag on your wedding registry
  • Around the time your kids go to kindergarten, buy or ask for a cupcake carrier if you don’t already have one

What are some of the best random tips other people have given you? Feel free to share in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and have a happy Christmas and holiday season!

*For the record, my other three parents also give really good tips, this list was just ready first. But I appreciate all of them dealing with my questions and the many times I need help.


Ghosting is not professional

As a heads up, this one is a bit of a rant, but also a really important lesson. For anyone who doesn’t know what ghosting is, it’s when someone cuts off communication and/or avoids you for unspecified reasons. It leaves the person on the receiving end with a lot of questions and no closure, and is usually seen in the dating world. But, unfortunately, it’s also far too common in the professional world.

Like most people getting started in the workforce, I applied for a lot of jobs. Of the 61 I applied to, I never heard back from 46 of them. To be fair, a small portion of those sent automated emails that said they would only reach out if they were interested, which in a busy world I consider perfectly acceptable. But the majority of those just never responded at all, and frankly it’s a huge pet peeve.

I once got denied in less than 30 minutes for an application I submitted at midnight on a Friday. As much as getting shut down quite so promptly kind of sucked, it felt nice to at least have an answer.

A few of the companies I interviewed with simply never got back to me after I came in for an interview. I was able to follow up with some of them, and at least received an answer that way. One company offered me a position and then fell off the map, despite me calling and emailing (the good news is I wasn’t eager about that job anyway).

To be fair, this isn’t a one-way issue. I have seen and heard about candidates never getting back to potential employers, and it is not a good look. Don’t be that guy.

Of course, this isn’t just an emerging adult issue. People of all ages are both guilty of it and harmed by it. So here’s the moral of the story: If you’re applying for jobs, or dealing with any kind of meeting/appointment/interview, RESPOND. If someone calls or emails you, get back to them at the earliest reasonable opportunity. If you’re waiting on something, even let them know that so you’re at least maintaining communication. If you’re on the hiring end of this type of situation, REACH OUT. A polite copy-paste email telling someone “thanks, but no thanks” takes so little time, and leaves the person on the other end with a much better impression.

If you’ve been communication with someone from either end of this and it’s been a while since they responded to you, follow up. My usual policy is at least two emails and a phone call before I give up, though circumstances differ.

It takes effort but is so much more kind and professional to let someone know that you want to pass on an opportunity or cancel a meeting, rather than have them wondering what went wrong. I also usually end my emails with “I look forward to hearing from you!” as a hint that I’ll be waiting on a response.

What small things have you experienced that convey professionalism? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Raining and pouring and such

It has been a very, very big week for me. In the last 7 days: I signed a lease for an apartment, interviewed for and accepted a job I’m actually excited about, and my boyfriend and I are no longer long distance after almost 4.5 years. On top of that, I got to see The Last Jedi on opening night, got a cold, and flew across the country to visit family for a week. So you could say it’s been busy. And while “when it rains, it pours” is a tired cliché, it’s remarkably accurate.

All of the things that have happened in the last week (except for the cold) have been good, but I am definitely still processing all the news. It’s been super surreal, and I have gotten way less sleep than would be recommended — part of the reason for the cold, I’m sure — but overall I’m stoked for the opportunities.

This means that very shortly I’ll be exiting the lives-with-parents-and-works-part-time phase, and entering the independent-and-maybe-bumbling-young-professional phase. Still emerging adulthood, just a new chapter.

This does not mean I have it more figured out, or that I even feel like I’ve got a better grip. (As proof, I got chocolate on my shirt and cream cheese on my pants during my time spent traveling yesterday.) But it does mean I’ll hopefully have some more helpful info to share for the situations that come at this stage.

Of course it looks different for everyone, but as a start, I thought I’d share some of the stats on what it took me to get to this point:

  • 61 job applications over the course of more than 10 months. Applications started out fairly slow because I was purposely biding my time, but 24 were within the last month. Of those 61 applications, I got 9 interviews and 2 offers. That’s about a 15% success rate for getting an interview, and 3% for getting a job offer, or 1 in 7 and 1 in 30, respectively
  • Lots of part-time and piecemeal work. The numbers above don’t count my part-time job as a nanny, freelance work I did, or housesitting and babysitting a few times a month, all within the last 6 months
  • 5 rental spaces toured (having looked at probably 3 times that many online, and I had appointments to tour 2 more when the application was approved for the place I’ll be moving into)
  • 4.5 years of long distance. It’s not a stat, I’m just glad it’s over — and will be putting up a post on how to survive all sorts of long-distance relationships soon!
  • 4 years of college, and 6+ years of experience in my field at 4 different organizations (at one of which I held 5 different positions), plus freelance work
  • About 6 months of saving money to try to have a good financial cushion for moving out
  • Almost 22 years of learning not to give up, and countless people who had my back and helped teach me along the way

There were lots of days when I didn’t think things would work out, or that I might be accidentally going down the wrong path. There were also several times when other people believed I was making the wrong decision despite their well-grounded concerns, and it took time to see how it would play out.

Even still, it’s worth noting that I’m really lucky. The job offer rate I mentioned is just slightly better than what it’s been for most of my friends, I got to not only go to college but graduated in 4 years without significant financial burden, my parents let me live at home rent-free for 8 months after graduating college, I get to splitting living costs with good friends, and landed a well-paying job in my field. I also owe a huge thanks to the people who supported me on the way, so if you’re reading this, thank you.

This is all much more perfect than I had dared to dream possible, let alone anticipate. I know a lot of other people aren’t so fortunate, and want to recognize that just because your path looks different or has had more uphill battles doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong one. But I do hope that wherever you’re at, you’re able to find some contentment both now and in the next steps.

If there’s something you’d like to see more of on the blog in the coming months, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo credit goes to my incredibly talented friend Vin.)


Boring adult stuff (that’s actually good to do)

Today we are back to the practical. Sometimes adulting isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s being your own inner parent and doing all the responsible stuff. It has occurred to me that a lot of emerging adults — myself definitely included — are still skill-building in that area.

I’m not talking crap; we’re all still learning, and I know a lot of established adults that don’t know how to do or don’t make a habit of all the things we’re going to talk about. Last disclaimer: This isn’t a comprehensive list. But it’s a big first step.


  • Make a budget and track your spending
  • Save donation receipts (and any other relevant crap) for taxes. Here’s a list of what some of that crap might be:
    • Donation receipts
    • Pay stubs
    • W-2, W-4, W-9, or any other government income forms that apply to you
    • Receipts or record of other tax deductible items
    • School-related financial info
  • On that note, file your financial junk/important docs for when you need it, especially your birth certificate and social security card
  • Build up an emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses)
  • Research investing/retirement saving (and then start doing it as soon as you can which means take up any employer matches asap). Talk to people at various ages to get a solid range of advice
  • Pay for/renew stuff slightly early whenever possible

Home Ec

  • Cook some decent stuff. This means actual recipes, and quick fixes like making a simple roux (for which I honestly just make a paste of flour and a little water to thicken sauces, or cornstarch if you don’t want to use flour).
  • Clean the bathroom and the kitchen WELL
  • Make a bed properly
  • Do your laundry properly
  • Iron a shirt
  • Sew a button
  • Buy a good vacuum. Seriously
  • You don’t have to buy name brand everything, but some of them are worth it — like stain cleaner (Tide, Oxi-Clean, Zout)


  • Be able to check your oil and fill your tires on your own
  • Take your car in for basic maintenance (oil change, tires rotated, etc.). There are almost always coupons for these services so be sure to look/ask
  • Hang a picture straight
  • Know where important house stuff is (fire extinguisher, electrical panel, fuse box, hot water heater, etc.)
  • Build Ikea furniture — this is as much about following instructions as handyman skills
  • Have a freaking tool box: hammer, small rubber mallet, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, measuring tape, level. Buy them just before Father’s Day or Black Friday to get good deals on quality ones — this would be a cool thing to ask your dad/parent to help you with for bonding

Get *cultured*

  • Learn to ask good questions about people, current events, etc.
  • Learn tricks to remember people’s names in a conversation
  • Media freakin’ literacy
  • Read actual books
  • Buy a decent bottle of wine (especially if it’s a gift)
  • Do not tip your server less than 15% at a restaurant. Servers are often paid less because of tips, so they rely on them to make a living wage. Typing your bill total x 0.15 in your calculator will tell you the correct amount to tip


  • Know your/your family’s medical history
  • Handle your healthcare
    • Dentist every 6 months
    • Optometrist every 2-3 years if you don’t need glasses, 1-2 times per year if you do
    • Primary care doctor every 2-3 years if you’re healthy
    • OB/GYN every 2-3 years
    • Also, TELL YOUR DOCTORS THE TRUTH. They’re not gonna judge, and they can’t help you if they don’t have all the info
  • Register to vote PLEASE
  • Be an actually informed voter! This means reading your voter information guides (often on state, county, or city websites), researching propositions and candidates, looking at arguments from both sides, and looking at who is funding a campaign — especially the last one can often give a clue as to the intentions of a measure or candidate
  • Update your vehicle insurance and actually put it in your car
  • Figure out how different forms of insurance work. (At least kinda — I’ll have some more info on this one coming later.) Here are some of the most common types:
    • Health
    • Dental
    • Vision
    • Life
    • Renter’s/homeowner’s
    • Car or other vehicle

I realize several portions of this post were U.S.-centric, so I apologize if any of the info was less helpful to readers who don’t live in the States. If there are any of these that were vague, ones you’d like to hear more about, or ones that I missed, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


The mirror is a double-edged sword

This isn’t the post I wanted to write this week. I have wanted to write about it for some time, but didn’t feel ready to do so. I still don’t. But unfortunately, that’s the point. Most people struggle with body image to some extent, regardless of age, gender, or even what you actually look like. It’s a common insecurity, and certainly not one I’m immune to.

Other than the occasional frizzy hair comment, I never got picked on in school for how I looked. Unfortunately, a lot of other people I know have head to deal with that. For the record, bullying for any reason is cruel and harmful and shouldn’t be tolerated — if you see it happening, please do the right thing and speak up.

That said, for most of us no one has to directly say anything for us to be self-conscious about our appearance. It’s all around us in Hollywood and advertisements and the usual culprits. But sometimes it’s even more inescapable. In college, I basically lived in a sunny little bubble where at least 3 out of every 4 people look like they could be a model (and at least 1 in 15 actually is). By my junior year, I noticed that it had started to wear on my self-image and confidence pretty significantly.

I’m the kind of person who really likes the word “moderate” when it comes to diet and exercise, so that I can enjoy myself while also taking decent care of my body. This means I don’t have dessert every day, but when I do, I have whatever I want. It means not killing myself with an exercise routine I can’t maintain, but making sure I do exercise somewhat frequently.

But at least for me, that isn’t always enough. I might feel good or at least decent about the way I live my life, but that doesn’t always correlate to being happy with my appearance. I’ve struggled with acne pretty significantly since middle school and now actually have a prescription for it (this week my skin still isn’t behaving). I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I like certain aspects of how I look, but am annoyed or embarrassed by others.

And that sucks. I hate noticing flaws in the mirror and hate every time I wish something about me was different, like my torso being better proportioned to my legs, or not having flat feet, or my many scars and constant bruises. To some extent, that’s just how it goes. But lately it’s been easier to nitpick than I am comfortable with.

I absolutely do not say all of this for a pity party or to fish for compliments — I say it because I’ve only found two things that help and I’m hoping they can help someone else.

The first is taking care of your body. Eating well (at least most of the time), exercising semi-regularly, and doing things like conditioning your hair and washing your face really do matter.

The second takes a different approach, and actually works at breaking the build-up of negative body image. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative, follow the thought up with things you like about your appearance. Maybe it’s just one thing, or three, or five. But being nice to yourself makes a difference, and weakens the critiques. When I noticed the dip in my self-image junior year of college, I would stand in front of the mirror at least once a day and point out three different things I liked, like my eyes or my shoulders whatever. And as silly as it sometimes felt, it helped.

Ultimately, it’s your body and it’s super awesome that it, you know, keeps you alive. So find a few ways to appreciate it. What tips have you found most helpful with managing body image? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and trust me that you look stellar today.

(Photo credit goes to my best friend Megan T.)


Yeah I’m afraid. So what?

Everybody’s afraid of something. More accurately, everybody’s afraid of quite a few things. Some of those are obvious survival instincts, such as startling when something flies toward you or extreme heights making you nervous. Some of them are understandable even if usually unnecessary, like how I’m afraid of spiders. But sometimes we’re afraid of things because they feel threatening in non-physical ways, like public speaking.

Being afraid, in itself, isn’t bad. It’s actually a fairly neutral skill, like color vision. It helps us navigate the world around us a little more carefully, and often keeps us safe. Not being afraid of anything would be wildly unhealthy. Of course, it’s also unhealthy to let oneself be ruled by fear, or to allow a fear to escalate to the point of being debilitating.

The fact is a lot of aspects of growing up and taking on adult life are intimidating. Buying a car, going to college (let alone paying for it), dating, getting a job, renting or buying a home, trying to figure out finances. Most of that stuff isn’t taught very clearly, and most of us end up feeling like we got thrown into the deep end.

Myself, as well as many other emerging adults I know, often feel a pressure to act like we’ve got it all together and aren’t fazed by anything when in fact we’re terrified.

So let me be honest: All of this stuff freaks me out. The amount of things that need to be handled, the sheer lack of instructions and prior experience, the variance in each option and potential path, and the significance a lot of these decisions carry has got me all wound up. And I’m really tired of pretending that I’ve got a solid handle on this when, at best, I’m just handling it.

The good news about confidence is that faking it really does help boost how you feel. But it can also be exhausting, and creates a harmful cycle of false impressions where all of us emerging adults feel behind the curve from our peers who look and act like they’ve got it together, so then we act like we do too, but really they’re also just pretending. Most days I’m just trying to manage one thing at a time, and often figuring out what that looks like on the fly.

Being afraid doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The important thing is to keep going and learning and trying in spite of the fear. And hopefully in time, the stuff that freaks you out now will seem less intimidating, so you’re a little extra prepared when new challenges inevitably rise up.

What helps you move forward even when you’re afraid? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Advice isn’t one size fits all

As a warning, this might be a touchy one for some people. But it’s worth finding the balance between gentle and direct. You are under no obligation to follow advice from anyone.

The person giving advice might be close to you, or they might be a complete stranger. They might have offered it unsolicited, or at your request. They might understand your situation well, or they might not (I mention this separately because someone being close to you does not automatically mean that they get it).

I have a lot of people who care about me, and nearly all of them have an opinion on the best way for me to handle things. In a lot of ways, that’s awesome and I feel super lucky. But it can also be overwhelming when everyone’s got something to say and I’m just trying to navigate the waters.

Emerging adulthood is also a time when advice is both annoyingly absent (there’s no instruction manual for this stuff, and my mom won’t tell me what I should do anymore), and annoyingly ever-present (everyone seems to have an opinion about all of your major or even minor life decisions).

So here’s my rule of thumb when it comes to receiving advice: Always listen, do not always follow. Even if absolutely no part of you wants to listen to what this person has to say, it’s 1) polite to at least listen, and 2) might hold a little nugget that actually proves helpful in moving forward. So, no matter what, listen.

Once you’ve listened, then it’s up to you to figure out what, if any, of the person’s advice is applicable to your situation. There are, of course, some clues that their perspective might be particularly valuable to you:

  • If they’ve given you good advice in the past
  • If they’ve been through a very similar version of what you’re going through
  • If they know you well and you have a solid level of trust
  • If they asked before giving you advice

The first three might seem fairly obvious, but the last one is an indicator that the person is trying to prioritize what you need over what they think. It’s not a must — I’ve gotten great advice that I didn’t ask for — but it does speak well in terms of the person really caring about what’s best for you.

Of course, in the past there have been people who met most or all of these criteria whose advice still didn’t feel right for the situation, and I ended up not taking. So long as you’re not taking someone’s advice because you believe another option would be a better decision (rather than just out of spite), you don’t have to feel guilty about making your own call. At the end of the day, advice is just advice.

If you’re on the giving end of advice, the biggest thing to remember that the person you are giving said advice to is not you. They have a different background, personality, situation, and future than you do, and no matter how well you know them you don’t know every detail of their life. Even the best-intentioned advice may miss the mark. And, even if you meet all of those criteria I mentioned above, the person may still not take your advice. At the end of the day, that’s their decision and — again, unless it was done out of spite — not something worth being butthurt about. (Yes I just said butthurt, and it might be juvenile, but it’s a very accurate word in this instance.)

Advice is tricky: Sometimes it’s perfect, and sometimes it has to be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes it doesn’t become valuable until way later down the road. But whether or not it ought to be followed in any given moment, it should nearly always be listened to, just in case. Also, I realize that everything I just said is, technically, unsolicited advice, so take it as you will. But frankly this is not something that’s ever going to go away, and at many life stages will only increase. So hopefully it proves helpful in some way.

What pieces of advice have been most helpful in your life? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.


Exercise, for real

Anybody who knows me knows that I don’t enjoy exercising. Like, at all. I like playing some sports (tennis, soccer, etc.) but am rarely very competitive. I like swimming and to some extent running, but get tired easily. And I hate going to the gym. To boot, I have asthma and haven’t worked out consistently since my sophomore year of high school, so I’m far from in shape. All of this is to say I’m definitely not the poster child for promoting an exercise routine.

But it is super important to exercise at least semi-regularly. When I still had PE five days a week in high school, I cut my mile time by almost 3 minutes over the span of a few months. I played tennis once a week for almost half of college, and even tried surfing for a semester (it’s brutally hard, but also the best back workout you will literally ever get). All of it kind of fell by the wayside when I graduated.

I posted a while back about facing weaknesses and mentioned that I’d given myself a significant asthma attack after running through the airport to catch a flight. For me, that was kind of the tipping point. For exercise-induced asthma, you can build up a tolerance in your body through consistent workouts and basically make it so your lungs don’t freak out as easily. I was tired of my lungs underperforming, and knew that exercise was the only solution.

I committed to working out twice a week, and knew I’d have to be okay with starting small. Right now, I stretch, run a loop in my neighborhood that’s roughly 3/4 mile, walk for a few minutes, stretch again (and use my inhaler if I need it), then do a little workout circuit that consists of 20 sit-ups, 40 seconds of planking, and 10 push-ups for as many rounds as I can.

It’s not much. And I’m actually not gonna tell you how to make your own workout plan because my friend Melina already made a killer post about that on her own blog. But taking care of your body is part of being an adult. I want mine to last for a long time, and I don’t want to come up short in small challenges, like a good point in tennis or running to catch a flight.

But exercise isn’t just about being physically healthy or building strength. Consistent exercise (even if it’s small amounts) can help you sleep better, boost your mood and benefit mental health, and makes your body better equipped to handle the crap that life will inevitably throw at you — especially stress.

Obviously, a ton of us are super busy and it can be difficult to fit exercise into that. If it’s a priority for you, make it work. But also don’t expect something you know isn’t realistic. That’s why I committed to only two days a week. They can be any two days as long as there’s a rest day in-between, and yes I did take last week off between an unusual work schedule and thanksgiving. I didn’t want to get back into the routine this week. But I care about the goal, so I’m following through.

Different setups work for different people, and it’s important to find what works for you so you’ll stick with it. Maybe that means cardio, or sports, or hitting the gym with a friend. Maybe it just means really intense yoga. Whatever it ends up being, your not-even-old-yet body will probably thank you, as will your older self. What exercise tips have you found most helpful? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Gifting season

Thanksgiving is now over, and Christmas season has begun — and unless you are way more proactive than most of us, that probably means you have some shopping (or making) to do. Some people are really easy to come up with gift ideas for, and some people, well, aren’t.

For the record, I do not have the gifting thing all figured out. There are a minimum of 10 people I get gifts for every year (this year will be 12 or 13), and every year someone’s gets left until the last minute. But between a big family and a lot of years of trying different things, I’ve come across a few tricks to make picking out presents easier.

For your sake, set a budget. Usually I set a rough budget for each person’s gift because otherwise I’ll struggle to cap my spending. This year, I’m trying something a bit different and setting an overall budget; this makes individual gifts more flexible, but keeps little bits of overspending from accumulating. (I usually keep it between $15 and $30 per person, but sometimes a particular gift demands more.)

Keep a list of gift ideas going. If you see something a few months early that’s perfect, get it. But if you’re in the car and they happen to mention needing or wanting something, or you just think of something great, write it down and go back to that list for later. There are a few people for whom I have a running list of ideas and when present time comes up, I just choose an item or two that feel most fitting.

Ask people what they want. For some people this effort will be fruitless (you know who you are), but a lot of people will actually give you an idea or two. And even if you can’t make the ideas they offer happen, it can spark another idea.

If people tell you specifically what they want, be sure to get that exactly. For example, my best friend is insanely helpful and because she knows I can struggle with gift ideas, will mention something she wants and where to get it, and usually sends out an organized, itemized, hyperlinked interactive PDF of her Christmas wishlist to the people who ask her for ideas. Then it’s exactly what she wants, and there’s no awkward waiting in the return line.

Go practical. Last Christmas, my mom and I were shopping for my boyfriend and we got him a couple of nice dress shirts and new ties since job interview season would be coming up fast. It’s not super exciting, but it’s useful, and something that is inconvenient to buy for oneself.

If you’re buying clothes, double check size and include a gift receipt. I know what size most of my immediate family and close friends are, but will check similar clothes in their closet (that I know they wear) for sizes if I’m in doubt.

If you don’t know them super well, food or movies. Movie theater certificates or semi-universal treat baskets (Trader Joe’s is my favorite place to put them together) are perfect and not expensive ways to get gifts for people you aren’t quite sure how to shop for but do want to gift something enjoyable to.

If they don’t need stuff, go for experiences. I’ve used this one a fair amount with people, and we’ll do dinner and a movie or a day trip to a place they really love. Then you get to spend time together and they don’t have any more stuff they don’t need.

If you’ve got a big category of people, do a category of gifts. When I was younger I would pick one craft and make a bunch for all of my grandparents every year (I grew up with at least 10 at any given time). One year it was framed prints of different photographs I had taken, one year it was super cute Christmas cookies. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but the fact that you made it helps it feel less generic even if you made a bunch.

Go splitsies. Sometimes there’s something I want to get for someone that’s out of my budget, so I’ll ask a mutual friend or family member if they want to split the gift with me. Especially since as an adult you’re responsible for more and more funding on your own, joint gifts can be super helpful.

If you suck at this, slow and steady. I am very slow to come up with gift ideas and get stressed if it’s left til the eleventh hour, so I start at least planning Christmas gifts a couple months early. This year I’m a little behind — which means one person is totally handled and three people are partly handled — but I’ll have more time than usual in December to shop, so I’m not too stressed.

I know that was a lot, but hopefully it’s helpful in the coming weeks of holiday prep. What have you found most helpful when getting presents for people? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! (I’m actually super interested, because I’m gonna need ideas.) As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Killing the interview

Today’s post is coming to you a little early because later today I will be at a job interview (scary, right?). I am excited and nervous, and it’s much too early to discuss details, but as I was prepping for today, this seemed like a good time to post about some interview tips.

Of course, a lot of the things I’m going to mention are not new, but they are incredibly important. This list is not comprehensive, and there are other useful tips, but these are the ones that have made the biggest difference for me personally.

DO YOUR RESEARCH. Please, please do not go into an interview without having researched the company and the position you are interviewing for. It shows. At the very least, read through the entire (and yes, I do mean entire) company website, as well as studying the job posting. Other good sources include checking out the company on Glassdoor, googling their work, hiring practices, and even interview questions.

DRESS BETTER THAN YOU THINK YOU SHOULD. That means business professional, unless very specifically directed otherwise. As my mom puts it, dress for the boss’s job. Also be sure that your outfit isn’t terribly uncomfortable, so that you’ll be less likely to fidget while you’re interviewing. Finally, iron your clothes. Wrinkles impress no one, and you want the focus to be one what you’re saying, not what you’re wearing.

BE PRACTICAL. This means bring a physical copy of your resume, a pen and paper, put your phone on silent from before you walk in the building, and arrive early. Also, research parking ahead of time — you do not want that to be the thing that hinders you before such an important moment. Fun fact: I once forgot to put on deodorant before an interview, but had planned for enough time beforehand that I could stop at the store and buy a new stick. Allotting extra time matters.

BE NICE. You’re nervous, obviously. But use those nerves to be even kinder to everyone you come in contact with from the time you walk up to the building to the time you leave. Remember names, smile and say thank you, and be gracious. It makes a far bigger impact than you know. (Pro tip: Sending a thank you card or email after an interview is also a great way to follow up and make a good impression.)

BE CONFIDENT. This is the one I’m the least comfortable with, and (in my opinion) the least skilled with, but it’s so important. Good posture, smiling, a firm handshake, and eye contact work wonders. It doesn’t matter if you are nervous as hell and you don’t think for a moment that you can pull it off. This is the the time to lie — to yourself, the interviewers, everybody. Psychologically, pretending to be confident will actually make you more confident, so fake it ’til you make it.

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EMPHASIZING AND EMBELLISHING. Don’t lie on your resume, or in your interview. Do talk about anything you have done or have skills in that is applicable to the position. If you can’t do something, say that — then add that you’re quick to learn and eager for the opportunity. But if you used that skill in your sophomore year of college internship, then by all means point it out.

BE YOURSELF, JUST GO EASY ON THE JOKES. Most of us have a tendency to be awkward or make weird jokes when we’re nervous — don’t. Instead of channeling your inner Chandler Bing, treat it like Christmas dinner with your significant other’s family: Be yourself, laugh when it’s appropriate, but make sure to be extra mindful of your manners. And if you’re stumped by a question or need a moment, take a moment; better to answer well and more slowly than to rush and botch it.

ASK BACK. Make sure that you have a few questions to ask at the end of the interview. Good standbys are: asking about company culture/core values (especially if you cite them and ask how they play out), the interviewer’s favorite part of working at the company, upward mobility and opportunities to grow, the training process if applicable, and — always last — what the next steps are.

RELAX. I also really suck at this one, but try not to stake your whole future and hope on it. For me, I try to tell myself that if it works out, great, and if not, then it was quality practice for whatever time in the future things do work out. It doesn’t take all the nerves away, but it helps. This may also mean having a drink or a night off ready for afterward.

FINALLY, PRACTICE. Practice interview questions (and more importantly, your responses) with a friend or family member before your interview. You don’t have to stick to a script, but you should have anecdotes that answer a variety of questions and key words in mind for what you want to say when you’re in the room.

Job searching an interviewing can be a grueling process, but eventually it pays off (at least that’s what I tell myself). Progress means risk. At the risk of being incredibly cheesy, ad astra per aspera. Through adversity to the stars.

I hope these interview tips were helpful, and would love to hear what job interview advice you’ve found most helpful. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Recipes: Crepes

I know the holidays are coming up and most people are trying to find places to cut calories, but let’s just say that’s not my life. So I’m bringing y’all a recipe that I wanted to learn how to make for a long time, and spent *several* Saturdays (often with help) hammering out the recipe.

The goal was the intersection of delicious and simple because I like to eat but I do not often want my food (especially breakfast food) to be particularly high effort. It feels fancy without actually being hard to pull off.

The majority of this recipe will be spent on the crepes themselves, but I’ll have a small section toward the end about fillings/toppings. Also, as a disclaimer, I make small crepes because I am not an Advanced Crepe CookTM and for the same reason usually top them instead of filling them. It’s less legit, but no less delicious.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 tbsp. butter, melted



  1. Combine ingredients (order doesn’t matter much, but it needs to be blended well — I use a large fork because the contents can get stuck inside of a whisk, but you can also use an electric mixer). If you’re not sure if it’s combined enough, it should have no chunks and a consistency slightly thicker than eggnog
  2. NOTE: So far every time I’ve made this the butter has shown up as little flecks in the batter, perhaps because of something in the way I melt it. It looks weird, but doesn’t affect the cooking or flavor
  3. Warm a good nonstick pan over about medium heat (depending on the stove), and lightly grease it. A little butter swirled around works best
  4. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into the pan, and swirl the pan around to encourage the batter to spreadIMG_4674.JPG
  5. Let it cook until your spatula slides in easily underneath, or the whole crepe moves when you shake the pan (usually 3ish minutes on my stove)
  6. Here’s the fun part. CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: To fill the crepe, proceed to step 7. To finish the crepe without filling (toppings can still be added), proceed to step 8.
  7. Add filling into the middle third of the crepe when it’s cooked for a couple of minutes. Allow it to cook a little longer, then fold the other sides over it, and voilá!
  8. Flip the crepe over — brownie points if you can do it without a spatula (I can’t)
  9. Allow it to cook about a minute, then fold over into thirds (see picture below)img_4676.jpg
  10. PRO TIP: Since these are a one-at-a-time kind of creation, heat your oven to like 200ºF and store the finished ones in there until they’re all ready
  11. If not filled, or even if they are, top as desired and serve!


There are lots of easy things to put on top, like powdered sugar, nutella, syrup, or whipped cream. But there are also a variety of topping/filling options that raise the bar. Here are some of my favorites:

  • chocolate chips and fresh fruit, especially berries
  • cheese and bacon (best as a filling)
  • homemade fruit compote — this is the one I always make, with a variety of fruit. In the pictures, I just heated and spruced up some of the leftover filling from my mini apple pie recipe, but often I’ll take small pieces of fresh fruit and a little honey or agave syrup and set it to simmer on low before starting the crepes. Stir it occasionally, and thicken it with a simple rue (1-2 tbsp. flour mixed with a few tsp. of water). By the time the crepes are done cooking, it should be a sweet fruit mix to top or fill crepes!


Cost about $7* (without topping/filling), makes 10-12 crepes

I really hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as I have. What are your favorite breakfast treats, or have you found a better way to make crepes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

*Cost was again a real rough estimate because basically all of the ingredients are regularly stocked in most houses. Sorry if the cost is off, but the point is it definitely isn’t pricey.


‘So what are you doing with your life?’

In case you weren’t already panicked, the holidays are quickly approaching. Or, if you’re like me, you’ve been near-constantly aware of this fact for the last several weeks and are just trying to remain calm. Don’t get me wrong — I love the togetherness and goodwill that a lot of holiday traditions bring, and I really do love the chance to spend extra time with my family and friends.

But the downside of all this, especially for emerging adults, is hearing the same exact questions over and over and over until you just want to snatch a whole pie and run for cover.

For most people, the list of questions runs something like this:

  • (If you are in school) So how’s school? What are you studying? What are you going to do with that?
  • (If you aren’t working) So have you found a job yet?
  • (If you are working) So how’s work? What do you do again?
  • (If you aren’t dating) So are you seeing anyone?
  • (If you are dating) So when are you getting engaged?
  • (If you are engaged) So when are you getting married? This is often followed up by assumptions regarding details and unsolicited input
  • (If you are married) So when are you having kids?

Of course the people asking all these questions (often pointedly, whether that is their intention or not) do care about you and are just interested in what’s going on in your life. Maybe they’re unaware of how the question comes across to you, or don’t realize that you’ve already had to answer it six times this afternoon. In some cases, you may have discussed all of this clearly and they frankly just didn’t listen. But loved ones are who they are, so sometimes different tactics are needed.

In the cases of a lot of stories friends and acquaintances have told me, these questions are unfortunately often coupled with projected expectations, approval or disapproval, and a note at the end of the question that sometimes feels like it’s asking the person answering to prove that they are somehow doing enough for wherever they’re at.

So here’s the advice: If you’re an emerging adult dreading these questions, have stock answers prepped. I have a little cache of stock answers I give to people for all the usual questions I get (which is about half that list). The answers are honest with some detail, but not too much, since I don’t love to discuss my life plans in-depth. Having answers prepped ahead of time also helps me, as an introvert, feel less caught off guard — and therefore less put off — by the questions. Still, as off-putting as they can be, try to be polite. Part of being an adult is handling junk that annoys you maturely. In general, these people really are trying to be nice and not to make you uncomfortable. That said, if someone is completely disregarding your feelings, you also don’t have to take crap. Be polite, but clear.

If you’re one of those friends or family members who might be asking the questions, please think about whether you have asked before. If you aren’t sure, then just say that. Honesty is welcome, but listening attentively is also important. Additionally, keep in mind that while yeah, these are milestone kinds of things, a lot of these questions are also deeply personal. The person you’re asking might not be ready to talk about it yet, or not in that setting. They also might not be happy with the answer. For example, I really don’t like being asked about job searching, but understand that it’s a relevant and reasonable thing to be asked at gatherings; I don’t like talking about it because things aren’t where I want them yet, plain and simple. So some of the discomfort in the situation may be due to that. But if someone has made it clear that they don’t want to talk about something, or has had to repeat themselves to you several times, please respect their answer.

Finally, for everybody in the room: Give some grace. Give grace to yourself for asking a genuine question or not wanting to give an answer, and give grace to your friends and family for being a little overeager to ask the same questions on a loop or being less than enthusiastic about them.

Remember what the holidays are about, and try to laugh at the moments life throws at you — even when it’s the same questions over and over. Then, rinse and repeat.

Just for fun, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear some of the least favorite questions you’ve been asked or heard of others being asked at gatherings. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Recipes: Pico de gallo

Hey all! Happy Sunday, and I hope the weekend has been relaxing. Mine has been really positive, albeit a bit of a whirlwind. I have a new recipe for you guys, and this week is super duper simple: pico de gallo.

If you have no idea what that is, it’s the mild salsa at Chipotle. More accurately, it’s the most common version of a Mexican dish, and also called salsa fresca. Unlike most salsas, it isn’t very liquidy, but instead just a medley of fresh chopped ingredients that brighten up other dishes or can be eaten with chips. Fun fact: The name translates to “beak of the rooster,” which is generally believed to come from people eating it solo by picking it up between thumb and forefinger.

One last note: This is usually the size batch that I will make for a party, so it really does make quite a bit. I usually save the leftovers to use throughout the week or give some to friends, but you can also adjust the recipe size as needed. With that said, let’s go!


  • about 9 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1-2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 3-4 limes
  • serranos or jalapeños as desired (honestly I skip these because I don’t care for the flavor, but they are part of the traditional dish and add a good kick)



  1. Dice tomatoes and onion into small chunks, ideally about 1cm x 1cm (I also highly recommend getting/using a board scraper, as they make the transfer process a lot easier, and serrated knives work best)IMG_4810.JPG
  2. Pick stems off cilantro and chop as finely as you possibly can
  3. If desired, mince peppers — make sure to wash your hands with soap after!
  4. Add diced onion into tomatoes until it’s just below a 3:2 ratio, meaning you want slightly more than half to be tomatoes
  5. Stir in cilantro enough cilantro that you know it will be in every bite — see picture above if this is way too vague, and apologies because I really do make this one by feel
  6. Roll, halve, and squeeze limes into mixture (pro tip: rolling them beforehand makes the juice a little more *juicy*)
  7. This makes a big difference: Let it marinate overnight. The acidity of the limes and the tomatoes will soften and break down the onion, and all of the flavors will jive better
  8. Serve on tacos, with chips, on eggs, mole, or honestly just eat it straight. In any case, enjoy!


Cost about $6.50, makes about 12-15 servings (really depends on how eager people are)

I don’t make this one super often, but it’s an inexpensive and healthy way to contribute to a potluck or feed a lot of people, and it’s always a hit. Giving it time to marinate is the key factor for me, so whenever possible I make it the day before I need it, and the leftovers just keep getting better.

Alternate ingredients include tomatillo, jicama, shrimp, or avocado. It also pairs excellently with guac. What are your favorite appetizers to make? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy eating!



For those of you that don’t know, I love writing. As a kid, it was rare to find me without a book in my hand, and that spilled over into writing. I used to write a lot of stories, have been semi-regular about journaling since junior high (the photo above is all my journals), and now do this blog, but in college realized that my favorite thing to write is actually poetry. I’m always reticent to tell people that because caring about it deeply makes it feel personal and vulnerable (not things I’m often big on), but I’ve been trying to work on the part of adulting that means being willing to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve also been working on goals.

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Traditionally, writers across a whole lot of the Western hemisphere will all band together to jointly motivate each other, and each person will write an entire novel (or 50,000 words) within the 30 days of November. I have a friend who is participating this year, and asked if I wanted to as well. I didn’t exactly have a budding novel idea on hand, so my friend — who knows my writing well — said I could just write poems instead.

For the record, the last 30 poems I’ve written were done over the course of about 16 months. So 30 in a month felt pretty intimidating. But I wanted to try. And so far, it’s been going well. I’ve written seven poems and one short prose piece, and it’s felt really good. Of course, writing isn’t everybody’s thing, so instead I’m going to break down the process as general goal-setting and accomplishment — useful in any adulting journey.

Step 1: Prep

For me, this meant going through about 5 years’ worth of phrases I had collected, writing them on index cards, and pinning them to a corkboard in my room. I now had 50-something prompts from which to choose, so that ideas would never be a problem. I also set up parameters for myself: one poem per day, any length, any style, and it has to be “done” but not perfect. For any goal, make sure you have the tools and logistics taken care of ahead of time so that you have fewer roadblocks and fewer excuses.

Step 2: Tell someone

Full disclosure, I waited to post about this on the chance it fell through and I didn’t keep up with a poem a day. You don’t have to tell the whole world about your goals from the get-go. But do tell someone, so that they can keep you accountable. I told a few close friends and family, but most importantly one friend offered that we could do the challenge together. Now we keep each other accountable, and get to see/enjoy/improve the other person’s work.

Step 3: Start

It sounds silly, but that is a really big and often scary step. You just have to do it. Getting off the ground is the hard part because you don’t have any momentum yet. But once you start, you’ll start building a practice of working toward your goal, which will make a lot of efforts seem easier.

Step 4: Give yourself some grace

When I started this I thought I was going to write the poem every morning. Turns out, that’s not super practical for me. So I still make sure that I pick a prompt every morning and can think about it throughout the day, but if I don’t have time to write in the morning or feel creatively stuck, I let myself walk away and come back later. And that’s okay, especially since a lot of research has shown that you actually need time away from a problem/project in order to let your subconscious mind work on it.

Step 5: Push through the lows

If you’re just in the drudges of something, keep going. It’s easier said than done, but it’s something you’ll be really proud of when you accomplish your goal. As another example, I’ve been working out a couple mornings a week, and yesterday ran in 41 degrees with asthma and a couple cramps. It sucked. But I did it, and my lungs are (slowly) starting to build up a tolerance to exercise.

Step 6: Be proud of yourself

You don’t have to show or tell what you did to everybody you meet, but tell a couple people who care about you. Be proud that you accomplished the thing you set out to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my poems when the month is up, but I do know I’ll be really happy I accomplished the goal.

What goals are you working toward, and how do you stay on track? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Take a day

Some things have been falling through the cracks lately, and occasionally I have to wonder if one of those things is my sanity. I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, but haven’t had the “golden opportunity” to do so yet. But I’m tired of waiting for the perfect moment for pretty much anything, because for me that just means I keep waiting and waiting and then wondering if the best opportunity already passed by.

Here’s the thing: That’s how a lot of us treat days off. Uh oh, I said the thing. The American Dream and the Protestant work ethic are gonna come haunt me if I’m not more careful. Of course, that’s incredibly flippant, but I also mean it seriously. For so much of Western society, especially the U.S., taking a day off just because it’s what would be best for you is avoided and looked down upon to the point of being taboo. It’s irresponsible, wasteful, unrealistic, lazy.

And I really do understand that for some people taking a day off isn’t a feasible reality. When you have other people to care for and need to put food on the table, it’s not always an option. But your continued well-being is too important to be put on hold forever.

So I don’t care — take an hour off, a day off, five freaking minutes off. If you can feel that you are getting burned out, give yourself a break.

Signs of burnout include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Trouble focusing
  • Unpredictable appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or getting up in the morning
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Prolonged periods of high stress
  • Bouts of apathy

These symptoms can of course be indicative of other things, but if you’re feeling like this list nearly sums you up, it might be time to figure out where you can take a step back. Maybe that means skipping your workout or taking a mental health day. Maybe it means saying no to another responsibility or endeavor. Maybe it means staying in on a Friday night instead of going out. Maybe it means ditching your family or plans and just going for a walk or to the movies.

I am, historically, not great at this. My junior year of college was overwhelming to the point of taking a really big toll on my health, and I hit the lowest point I’ve ever been at. It was really difficult, but I had to change something. So I started going to counseling, and eventually took a few things off my plate. It wasn’t easy; counseling was way outside my comfort zone, and I risked further damaging an already uneasy relationship when I discontinued a large commitment I had taken on. I skipped classes sometimes, and renegotiated a big assignment with one professor so that I could spend time with an ailing family member.

And I didn’t get better immediately. I didn’t get better steadily. I still have awful days and seasons. But within a few months even I could see the difference, and other people went out of their way to mention it to me. Honestly I wish the adults in my life had been better at teaching me this in practice and not just words, but now that I’m an adult I’m trying to get better at it.

So please, if you feel like it’s too much, figure out the best way to give your mind or heart or body (or all of them) a break. Talk to your boss or your family or someone about where you’re at, and ways to lighten your load. Your future self will thank you, and there is no shame in making sure you have the strength to keep going. What methods have you found most effective at preventing burnout? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


‘It bothers me when…’

This is one of the most Communication major, academic-sounding posts I will probably ever put up, but I cannot overstress its importance: “I statements.”

If you’re wondering what the heck that means, here’s the gist: I statements are a tool to address conflict and disagreements. Rather than saying “you drive me crazy” or “you aren’t listening to me,” which can be accusatory and further devolve the conversation, statements are reframed to express the speaker’s feelings. The quotes above become “I feel frustrated” and “I don’t feel listened to.” Doing this takes a step back from blame and shifts the focus.

Obviously there are two participants in this scenario: one to speak and one to respond. (Note: The roles aren’t static and a healthy conversation means taking turns in each role.) So person A, the speaker, needs to formulate statements that convey what’s troubling them without immediately throwing blame. This doesn’t mean avoiding mention of someone else’s action if that’s what’s bothering you. “I felt taken for granted when you didn’t ask my thoughts first.” Totally okay. “You should have asked me first — it’s like you take me for granted.” Not so much. The difference is that the first statement is a specific explanation of what struck a nerve; perhaps not easy to hear, but hardly accusatory. It’s also worth mentioning that sarcasm can ruin even the most well-formed I statements.

Of course, to communicate at all requires someone on the receiving end to hear and respond (at least per many interpretations of communication theory). So how does one respond to I statements? I’m going to be really blunt here: LISTEN. Acknowledge their feelings/that you hear them and either offer or ask for ways you can help. This might mean apologizing or simply noting for later.

For example, when bringing up an issue with my boyfriend I try to use phrases like “I would prefer if…” or “I feel like….” Of course, sometimes I screw up and just don’t use them. Even when I do, it doesn’t magically solve all our problems; but it does help us keep the right mindset when approaching them.

This tool can also be extrapolated beyond direct conflict situations as a way to express ourselves more constructively and be more mindful of others. I have a friend who told me a while back that they really don’t like the question “how are you?” because it carries a lot of baggage and expectation (“I’m good! You?”) while also being used so often that most of us don’t even really listen to the answer. Since then, I almost never ask that friend how they are. Instead, I’ll ask what made them smile today, or what’s going on in their life — when I have time to really listen — or any other interesting question I come up with. It’s more effort for me, but it helps my friend feel listened to and valued.

I realize all of this may sound overly PC or hypersensitive, but to be incredibly frank a big part of being an adult is learning to treat the people around you like people. People who are valued, and who are worth care and effort on our parts. Like taxes, this is not taught in school, or at least not well enough (even for Communication majors). But it is important, and it is helpful. A lot of the worst conflicts in my life would have been significantly less hurtful if we had properly implemented tools like I statements.

Of course, it cannot solve all problems, and if you are experiencing any form of abuse please safely remove yourself from the situation and/or reach out for help instead of trying to fix it. Your well-being is of the utmost importance, and I statements only work if both parties really do want to lessen the problem. Also remember that not all problems can be solved — even between loved ones — but they can always be handled with grace and compassion toward yourself and the other person.

I know that was a long post, but hopefully it proves helpful in your adulting journey alongside fellow humans. Let me know your thoughts in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting!


DIY darnedest

Apparently I decided this week was a good time to DYI like, everything. I made rice krispie treat pumpkins, crepes (recipe coming later!), finished crocheting one scarf and started another, made Oreo spiders, and handmade my Halloween costume. I’m not generally the kind of person who gets excited about Pinterest and tries to DIY everything, but I enjoy hands-on projects and they’re often a good way for me to manage stress. So today I’m gonna show you how I made my Halloween costume!

Obviously this isn’t the same sort of life lesson or adulting advice often blog posts usually are, but I am trying to remind myself that being an adult is about having fun and being responsible.

No need to worry, I promise this won’t turn into a DIY blog, but it’s fun to actually do something for the holiday for once since most years I’m pretty low-effort about it. And sometimes, adulting is about being excited over just finishing a project. I knew I wanted to be Rey from Star Wars, but the costumes I found to buy were a) not super cheap and b) kind of lame. So I decided to make mine.


  • 1 cream t-shirt, 2 dark brown t-shirts
  • small burlap pouch
  • 2 men’s belts
  • tan tablecloth
  • closet rod (found in my garage)
  • tan cargo pants (I already owned these)
  • black combat boots (I already owned these)
  • pieces of my brother’s lightsaber, borrowed with permission


DIY supplies:

  • sewing machine, brown and tan thread
  • grey spray paint
  • silver duct tape
  • superglue
  • good scissors
  • safety pins

What I did:

  1. Bought the t-shirts and burlap pouch on clearance at a craft store, and the belts and tablecloth at Goodwill. The total cost was about $20, which is all I paid for the costume.
  2. Cut strips out of one of the brown shirts to tie the belts together on one side, and to cover the visible buckle so it didn’t stand out as much, both by wrapping the fabric tightly and tucking the loose end in.
  3. Cut a large rectangle of brown t-shirt fabric slightly wider and 2.5x as long as the burlap pouch, and sewed it together before putting the pouch inside.
  4. Cut another small strip of brown t-shirt and cut a hole in the back of the pouch to fasten it to the lower belt (the other side of it fastened with the loop the burlap pouch already had, and the pouch itself covered the buckle).
  5. Cut the sleeves of the cream t-shirt into basically cap sleeves, and cut a long, thin triangle out of the neckline to create a small slit.
  6. Cut the sleeve off one of the brown t-shirts and wrapped it around my wrist twice to make the cuff. (Note: The only thing I have sewed to this point is the pouch — everything else is cutting and wrapping because hems are a pain and for knit fabric you can get away without them.)IMG_4706
  7. The next big endeavor was making the long cross-body wrap Rey wears. I cut three 12-inch wide, 6-foot long sections out of the tablecloth, sewed them into one long piece, and then ironed and hemmed the whole thing. (I later hand-sewed small ruches into the portions that sit on my shoulders to better reflect what Rey’s actual outfit looks like. If I was doing this over again and had more money, I would have bought several yards of a gauzier material to save myself the hassle of hemming and get a more authentic look.)
  8. The arm wraps were 4.5-inch wide, 6-foot long sections of the tablecloth, also ironed and hemmed.
  9. Originally I hadn’t planned on making her staff, but my stepdad found an old closet hanging rod in the garage that was the perfect height, so I spray-painted it grey before adding pieces of my brother’s lightsaber on with duct tape (super high tech, I know). I then cut the leftover sleeves from the cream shirt into long strips and wrapped them around the staff for the hand grips, and superglued the ends.
  10. The strap for the staff was made from six long strips cut from the second brown t-shirt. I glued two together at a time to make three even longer strips, braided it all, and tied it around the staff.IMG_4719
  11. My hair is curly, so I straightened it before putting it into Rey’s three buns — being sure to leave a few wisps out like she does.
  12. When actually putting the costume on, I used safety pins to fasten the long cross-body wrap to my shirt on both of my shoulders, as well as at the top and bottom of each arm wrap. And voilà!


I ended up being most proud of the staff, and was stoked that my hair (mostly) behaved for the buns. It was fairly comfortable, and the only part that didn’t want to stay put were the arm wraps, which I re-wrapped a couple of times throughout the evening. Of course this could have been made more authentic to the film, but for the money and effort (I think it ended up being about 8 hours) I was willing to put in, I was really happy with the result.

Of course, thanks to my family for the help in putting it together, my best friend for helping me with hair and pictures, and my Grandma Peggy for teaching me most of my sewing skills. What is your favorite DIY project you’ve done? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Halloween!



Homesick at home

I was babysitting a few nights back, and after dinner the kids wanted to go for a walk. As we were walking through the neighborhood, I glanced toward one of the houses and saw a group of people inside, gathered around a table and laughing. And a realization hit me like a final punch.

It isn’t exactly a secret that I’ve felt really off my game lately. I’ve been frustrated, unmotivated, tired, and deeply bothered by something I could never fully articulate. I knew more or less where the feelings were coming from — living in a sometimes purgatory-esque phase of working but not where I want, responsible but not independent, both too far and too close. But I was still struggling to explain how I felt. Until I saw those people in the window, and realized I’m homesick.

Now that sounds like an awful thing to say when I’m living at home, but let me explain. Home has always been a difficult word for me. By the time I turned 17, I had lived in 17 different houses. My parents are divorced, so I spent basically the first 16 years of my life constantly switching back and forth between them. So for me, home isn’t really a place; it’s a feeling.

I have found that feeling in nature and towns and loved ones and communities and yes, sometimes in houses (and yes, the picture above is of the sunrise outside my actual house). I am incredibly grateful for all of the people and things that have helped create feelings of home, even now. Still, this phase is temporary. Plus I’ve got this habit of my heart running faster than the calendar, and it’s a hell of a discrepancy these days.

I wish I could tell you that I’m the only one going through this because a) it sucks, and b) it would be easier to tell myself to get over it. But frankly, it ain’t just me. One of the hallmark traits of emerging adulthood is a feeling of being profoundly in-between. In-between adolescence and established adulthood. In-between dependence and full self-sufficiency. In-between where you were and where you want to be.

For a lot of Millennials, the dream isn’t a McMansion and an expensive car — often, it’s an apartment with bills paid and good food in the fridge, maybe a dog and some plants. We aren’t after ostentatious; we’re after our own version of home, even if humble.

If you’re already got that, I hope you’re content. If, like me, you’re feeling homesick for a place you haven’t arrived at yet, hang in there. Let the hope drive you forward, and keep an eye out for the beautiful moments on the way. If you’re up for it, buy a plant. Either way, know that there are a hundred ways to feel at home, but the common thread is always a deep caring.

Share where you feel most at home in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting.


Traveling on an actual budget

As promised, here is the post I mentioned about traveling! The last three weekends I have taken trips of some sort, and it occurred to me that traveling is probably one of the most desired and difficult things for emerging adults to pull off. Especially when looking at the Instagram accounts of other people our age and wondering where the heck they got the money (and/or time off) to hit up such insane destinations.

Here’s the disclaimer: None of my trips were holy crap levels of cool, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford them all on my own. But each is still a good look at managing to travel without draining one’s bank account.

Weekend 1: The Day Trip

Length of trip: 6-8 hours

Total spent: ~$50*

My brother and I went to some local farms about an hour away from my house that offer craft fairs, apple picking, and other fall-related activities. Main costs were activities (who doesn’t want to make a candle and pick organic tomatoes?), gas, and then some food.

Weekend 2: The Big Trip

Length of trip: 4.5 days

Total spent: $111.38*

After almost 3 months apart, I got to fly to Maryland to visit my boyfriend for a few days. Overall, the trip cost much more than the number listed here, but the flights out were a gift and my boyfriend paid for way more than his fair share, so that brought the number down. Most of this cost is food and Lyft rides around parts of Washington, D.C., where we spent that Saturday.

Weekend 3: The Road Trip

Length of trip: 3 days

Total spent: $125.42

As mentioned in last week’s post, I took a trip to my old college for the first time since graduating. The drive was about 7 hours each way, and I stayed for 2 nights at my friend’s apartment. Most activities were free, so food and gas were the only real costs. On the way back I picked up another friend headed the same direction, which helped cut gas costs.

*I’m omitting the cost of any presents I bought because while it did impact my spending, it wasn’t necessary to the cost of the trip and technically comes out of my gifts budget.

Here is my advice, condensed as much as possible:

  • Driving is often cheaper than flying, and then you still have transportation when you get there. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going alone and can do the drive in one day, consider driving. If you’re going with two or more people and can do the drive in three days or less, consider driving.
  • If you are flying, search around for airline prices. There are tons of discount airlines, but even the bigger names have fare sales and such, which can be great if your dates are flexible.
  • Find a couch to crash on. I am constantly updating a list of people I know in various cities, states, and countries so that if/when I end up there, I can pretty please ask to crash on their couch. Do offer to buy them a bottle of wine or take them out to eat as a thank you, but it’s way cheaper than a hotel.
  • Don’t eat all your meals out. The big trip I talked about above was an exception, but usually I try to limit traveling to one meal out per day. For the day trip, we packed a lunch and only bought a snack, and for the road trip I spent a whopping $47.43 on 3 days of food (which included drinks). Pack snacks or small meals, and don’t be afraid to go to a grocery store or market instead of a restaurant.

It’s also worth noting that each of the trips above could have been done more cost effectively, but also that I wouldn’t have been able to afford either of the latter two without other people being generous. After three consecutive weekends of travel, I’m also cutting back on spending for a while. I’m definitely not the expert on inexpensive travel, but being able to travel is important to me, so it’s something I’m going to keep working on.

What are the best tips you’ve learned for traveling on a budget? (Also I’m not asking facetiously, I really would love to hear them.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope you go somewhere cool this week!


More than useless

I was going to put up a cool post on travel today (don’t worry, it’s coming later), but honestly I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve felt like a genuinely crappy adult this week.

Monday morning I found a spider in my sock and, being really afraid of spiders, totally freaked. A rock hit my windshield on the way back from work and cracked it, so that had to get replaced. I was looking through job openings and found an entry level position that I would be a pretty good fit for — except they want a minimum 10 years experience. A friend invited me to her wedding and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. And frankly, getting out of bed has been difficult.

My life isn’t that bad. It isn’t even bad. I have no need to substantially fear for my safety or basic needs, I have a job and people who care about me. Of course there are silver linings. But that doesn’t make the clouds suddenly not grey.

I really, really wish I had a good response to this. In 5 days or 5 months or 5 years I might. But right now I just know that tomorrow is worth it, and that (as much as saying it makes me uncomfortable) I’m worth it. For the record, so are you.

When you feel overwhelmed or like you keep screwing up, or just completely and thoroughly meh, here is my list of things that help:

  • Drink water
  • Have a snack
  • Journal/pray
  • Take a shower
  • Write my way out
  • Tactile hobbies (coloring, cleaning, crocheting, etc.)
  • Tell someone I feel down — this gets it out of my head and out where I can understand it better
  • Go outside (walking is especially helpful)
  • Read a familiar book
  • Listen to music (I have playlists for this, but I highly recommend “More Than Useless” by Relient K)
  • Ask someone to sit close or for a hug
  • Watch a small bit of TV
  • Cook or bake something

Sometimes being an adult — or even being a human — sucks. If you’re stuck in a slump, try making your own list and using it to help make crappy days better. If it’s more than a slump and you’ve been feeling not yourself for several weeks or longer, consider talking to a mental health professional. A very significant thank you to my dear friend Kami for the list this is based on, and for reminding me to adjust it to what works best for me.

What have you found most helpful in getting through difficult stretches? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and remember that you’re probably better at this whole adulting thing than you feel.


Old stomping grounds

This weekend, I visited my college for the first time since graduating. Granted, it had only been 5-or-so months, but going back to somewhere you used to belong is a textbook example of strange. I didn’t know how much would have changed or if everything would be basically the same as it had been when I left.

The first thing I was forced to grapple with was realizing I wouldn’t be able to do it all in a short visit. There was no possible way to see everyone, eat at all the old places, take in all the old views, relive all the old times. On the one hand, that kind of sucks. But I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere, and learning to be content with doing less than everything is definitely something I need to practice.

Of course it was fantastic to be able to see so many friends and a few past professors — and it didn’t hurt to be close to the beach again (yes, I lived by the beach for 4 years). A few things had changed, but overall I was surprised that it almost felt like I never left. Almost.

Where I hadn’t expected to notice change was, frankly, in myself. I graduated less than 6 months ago, and my life hasn’t undergone any more big transitions, so it was odd to feel like somehow I had changed more than the place I left. But I have changed. I’ve become more sure of myself and less sure of where I’m at, somehow even more independent and determined. I haven’t necessarily become less anxious or forward-thinking, but I am more aware of how those qualities affect any given day.

Nostalgia was still a factor, and it will always be difficult to drive away from a place that means so much, with no idea when I’ll be back. But it also hammered home what I was pretty sure of when I graduated — I was ready to move on. It made the 4 years I spent there feel simultaneously near and small, and it made me wonder what I might be feeling similarly about in another 4 years. To quote my very favorite ‘80s movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Going back to a place that was home for 4 years reassured me that I didn’t miss out on life as it passed me by, but was also a big reminder that it does move fast and it doesn’t stop for anyone. I was talking with a good friend recently about major milestones in life, and emerging adulthood is a period when some really big ones can happen in quick succession. Each will be one to look back on, but more importantly a new place to move forward from.

What transition has felt the most significant in your life so far? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thank you for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. For all the amazingly kind people who brought up this blog over the weekend, you’re the best and I’m honored to hear your feedback. Thanks y’all.


Weak is a four-letter word

Not-so-fun fact: I have asthma. Technically it’s a condition where the air passageways in your lungs inflame and keep you from being able to take in enough oxygen.

But if you haven’t had the chance to talk to someone with asthma about what it actually feels like, the best metaphor I’ve found (and the only way I’m able to clearly communicate the severity) is like an animal sitting on your chest. There’s a weight there, big or small, shrinking the space needed to breathe and making anything else more difficult. Sometimes it’s just a fat guinea pig, and it isn’t fun but it’s manageable. Sometimes it’s a gigantic dog that weighs more than I can lift.

This is not a new thing I’ve been dealing with. I’ve struggled with asthma for as long as I can remember, and it was quite a bit worse when I was really little. (Even then I was lucky in that I never had to go to the hospital or be put on much consistent medication because of it.) A lot of people at least mostly grow out of it, but it rarely goes away entirely. When I was younger it was often allergy-induced, but since late elementary school it’s been mostly exercise-induced.

I was running late yesterday and near-sprinted to make it on time, but after maybe 200 yards had to slow down and power walk the rest of the way because my asthma made the biggest resurgence it has in years. When I got where I was going I used my inhaler, but proceeded to cough for the next 3 hours while waiting for my breathing to feel fully normal again — which, unfortunately, took another 8 or so hours.

Now I’m not bringing this up for any sort of pity party, but rather because it highlights another, deeper issue that we all face in different forms: feeling weak.

I hate that I have asthma. I hate that my lungs don’t work properly and that any cardio-heavy activities are a risk. I hate not having enough oxygen to fuel my muscles on a run, and that more than a couple points of full effort when I play tennis means an immediate drop in my performance because, well, I can’t breathe.

I don’t like admitting that I have limitations, that certain things are more difficult for me than they are for most other people. It’s pretty likely that there’s something in each of our lives that makes us feel like this, whether it’s a physical impairment, mental health struggles, work-related difficulties, or something else entirely.

Demons come in all colors and contexts, but the common thread is making us feel weak or incapable. It’s true that we can’t do everything. We do have limits. But just because how you do something is limited doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of reaching your goal.

Start small. “Baby steps” is a clichéd phrase, but building up your confidence and ability makes a huge difference. A lot of obstacles will feel conquerable if you face them little by little. For my asthma, that means small amounts of consistent exercise.

It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes it’s too much, and you will need room to regroup. Giving yourself grace is healthy, not lame.

Use the tools you have. That might be a friend to talk to or a website for resources — or in my case, my dang inhaler.

I don’t know if you’re feeling exhausted, scared, or psyched about what life looks like right now, but I hope you know that obstacles and limitations aren’t weaknesses. They’re opportunities to grow stronger, even if it takes a while. What tools do you find most helpful when things are in your way? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and go kick this week’s butt!


Ask for what you want

I wanted to talk about this topic for the specific reason that I suck at it. In principle, I totally agree that we ought to just ask for what we want, with a balance of consideration and straightforwardness. In theory, I totally know how to do that. In reality, I am not a particularly forward person, avoid initiating conversations when possible, and am loathe to inconvenience anyone. But to succeed in the big wide world of adulting, learning to ask is a crucial skill.

A little while back I was babysitting for a family, and at the end of the night the parents wrote me a check. I was doing that weird polite-but-risky thing where I didn’t look at it while I was standing in front of them, until they asked me if that was the right amount. I looked at it (and had thankfully already done the math of what I should have been paid), and they accidentally underpaid me. I cautiously let them know, and they apologized and fixed the issue. Fortunately they had been proactive for me, but it made me realize how poor I am at ensuring I get what I’m after in some situations.

More recently, I asked for both this last Friday and next Friday off to accommodate some personal plans. Other than occasionally asking to leave a half-hour early to make another commitment on time, I don’t like asking for time off. For starters, I don’t like voluntarily lowering my paycheck, but I also feel bad leaving the people I work for hanging. So asking for time off was weird, and I admittedly hedged the request a bit with “if it’s alright with you” and similar phrases, but my employer was totally cool with it.

Obviously, not all situations work out so well or are even so straightforward. For a job that I was working at in college, I realized a few months in that I wanted a higher compensation than I was getting for the amount of work I was doing. So I came up with a range for how much more I wanted, brought it up with my bosses, and we sorted it out.

I realize that was three success stories in a row, and am very aware they don’t always work out like that. There have been several times when I’ve asked for something and the person I was asking didn’t give me an answer at all, or flat told me no. It’s awful when that happens, and can mean that it might be time to examine the situation you’re in and see if something larger needs to change.

It’s also important to clarify that not all things need to be asked: If you are being made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you have the right to remove yourself from that situation. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are important, and no one gets to make your decisions for you.

But of course some things — especially work-related, such as payment negotiations and time off — need to be asked for. I promise that the more you practice the easier it will get. And the better we all get at it, the less difficult it will be when new generations are going through the same process.

As silly as it sounds, the most important thing I’ve learned when it comes to asking for what I want (besides the asking itself) is to prepared by knowing exactly what I want ahead of time. Not every instance has to play out like a negotiation, but you should know what your ideal is and the least you’re willing to accept before you ask, so you’ll be less likely to end up with a result you’re unhappy with.

I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear what helps you ask for what you want. Let me know in a comment below, and be sure to follow on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


Recipes: Mini apple pies

And we’re back with another recipe! I’ve been dying to do a dessert recipe because that’s my favorite thing to make, but I tried to promote health (weird, right?) and post a couple of more well-rounded recipes first. In honor of my favorite season, we’re tackling mini apple pies.

First, a pep talk: I know this recipe looks long, but the ingredients and instructions are simple even if a little time intensive. Plus you’ll feel super accomplished once you pull it off.


So the cool thing is I went apple picking with my brother last weekend and we got A TON of pesticide-free, not-super-pretty-but-great-for-pie apples. The bad thing is that meant I spent a realllllly long time washing, cutting, peeling, coring, and dicing apples with my best friend (thanks btw). All said and done, we prepped nearly 40 small and medium apples. I don’t recommend it. But it meant I had more than a gallon of apple filling left after making the pies, which I put in the freezer for another day. Because of that, and the fact that I was working off of a recipe for one normal-sized pie, some of the measurements in here are guesstimated. Feel free to make adjustments as needed.


Pro tip: Prep the crust dough the day before (or at least a few hours in advance) to give it time to refrigerate and save you some time during the bulk of the baking process.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cold butter (a stick and a half)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • bit of cold water (I think I ended up using about 1/4 cup)



  1. Cube butter — a pastry cutter is best for this, but honestly I’ve used a knife and a cutting board plenty of times
  2. Mix flour, butter, and salt slowly. I’d recommend using a food processor, but if you don’t have one (or hate cleaning them like I do), you can do it by hand in a bowl with that pastry cutter
  3. Add water to moisten and help get rid of granules until it sticks as one ball
  4. Either wrap it and refrigerate it, or roll it out and find something round and about 4.5″ in diameter to cut out the mini crusts




  • about 6 cups of diced Granny Smith apples (best guess is about 12 medium apples)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • about 4 tbsp. lemon juice



  1. Prep the apples. It sucks, and having a corer/peeler is way helpful, but even if you don’t, blast some music and make it happen — your tummy will thank you later (I included the picture above for size reference)
  2. Mix ingredients together in large bowl
  3. THING I LEARNED: Let that mixture sit for a while while you roll out the dough and prep the little crusts; a bunch of liquid will accumulate from the chemical reactions of the ingredients and you do not want all that liquid in your pie


Crumb Topping


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cold-ish butter, cubed


  1. Put that pastry cutter back to work and combine until it’s a nice sandy consistency
  2. NOTE: You will have extra crumb topping, but this was the smallest accurate ratio


The Whole Deal


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF
  2. Grease and flour two cupcake tins — if you’re a noob at this like me, use butter/Crisco to thoroughly grease each cup, then put in more flour than you think it needs, and shake and roll it until all the cups have a light coating of flour
  3. If you haven’t already, roll out the dough and cut it into ~4.5″ rounds (I used the lid of my family’s espresso grinder)
  4. Place the dough rounds into the cups and press them in so there aren’t any air bubbles and any waffling (when the edges are wavy) doesn’t create a crack that breaks your crust
  5. Fill each crust with about 1/4 cup filling (make sure to avoid the liquid!)
  6. Top with a generous amount of crumb topping
  7. Bake for about 22-25 minutes (depending on your oven), until golden brown
  8. Let cool, and enjoy!


Cost about $12*, makes 22-24 mini pies

Again, I know that was super long, but hopefully it’s a fun recipe to try for a get-together or just because you want pie. Finally, a huge thanks to my boyfriend’s mom for the base recipe (and teaching me how to not screw up apple pie), to my best friend for enduring the process with me, and to my brother for making sure I will not be short on apples for the rest of the season.

In the future, I might add more crumb topping or swap out apples for fresh berries. Overall, though, I was really happy with how these turned out. What are your favorite favorite desserts to make? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

*Cost was a real rough estimate on this one because the only ingredient that isn’t regularly stocked in most houses were the apples, for which I paid $5 for like 40+. Sorry if the cost is off, but the point is it isn’t pricey.


Give a little

The idea of giving back when struggling to get on your feet can feel like trying to pull a loaf of bread out of an empty basket. It doesn’t always feel possible, and it can be tough when you feel like keeping what you have would make things just a little bit safer or easier. That impulse isn’t bad — it’s wise and advisable to make sure your needs are met. But sometimes generosity is more important than keeping a little extra for tomorrow, and giving up some niceties to make sure other people’s needs are met is a mark of compassion. Frankly, our world could use a lot more of that.

I’m not here to tell you what or how you ought to give. But giving is important. I make sure that a portion of my income gets donated every week, often to my church, but sometimes to charities or specific causes.

That said, money is by no means the only way to give back. Especially if you’re living and saving off of limited funds, sometimes there isn’t much extra to give. But time, effort, and skill are just as valuable — and sometimes even more so.

I try to make sure I spend time volunteering consistently. As a note, one-off volunteering gigs are cool and can make a difference, but consider making a steadier investment whenever possible with an organization or ongoing project. For another example, I enjoy crocheting because it helps me destress and eases my habit of fidgeting, so last week I signed up to crochet hats and scarves that will be given out to people who are homeless as winter approaches.

One important adulting tip: Most donations are tax deductible, so be sure to get proof of the donation (usually just a receipt) and file it away for when tax season comes around.

More urgently, unbelievable numbers of people are currently in crisis from natural disasters. On my mind most prominently are the millions of people who have been left without power or sufficient aid in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. A large part of my family is from Puerto Rico, and the loss the island has seen is devastating. Thankfully relief organizations and private citizens are responding, but much more help is needed. Of course, Puerto Rico isn’t the only place in need. Mexico is still recovering from multiple earthquakes; Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

EDIT: Hours after this post went up, people attending a music festival in Las Vegas became victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history; at least 58 are dead and at least 515 are injured. I’ve added ways to help to the list below.

Again, what or how you give back is no business of mine. But even for those of us that are still trying to figure out adulting (and no less importantly for those who have more experience and resources), giving back is how we grow. Individually, it helps us grow in compassion, awareness, and ability. Collectively, it helps us grow in relationship, strength, and resilience.

I’ve listed a number of charitable organizations (specifically for disaster relief) below if you’re able/willing to give.

These are non-local or large-scale organizations, but local communities are just as important and can be more effective. For local ways to give back, check out your city’s or county’s website, Google information about volunteering in your area, or (if you’re comfortable doing so) see what opportunities local churches and faith communities offer.

I know that was a ton of info, but hopefully it was helpful. We may not have a lot to give, but if we all give a little, we can do more good than we know. What ways do you enjoy giving back? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks so much for reading; let’s make the world a little better this week.


It’s okay to like the cool thing

Confession time: I just this week listened to the Hamilton soundtrack all the way through. Heinous, I know. Late to the party, very. (In case you were wondering, I adored it and thought it completely lived up to the hype.) In my defense, I haven’t been entirely ignorant of it and at least got to it before those books that have been sitting on my “to-read” shelf since I was 16. I hadn’t been avoiding Hamilton because it’s so popular, but if I’m being completely honest it’s mass popularity wasn’t a motivator.

The alternative crowd — in all its various incarnations — has long spurned whatever’s popular simply for its popularity. Every age group has that crowd, but it seems to be a loud one among emerging adults (especially thanks to the hipsters). And there is some wisdom in that we should never like or do something just because it’s popular; lemming isn’t an attractive look on anybody.

But the hipster refrain that we shouldn’t like anything once it’s “cool” is tired, and honestly sucks the fun out of stuff. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you should be hesitant to enjoy it, whether it’s entertainment, fashion, tech, or whatever. So order your pumpkin spice latte. Use your Snapchat filter. Admit that you love that one movie that has all the hype.

And then flip it around.

Just because something isn’t cool, doesn’t mean you should feel bad about enjoying it. I am a gigantic space nerd. Like, huge. The end of the Cassini probe made me tear up, I have spent 7+ hours in an observatory by myself, I follow NASA on all social media, and I can explain the aurora borealis in way more detail than you might expect for someone who didn’t study STEM.

The best part is it doesn’t matter whether it’s popular, because I love it. So your favorite band is super obscure and basically no one within a 300-mile radius has heard of them? Cool. So you do that unpopular hobby in your free time because it’s a good way for you to wind down? Awesome. Embrace the things that matter to you, especially if they make you (and hopefully the world around you) a better place.

What are some of your favorite things that you don’t talk about often? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. I hope this made you feel a little lighter today, and good luck adulting!