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Growing a green thumb

I am, um, not a natural when it comes to plants. But I absolutely love them, so when I moved out I started making a concerted effort toward learning how to properly care for them.

I started really simple with a few air plants plus a couple of succulents I already had. The rule was that if I could keep a new plant alive (and relatively healthy) for 3 months, then I could get another one. This plan has been mostly successful, and I now have a small collection at my apartment, mostly on the patio where they get good sunlight.

As I’ve gotten more plants, I’ve also slowly escalated the level of skill needed to care for them. (And I do mean slowly.) This leveling-up has been:

  • Air plants
  • Succulents
  • Polka-dot plant
  • Spider plant
  • Aloe
  • Pothos
  • Basil (I’ll be adding more herbs very soon)

Moving and unpredictable weather have made it tough for a couple of these guys, but so far they’re hanging on. And while I aspire to have the sort of green thumb that would mean plants enjoy me as much as I enjoy them, I also fully admit we’re not there yet.

Throughout this process I have picked up some handy tips for helping our little green friends survive, and hopefully thrive:

Start small. As in don’t get a physically huge plant, and don’t get something super complicated. Pretty much everything I listed above is good for a beginner (except maybe basil), and are easily available in manageable, apartment-friendly sizes. Pro tip: Don’t start with seeds or sprouts either, as this portion of a plant’s growth cycle is particularly delicate. Pick a plant buddy who’s already established some roots.)

Do your research. Know what you want from a plant (air quality, foliage, flowers, etc.) and know the kind of environment you’ll be bringing it into (light level, humidity, temperature, etc.). Once you know those things, a few Google searches should bring up some suitable options.

Keep it natural. Whenever possible, design a plant’s environment to reflect its native environment (e.g. cactus-style potting mix for succulents or aloes; bright, indirect light for air plants; soft, but well-draining soil for basil). If you’re putting a lot of plants outside, or especially planting them in the actual ground where they may spread, try to choose plants native to your area. Not only will they grow better, but it’s more environmentally friendly! (Also stuff that encourages bees and butterflies, as their populations needs to be encouraged wherever possible.)

Water when dry. Seriously, it’s usually that simple. The best advice I’ve gotten on plant care is to wait to water until your plant’s soil is dry, and then give it a thorough watering. Overwatering a plant is often even more dangerous to a plant than under-watering, because it’s more difficult to fix. Pro tip: With air plants, I find that they do best when soaked for an hour or so about once a week in water, ideally with a bit of bromeliad fertilizer.

Go slowly with change. If a plant isn’t doing great, don’t make a ton of changes at once. For starters, it can shock the plant and further risk its health. Second, because plants can’t talk they can’t tell you what’s wrong. If you change a ton of elements at once, you may still not figure out what your buddy needs. Try making small changes, such as more or less light, one at a time. Give your plant some time with that change, and if it still isn’t happy try making another shift.

Trim as needed. If your plant has a dead or dying leaf, feel free to (gently) pull or cut it off. Often plants will devote extra water and nutrients to those leaves, which can hurt the health of other leaves.

Ask the experts. Feel free to swing by your local plant nursery and ask them about plants you have or are interested in getting. They can usually offer care tips, and can recommend what options might be best for your life and environment. One nursery near me even offers free classes on different gardening topics, which I’d highly recommend if you can find in your area.

And finally, the two types of plants I’ve loved having the most so far: air plants and pothos. Air plants are really fun and require minimal care, not even needing soil. They make really cool décor elements, and though they grow slowly it’s fun to see them flourish. Pothos are great for improving air quality and seriously love almost any light you give them — the one in the picture above has grown exceptionally well in my office. And if you do it right, they’re supposed to be easy to propagate! (I have not yet been brave enough to try.)

What are your best plant care tips? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Stories in all shapes and sizes

Recently, I’ve been making a really concerted effort to consume media created by people who are different from me. It’s not about diversity points, though this has made the media I’ve consumed more diverse. The point is to learn and to build compassion.

I don’t throw a whole lot about the details of my personal beliefs up on this blog for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that a one-sided “conversation” over the internet is just about the worst place to have constructive, life-giving interactions about subjects so closely tied to identity and other hot-button issues.

I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. Sure, I share advice and recommendations on this blog, but you’re free to take them or leave them. I’m sure years down the road I will have changed my mind about some of them. The point of this blog is to be a resource for emerging adults, because as an emerging adult, I felt frustrated by the lack of information and guidance in my sphere of existence.

But that’s just it. Over the course of my life (and the last couple of years in particular), my sphere of existence has grown immensely. I don’t mean how many friends I have — that number, in all reality, has gone down as relationship-building is no longer aided by the convenience of being in school together. I mean how I understand the world. How I see it, think about it, interact with it. And of course, how I see, think about, and interact with the people in it.

I’ve written before about how grateful I am that I grew up loving books, and how important reading is to building empathy and expanding one’s worldview. And it goes beyond books. TV shows, movies, podcasts, music, art or creative works of any kind are coming from a person (or group of people) with a history and a perspective.

And in theory, everyone’s perspective is different from my own. But there’s a lot of room for nuance in there. Someone who grew up in the same town as me and went to the same high school still has a different perspective on the world, but not in the same way as someone who grew up in a drastically different environment on the other side of the country or another continent. Innumerable factors play into this, but if I only listen to the voices that sound like me, think like me, look like me, and are treated like me, I would be drastically stunting the opportunity to learn about what’s beyond my own experience.

Particularly as someone who has had a great deal more opportunities and good fortune in life than, frankly, the majority of the world’s population, it is my privilege to push the boundaries of my understanding and create room in my life for voices that I haven’t heard from as often.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t consume or enjoy media and creative works from people who are very similar to me. If it’s enjoyable and benefits me without harming others, great. It’s simply about learning to find the balance between enjoying what I’m interested in, and noticing when what I’ve been taking in reflects too narrow a portion of the stories that are unfolding on this planet.

This goal, of course, is meant to be tempered by sensibility. I am not responsible to seek out voices that spend more time on vitriol than on empathy, or voices that cause or perpetuate harm — especially toward those who are especially vulnerable to such harm. I’m nobody’s keeper, but it is far more worthwhile for me to use what power I have to learn and grow — and when appropriate, to invite others to do the same.

A few of the ways I’ve been looking for media from different perspectives:

  • Asking for recommendations from others who have the same goal, or who are different from me. I’m in a book club right now that’s been great for that, but I also keep an eye out for social media posts, listen to podcasts, and get a few emails weekly that recommend new content to me.
  • Notice when media I’m consuming (visual art, music, TV, etc.) feels a little too much like what I’m used to. I was making a playlist a while back and realized that there wasn’t a lot of demographic diversity in the artists I was choosing — and that the musical diversity was suffering as a cause. I searched out some folks of different backgrounds that had a similar vibe to the original tracks, and found some new music I really enjoy in the process, while also supporting artists that likely get less airtime.
  • Enjoy it. As important as I think multiple perspectives are, there are also particular stories or creators that I go back to simply because their work connects with me, and that’s okay. My goal is never to exclude what I want to enjoy, simply to expand the horizons of what I perceive as available to enjoy.

Finally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED Talk a few years back called “The Danger of a Single Story” that has really stuck with me, and encapsulates the importance of my point here far more poignantly than I’ve managed to. If you have 20 minutes, I would highly, highly recommend checking it out.

What are your favorite ways to find media recommendations outside your norm? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I am still locked out of my Instagram account, and am afraid I may need to start over on that front. Please continue to bear with me for the time being (and also hit me up if you have any solutions, as support hasn’t been able to help)!

(Photo is a free stock photo because the title is both a metaphor and quite literal.)

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How to survive building IKEA furniture

A rite of passage in emerging adulthood is the relationship (and independence) test of building IKEA furniture. Or navigating an unfamiliar city, or otherwise following directions and figuring stuff out. Over the weekend, my fiancé and I went to IKEA. As much fun as it is to wander the aisles, the critical part comes a ways after when you actually have to assemble the dang things.

The upside is that I both like, and am good at, building things. Like I have two fully stocked toolboxes and really miss high school woodshop. But one person being good at something does not make it a successful team effort. I’m really grateful that my fiancé and I don’t have a difficult time trusting each other and working together on a project like that, but we found it funny how many people joked (or half-joked) about the struggle of not only assembling IKEA furniture but doing it with their partner.

Here’s the thing. Being able to interpret and follow directions is a really crucial skill, and one that should be developed long before adulthood. But some people seem to let those skills slide as soon as the stakes get raised a little — even if that’s only building a bookcase or finding their way around a new place.

When I went to Europe last fall, I hadn’t been to any of the cities we visited before. My fiancé had, but it had been years. Neither of us is bad with directions, but we still get turned around now and then. But rather than freaking out over any possible wrong step or something taking longer than anticipated, we reasoned through it, listened to each other’s input, and didn’t put too much pressure on it. Sure, we accidentally took a couple of scenic routes in those cities, and I had to go back and fix how I installed a hinge on a piece of furniture this weekend when I thought I was nearly done.

The lesson here is simple, and applies to independence as well as teamwork. Be informed, think it through, and don’t take it too seriously — most mistakes can be fixed, and even if they can’t they can be laughed at and learned from. If you’re working with them, be sure to communicate a little extra, and extend a little grace to yourself and them.

I wish I was better at applying the lesson in other areas of my life, but for now at least I know I can build furniture. Comments? Questions? Sage life advice? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. Pro tip for building IKEA furniture: Have a few sizes of Philips and flathead screwdrivers, plus a hammer or small mallet before you start building. Read the instructions as carefully as possible before completing a step, and keep checking for that things look the way they’re supposed to along the way.

P.P.S. Pro tip for navigating new cities: PopOut Maps are seriously my best friend. They’re super useful with a couple of different views for each city, but small enough that you can 1) take them with you, and 2) use them without looking like a ridiculous tourist.

(Photo is a free stock photo because the aesthetic is nicer than random pieces of IKEA particle board.)

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Recipes: Mostly healthy breakfast cookies

I’m nothing if not honest, and honestly if it’s the kind of day where I have to be somewhere before 10 a.m. I do not want to put a lot of effort into my breakfast. I need breakfast desperately — unfortunately I am prone to both low blood sugar and being hangry when I don’t eat within about 7 minutes of realizing I’m hungry.

It’s also worth noting that for whatever reason, my body needs carb-heavy breakfasts. Eggs and bacon don’t do the trick for me unless I have toast as well. At my old job, we had a really convenient kitchen in the office, so when I got in, I would just make a quick breakfast. At first it was a bagel and cream cheese, then when I got on this health kick (somehow still mostly going), it switched to a grainy toast and almond butter.

But, umm, the kitchen at my new job is far from my desk and the appliances are used by a lot more people. So my old plan didn’t really work anymore. I tried breakfast before I left, and that didn’t go so well. While I reluctantly admit that I’m a morning person, I’m also task-oriented and constantly maneuvering plans and possible action paths. Which means I know that if my bed is cozy or I spend an extra couple minutes picking out clothes, I won’t have time to make breakfast and will end up eating a protein bar. Which, in a pinch, is fine. But is not good for a day-to-day routine.

A month or two back, for part of meatless Monday, my best friend made breakfast cookies. They were delicious, and more filling than I expected. So I decided to try out my own recipe. Please take the disclaimer that it is a work in progress, but it’s close enough that I’m ready to share it. Final disclaimer: I know this is a lot of ingredients, but the labor is so simple that it’s definitely worth it in my mind.

Ingredients:

  • about 2 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1-2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. flour (if you’re gluten-free, substitute with protein powder or another flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips*
  • 1/4 cup craisins*
  • 2-3 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 small container applesauce (4 oz.)
  • 1 egg (can use mashed banana for vegan option)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I use almond, but pick whatever you like)

* Substitute with mix-ins of your choice (seeds and dried fruit are especially great)IMG_8944

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (aka everything listed before the applesauce).img_8945.jpg
  3. In a small/medium bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients.IMG_8946
  4. Once thoroughly mixed, blend the wet mixture into the bowl with dry ingredients.
  5. Use two spoons to form rounds on cookie sheet (you may need to use the spoons to encourage them to be, y’know, round).
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Enjoy! (They don’t need to be refrigerated, but do seal in an airtight container and consume within 1 week.)

IMG_8949

Cost about $5**, makes about 20 cookies (6-7 servings).

Easy enough, right? Right. Now, these cookies are still a little more crumbly than I’d like — I haven’t figured out the right trick to get them to stick together better after they bake. But they’re hearty, a little sweet, and remarkably low on sugar while still sneaking in some protein and other nutrients.

What I love most about these cookies is how easy they are. Breakfast can be an issue for a lot of emerging adults and adults in general. If you’re busy, you may not have time to make things or have the resources for popular healthy options. I make these about once a week, and then my breakfasts are handled. Plus I feel like I’m getting a little sweetness while also giving my body the energy it needs in the morning.

What are your favorite breakfast recipes? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

**Please bear with me on the price estimate, it’s super rough. I buy most of it in bulk and already had a lot around the house. The most expensive part is probably the seeds or nut butter, but each amount of ingredient is pretty small so things last a while.

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Interviewing: The other side of the table

Sorry there was no post last week, but we’re back! Recently, I’ve been helping interview candidates at my job for a position very similar to mine (slightly more junior). I know, I know — how the turn tables.

And while I’ve already written on here about interviewing, that was from the perspective of someone being interviewed. Before this, I hadn’t been the person interviewing candidates in almost 2 years. In college, I interviewed dozens of people for almost as many positions when I was working with my student media organization. So today we’re going to tackle interviewing advice from the perspective of the person asking (most of) the questions.

Yes, your resume matters. Especially for a Millennial or Gen Z candidate, I expect not to see rookie mistakes. Other than including the most vital information, all the “rules” of resumes are technically just guidelines, but you need to have a darn good reason if you’re going to break them. That means:

  • Keep it to 1 page. Unless you have 8+ years of experience, you shouldn’t need more than that. Concision is a necessary skill for almost any job, so prove you have it.
  • For the love of all things holy, make it a PDF. Word docs are nice, but they are prone to formatting glitches, font issues, and accidental edits. You put a lot of work into your resume. Keep it crisp with the extra 3 seconds to save it as a PDF.
  • If you have a professional website or portfolio, definitely include the URL. Do NOT include personal blogs or non-professional websites. The people who are deciding whether or not to hire you do not need that info. (Pro tip: If you are including a website, make the URL as simple as possible. This is 2019. You don’t have to put “www.” or “https://” preceding the domain name.)
  • Don’t include a bunch of irrelevant info. It’s just more that I have to read, and lowers the chance that the relevant info will stick with me as well. Trim the education section down significantly after your first job out of college, and only include skills/experience pertinent to the job you’re applying for.

But if you make it to the interview, that matters more. I’ve seen resumes that, um, could use improvement and then been genuinely impressed by the person during the interview. The resume is how you get your foot in the door. The interview is where you get a chance to make an impression (and is almost always what people base hiring decisions on).

We’re just as nervous as you. Seriously. An HR person might have interviewed dozens of folks, but chances are most of the people across from you don’t enjoy the process any more than you do. I try really hard to put interviewees at ease, but just remember this isn’t anyone’s comfort zone.

We want to like you. Virtually no one goes into this with a bad attitude. Even if we weren’t keen on your resume or some other previous info, we want to be proved wrong. Interviewers would rather have a lot of great candidates for a position than just decent ones. Be friendly, be attentive, be professional. It goes a long way.

We know the questions are weird. Myself and my fiancé have been interviewing folks at our respective jobs recently, and since we aren’t too removed from the experience (especially the intense job hunt right after college), we try not to pepper candidates with questions we hate answering unless it’s necessary. Sometimes, it’s necessary. While I don’t really care about your greatest weakness, I will ask what drew you to the role and company just to see where your interests are — and often to check if you’ve done your research. Some organizations have lists of questions interviewers have to ask. Just roll with it and try to have a number of examples/answers that can apply to common questions.

There’s rarely a single right answer, but there are wrong answers. I have a decently extensive list of questions for the folks I’ve been interviewing (and I usually throw some more in on the fly). For some of them, I’m looking for a specific type of answer, but for a lot of them I’m just trying to get to know the candidate. Compose your answers in a way that honestly reflects your experience and personality while acknowledging (even if indirectly) what the interviewer is likely looking for in a candidate. There’s a lot of wiggle room, just be aware of how you’re presenting yourself.

Ask good questions. This is one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from other candidates. When I’m interviewing people, this matters more than a good number of the questions I ask. If you ask thoughtful, insightful questions, I’ll remember you. And it will prove that:

  1. You’ve done your homework
  2. You’re truly interested
  3. You’ve got critical thinking skills.

Some good stock questions are things like what the day-to-day routine is like or what a person’s favorite part of working there is, but try to think of one or two that are highly specific to the role/company or otherwise out of the box. One of my favorites when being interviewed is to ask people what they wish I would have asked. One that endeared me to a candidate when interviewing them was about my preference on a highly contested (like to the point of being an inside joke) topic in my field.

Think about it as a date, not a test. When it comes down to it, this isn’t about simply checking boxes or passing a test (see above). Interviewers want to see if you’re the right fit for the company and the role, and you should be considering the same thing. If it’s not a place that would be good for you (and you aren’t in a situation in which you really need it), it might be best to consider other jobs. It’s about both parties assessing the chemistry and likelihood of a successful partnership. Make them want to swipe right.

Ultimately, breathe and do your best. You’ll be fine.

I hope that was helpful! If you have any interviewing advice (or questions), feel free to leave them in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because it would not be professional to post the inside of my office building.)

P.S. I am still locked out of Instagram (@ support, come thru), but all the recent posts will get updated on there as soon as I’m back in!

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On things that last forever

I got a tattoo last July. It’s small, personally meaningful, and I’d planned it for years. It felt like a bit of a big adult moment. And though I have no regrets, I have found surprised. It has often provided the reminder I needed, just as I intended it to. But a lot of things that hold a great deal of meaning for me (special words in particular) end of as sort of a timestamp — a bright, poignant reminder of the moment they were really what I needed to hear.

My tattoo isn’t like that. Maybe because it’s physically part of me, maybe because it’s only one word. But I think mostly because I’ve learned to hold the meaning behind it with an open hand.

“Hope” has long been my favorite word. Clichéd maybe. I don’t really care. It’s the only word that captures strength, acceptance, resolve, compassion, and resilience in any circumstance I find myself in. It’s four letters that fortify what I believe in and offer a hand when I don’t know what to believe.

I made a playlist recently that centers on a slightly different version of hope than the one I hold, but was still strongly influenced by my feelings around the word. As I was verifying it (I listen to all playlists once through before they’re final, to ensure they flow and hold together), I realized it’s got some sad and bittersweet songs on it. Even some of the happier ones are more about longing or commitment than overt happiness. I wondered if other people would also feel that those songs belonged on the playlist, and was a little surprised at how firmly I felt they did.

My idea of hope used to be more sunshine-and-butterflies optimism. Life, over time, has made me rely on a more complex understanding. If I was still clinging to a simpler definition or understanding, I would have lost more than missing out on the depth of meaning that I now find in the word. It’s also likely that circumstances that pushed the limits of what that narrower idea of hope covers might have made me feel like hope wasn’t enough, or wasn’t worth it.

But I’ve learned not to clutch my idea of it too tightly. Holding onto it steadily, but more gently, has allowed my understanding to grow, and has allowed me to grow and learn as well. Life isn’t simple, nor will it ever be — so it doesn’t make sense that the ideas we hold most dear should be terribly simple either. Simply beautiful, or simply awe-inspiring, perhaps. But simple doesn’t describe any of our universe very accurately, which means the best way for us to live and collaborate within that universe is to meet it where it’s at: complexity.

We can be both steady and ever-changing. We can be full of sadness and still embrace joy. We can offer grace and be just. We can be honest with our fears and still brave. We can disagree and still love. We can fail and not give up. We can not know and be confident. We can live in the tension. We can hope, whatever that looks like.

What’s a word or quote that has grown in meaning for you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. I am still locked out of my Instagram account (@ support, where u at), but I promise all the recent posts will get updated on there once I’m back in!

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Deserve is not a dirty word

Ooh, this can be a touchy one. I don’t know what your thoughts (or perhaps more importantly, feelings) about the word “deserve” are, but mine are… complicated. Thankfully, my parents made sure I wasn’t allowed to grow up entitled, and they placed a lot more emphasis on ideas like “earn” than deserve. But I naturally have a strong sense of duty and an unhealthy bend toward perfectionism, which means sometimes I take that too far.

When I say perfectionism I don’t mean the annoying job interview thing where you say, “Oh, I just can’t stop until I’ve gotten things just right.” I mean the nagging, overthinking sort of perfectionism that sparks worry and thought spirals of everything that could go wrong if I don’t do literally everything perfectly. (If you’ve ever seen The Good Place, Chidi is a prime example.)

Add all that in to the negative messages society and companies are throwing at us all day long that we’re not good enough on our own, that we always need something, and it’s a bit of a mess. As a result, I let myself spend a lot of years thinking that if I said I “deserved” anything I was being selfish or arrogant.

But that’s simply not true. I deserve quite a lot of good things.

Of course, I don’t deserve every good thing under the sun. I can’t have anything I want period, let alone just because I want it. But there’s a lot of room between that level of entitlement and doubting I even deserve the space I take up or the love friends and family give. And it takes a developed sense of discernment to know where the line is, but it’s a really important part of being not just an adult, but an emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy person.

I am just as prone to flaws and bad decisions as everyone else, even if they’re different ones. But I’m also just as capable of goodness and light and compassion. I’m just as worthy of love and respect. I deserve my space in this world. I deserve to matter, and to not feel guilty about that. I deserve to extend myself the same forgiveness and grace that I (try to) offer other people. I deserve to feel happy. I deserve to feel. I deserve to pay attention to what I need, and to take time to refill or reset. I deserve the effort it takes to live a good life. I deserve life.

I deserve good things.

Just saying that still feels awfully uncomfortable, but as part of a concerted effort to emphasize positive thinking and weaken negative thought patterns, it’s important.

This seems to be something younger generations are getting a bit better at, but especially as emerging adults life can sometimes get so chaotic that it starts to slip away. Hopefully for each of us, that can begin to be less.

One last thing to add: As important as it is to allow and embrace the good, honest, human things we deserve, it’s just as important to turn that outward. Every person you interact with, every life you encounter, also deserves their chance. It really just comes down to the Golden Rule, and the reminder that it goes both directions.

What message have you been trying to remind yourself of lately? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. Normally I like these topics to be more focused on you who are reading it, but the whole point of the exercise is that it’s okay to turn positive attention inward; so both to demonstrate and to practice, it seemed best to keep the post as-is, with its many uses of “I” and all.

P.P.S. Though by no means the first people to emphasize this, the guys from Queer Eye (which I’ve been watching lately along with everyone else) provided the reminder I needed recently, and I wanted to credit that.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I haven’t been up early enough to catch this in a while.)

 

 

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Recipes: Kale & quinoa

And we’re back! I have a new recipe for you this week, and it checks all the boxes: It’s healthy, vegan, affordable, and actually tastes good. Credit for the recipe 100% goes to my best friend’s dad, who is truly one of the best cooks I know.

Okay, but kale? It’s a trend right now, and usually I do not like it. It’s bitter, tough, and I don’t feel like the flavor is worth the health. Except in this recipe. I promise it’s worth a try. It also features quinoa, which is considered a “complete” protein that still gives you some fiber and carbs to fill you up.

This is just a side dish — which is why it’s pictured with rice and a lemon chicken recipe that I have not improved enough to share yet haha — but it’s a grown-up dish that will provide nutrients without tasting like disappointment.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large bunch of kale (6-8 stems)
  • 1/4 cup rainbow or tri-color quinoa
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt & pepper to tasteIMG_8770

(You’ll note that there are two kinds of kale here — I prefer the leafy green one to the left, which I got at a farmer’s market, but I needed a little extra and the one to the right was what the store had for organic whole stems. Also the quinoa is that little measuring cup because I buy it in bulk cotton bags, which don’t photograph so well!)

Instructions:

  1. Put dry quinoa into small pot with 1/2 cup water (ratio is always 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa). Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cover until it’s absorbed all the water. Pro tip: This is also how to cook most white rice on the stovetop.
  2. Wash and pat kale dry. I strongly encourage buying organic if you can afford it, because leafy greens like to hang onto pesticides. If that isn’t in the budget, wash thoroughly in warm water.
  3. De-stem kale, then tear or cut into small pieces. I find this is easiest to do by carefully running a knife along the line between the stem and leaf of each piece of kale, but whatever works for you. As far as final size, just think bite size.
  4. Pour a few tablespoons of oil into a large pan (a wok works best), add in crushed garlic, and heat until shimmery. NOTE: Keep a careful eye on this, and when it’s shimmery it’s done. If the garlic browns too much you’ll have to start over (I might have done that a couple times in the past).img_8771-e1553227453798.jpg
  5. Stir in kale, and cook until dark and wilted. You’ll want to stir regularly during this process.
  6. Remove from heat, and add juice of 1/2 lemon.
  7. Mix in quinoa.
  8. Serve and enjoy!IMG_8772

Cost about $7, makes 3 large or 4 small servings.

This was my third time making this recipe, and I’ve almost got it down pat. Here are two of the keys: not cooking the garlic too much, and cooking the kale enough. Burned garlic is a travesty. Shimmery, and stop. Cooking the kale, as well as adding the acid from the lemon, is what breaks down the bitterness in the kale. And of course, if you’re wary of the veggie taste, you can always add more garlic or lemon!

It doesn’t make a ton, but it’s plenty for a few people for dinner or for a few days of meal prep. It’s also so healthy without leaving you hungry in like an hour. You can also sub some of the kale for baby spinach, just add it in later since it cooks faster.

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

P.S. Sorry the pic is real chicken-focused — I thought I’d be sharing both recipes but it’s just not ready yet. It at least shows a nice pairing for this killer side dish 😉

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A little change (or a lot)

Some exciting news — I started a new job this week! The last month has been full of some quite bad and lots of very good things, and there will be more updates coming, but I’m excited to finally be able to share the news.

And, of course, to share the lesson I learned: Sometimes change is the most needed when you least expect it. I really enjoyed my previous job, and many of the people there. But my new coworkers are also amazing, and I’m stoked about the opportunities to grow and learn in my new role.

While I like to think I’m good at handling change, I’m not always the most comfortable with it (there’s a reason my adult apartment has the same couch my parents wanted to get rid of when I was 7). I’m deeply sentimental, like things to be organized and predictable, and am a real big fan of my comfort zone. But that’s not usually where progress happens.

Enter, change. My gut instinct is usually a little better at signing on board for adventures and quality changes than my worry-prone brain. The trick is listening to both, and deciding who deserves a stronger say in the situation at hand. And that right there is one of the great balances we’re all trying to learn as emerging adults: when to trust our gut or our head, when to take a chance or play it safe.

There’s no perfect rule of thumb, and making a flowchart would be impossible. Your guess is as good as mine. As long as it’s an educated guess, and you’ve done your research and prep, you’ll probably land on your feet. I’ve shared some things that help me when it comes to assessing change and making big decisions.

Today I just want to offer some encouragement. A year ago or even 2 months ago, I didn’t know I’d be where I’m at now. And it’s a time that is exceptionally busy and full of challenges. But it’s also full of some of the most genuine happiness I can imagine, and the opportunity for so many wonderful things to come.

I don’t know where you’re at, or what big life moments you’re facing (or will be soon). But I know you can handle them. After all, you’ve made it this far.

I’d love to hear any encouraging words you guys have to offer in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this is how I imagine new opportunities.)

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It all comes down to organizing

As I’ve been not-so-subtly hinting at, life has been a little chaotic over here lately. Normally, I’m very on top of my schedule, like to be early to both attending and completing things, and don’t have too much trouble keeping track of most of what needs to be remembered.

Lately, that’s been less the case. But as much as life being busy makes that understandable, it doesn’t make it sustainable. So I’ve had to put in some extra effort on my usual methods of organization. I tend to be a highly organized person, but rarely feel that way.

And of course, not every organization tool works for everyone. Planners worked great for me in high school, but eventually my to-do list became more complex in terms of deadlines and priorities and a planner no longer suited my needs. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

For the when and where

  • Paper calendar or planner. I’m still a big advocate for physical calendars or planners whenever possible. In part it’s because I’m a pretty kinesthetic person, and in part because writing this down actually helps with comprehension and memory.
  • Digital calendar. Of course, analog doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re constantly on the go, or just know you’d never look at a paper one, use your phone or computer to input your schedule and any important events and set up reminders so you’re always prepared for them.

For the to-do list

  • A little black book. Seriously, this is what I have kept my to-do list in for the last 5.5 years, and it’s worked great. It’s small enough to travel with me, and provides the memory benefit of actually writing down the thing I need to do.
  • Temporarily, any random scrap of paper. If it’s just a day-of list, I’ll often write my stuff on a post-it note and cross out tasks as I accomplish them. It still provides the ease of writing things down but gives me a little more flexibility and room for detail in day-to-day tasks.
  • There’s always digital. If paper isn’t handy or I’ll be moving around enough that I’m likely to lose track of a piece of paper, then I usually opt for my phone. The Notes app on iPhone actually has a “list” option that puts little bubbles to the left of each line so you can check off things as you do them. This is also my preference for the grocery list because, again, a single piece of paper is harder to keep track of.

For dude, you cannot forget this

  • A reminder or alarm on your phone. I have a few recurring reminders set to water plants and pay my bills, and they just make things easy when I’m busy and might have lost track of time.
  • Ask a friend to help you remember. It doesn’t always work, but even if they don’t remind you, saying it aloud is sometimes all you need to remember on your own.
  • The “item out of place” trick. One of my moms taught me this one a while back: You put something odd in a noticeable place (e.g. a picture frame in the kitchen or a pen on your pillow) and mentally link that thing to whatever you’re supposed to remember. Then when you see it, you get reminded.
  • The “on top of whatever you won’t forget” trick. If all else fails, you can put the thing you’re supposed to remember on top of something you wouldn’t go without, like your wallet, phone, or keys. It’s a pretty tried-and-true method of ensuring you’ve got everything you need.

For you need to know where this is

  • Filing, filing, filing. Y’all, this is not negotiable. Do you know where your most important documents are (birth certificate, ID, tax stuff, medical info)? Because when you need it, chances are you aren’t going to want to go searching for it. Buy a small file box and make a folder for important categories like the ones I mentioned above. Then when the time comes, you know where to find it.
  • A safe. If you’re worried or just want to be extra secure, you can get a small safe to house important papers. Just note that unless you buy one specifically designed for it, many safes aren’t waterproof or fireproof (and those that are usually have time limits that they can sustain that stress).
  • Give stuff a home. I used to be terrible about keeping track of small stuff I use frequently, like my earbuds, until I assigned them a “home.” Now, they are either with me or in a particular pocket of my purse. Once in a while I still stick them in a jacket pocket or somewhere random, but it’s far less often.

What tools have you found to help stay organized? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Just roll with it

I’ve spent more time than I can count looking out at the ocean, but it’s always mattered more to me when I’m in it. A few times, swimming near the break, I’ve been rolled in a wave. It’s a pure-instinct terror, no matter how well you know the right steps. But when you are quite literally flipped end over end, the only thing that matters is getting your head above water.

We, as humans, have a remarkable ability to detect which way is up even when we feel like we’ve got no clue. So you push, and find the surface. And nothing feels as wonderful as that first breath. Until the next wave hits.

But this time, hopefully, you were ready and scanning, and can dive mostly under the impact. More breaths. Eventually, you make enough progress to move in past the break and then the waves can actually help you to shore.

Of course, I’m not just trying to teach a water safety course here (though seriously, don’t mess around with the ocean — she is unpredictable). Life can feel that way for a lot of us sometimes. It definitely has for me lately.

The last couple of weeks have been… a lot. Like, story-all-about-how-my-life-got-flipped-turned-upside-down a lot. But minus the sitcom happy ending every half-hour. I could’ve crumbled. I felt like it on several occasions. I could’ve acted like everything was fine. I’m not very convincing at that. So instead, I’m trying to be as honest as possible about how chaotic life can sometimes feel, even when you know that ultimately you’ll be okay.

Sometimes adulting is about just putting one foot in front of the other, even when it’s hard, and even when every part of you wants to be laying on the floor and avoiding complete sentences. There is, of course, a balance to trying and giving yourself room to rest and to breathe. But the only way out is through — even if progress takes a while.

So here’s to every step forward, every second with your head above water. Here’s to facing the next wave, and knowing you’re strong enough to swim through.

A lot of folks I know are dealing with a lot right now, so instead of a question to wrap up, I’d love it if you took a moment to post a small encouragement or a quote that’s helped you persevere in the comments below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. This pic is from my favorite beach in the whole world — the water is very cold, but it’s held some of my best memories.

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Fixing up flesh wounds

Being the brilliant athlete that I am, I completely trashed my knee playing softball yesterday. Got a base hit, ran, and right at first I fell for exactly zero reason. Impact. Slide. Roll. My knee is not a pretty sight right now.

Which made me realize that, on the off chance you haven’t learned by now, proper first aid and handling of injuries is a vital emerging adult skill.

I’m going to organize this by symptoms, but it’s really important to note that a lot of these can go hand-in-hand, even if you wouldn’t expect them to. (For example, after I fell yesterday, I was pretty queasy for a few minutes and had to address that well as my banged-up knee.) Your body is a system made up of systems, and everything is connected.

Also, though none of these descriptions will be graphic, if you’re especially sensitive to this kind of stuff, might be best to stop reading here. Last disclaimer (I promise): I’m obviously not an expert in all this, but I am remarkably injury-prone, so I do speak from ample experience.

Bruises:

  • Take a minute to assess for all the other symptoms below. If any are present, attend to those first.
  • Gently check your range of motion, particularly if you bruised a joint. I spent a lot of last night carefully stretching and bending my knee to ensure it didn’t end up too stiff and to encourage blood flow to the area (it might make the bruise look worse, but will help it heal better). Just be sure to stop when it hurts — you don’t want to make it worse.
  • Reduce the swelling. The top three tips for this are always ice it, elevate it, and take some ibuprofen.
  • IF YOU HIT YOUR HEAD, be very, very careful. Concussions are serious and can’t always be spotted immediately. If you are having trouble with balance for more than a minute or two, get sick, or are having trouble remembering/forming sentences, go see a doctor. Have a friend drive you or call a ride, and do not go to sleep. This is not an option, this is not a time to prove that you’re tough. Your brain is really delicate, and you’ve only got one.
    • If you don’t show any signs of a concussion, follow the steps below for nausea and lightheadedness and have a friend keep an eye on you for at least an hour or two. If any of those signs show up, see above. If not, take it easy the next couple days anyway.

Cuts and scrapes:

  • Assess the bleeding. If it’s just a tiny bit, pat it and move on to the other steps. If it’s bleeding quite a bit, apply pressure and change the cloth/bandage when it gets soaked.
  • Clean it. This is so important. Remember when people used to die all the time from simple infections? Yeah, me neither — because we realized they were easy to avoid. Wash the wound with water (tepid or warm is best, just nothing too hot or too cold) and if it’s got much dirt or debris in it, be sure to gently clean that out with a cloth or tweezers.
  • Protect it. Add some Neosporin or your antibiotic ointment of choice to avoid anything funky happening to it down the road.
  • Cover it. Find the appropriate bandage for the size of the injury, or even improvise one if necessary (facial tissue, or even toilet paper, and Scotch tape will always do in a pinch).
    • Bonus “Should I change my bandage?” cheat sheet:
      • If it’s soaked (with water or anything else) à
      • If it’s otherwise super dirty or gross à
      • If it was a deep cut à Change every 24ish hours for the first few days, then at your discretion.
      • If it was a teeny tiny cut à You can remove after 24 hours.
      • If it’s scabbed over, or been more than a week à You’re probably safe to remove it and go about your business.
      • Of course, every time you do change it, clean it again and add some antibiotic ointment.

Upset stomach and/or lightheadedness:

  • Sit down. You’re body’s clearly processing quite a bit, and making it stand or walk (or heaven forbid, run) will only make this worse very, very quickly.
  • Tell someone. Particularly if you’re lightheaded or lightheaded and feeling sick, get someone to keep an eye on you and provide any help you need.
  • Sip water slowly. Notice I said slowly. If you guzzle it, it will likely have the opposite effect.
  • Go to the bathroom. I know it’s weird, but it helps. Just trust me on this one.
  • Close your eyes. Having your eyes open opens you up to a lot of extra stimuli that your body doesn’t need right this second.
  • Lay your head back if you can. It’s a little odd, but helps the same way closing your eyes does.
  • Splash some cool or cold water. This is especially helpful for your face, neck, hands, and wrists (ankles too if possible). Those are areas where bodies really like to release heat, and cool water touching your skin, then evaporating, will help you feel better while your body deals with what it’s got going on.

Sprains and “I can’t tell if it’s broken”:

  • First, take it easy. Very gently, very carefully, explore your range of motion and see if it gets better over 15ish minutes (more if you feel comfortable).
  • If it doesn’t get better or gets worse, go see a doctor. No joking, no delays. I fractured my wrist in 8th grade and made the injury worse by not going to the doctor for 5 days because I thought it was only a sprain. Not smart. Get that ish checked out.
  • If it does get better decently quickly, still be gentle. You can wrap it or get a brace/support for it, and be sure to rest it often and use it in small increments to avoid stiffness.
  • Either way, ice it, elevate it, take some ibuprofen to help the swelling, and compress the area (the brace or support mentioned above).

Pulled or otherwise tweaked muscles:

  • Rest it. Muscle stuff is weird because it mostly has to fix itself — your job is just to give it the time and space to do that.
  • Ice, elevate, and ibuprofen. Just like a bruise or sprain.
  • A heating pack or some IcyHot can work wonders, as the heat gets the muscle to relax and loosen. (Same thing with soaking it in water.)
  • Massage it gently. You can gently rub with the muscle direction (might need to Google that) or in small, circular motions, but if you don’t know what you’re doing in this area, set up an appointment at a massage place that specializes in physical therapy and muscle problems.
  • Stretch it out. As always, when stretching or exploring range of motion with an injury, stop when it hurts. Don’t be mean to your body. But gentle stretching and using a muscle can help it recover when mixed with the other aids above.

For all of these, be sure to give your body plenty of time to rest. Our bodies are weirdly, impressively good at healing, but they need time and rest to do it.

If you are ever in doubt about the extent of an injury, please see a medical professional. Note that urgent care is usually less expensive (and occasionally faster) than the emergency room. Many hospitals and medical providers also have a 24-hour nurse hotline for advice on non-emergency injuries or questions.

If the cost is really prohibitive, there may be free or cost-reduced options in your area. Take some time to look them up before you really need them. Even if you aren’t insured, most places will let you pay cash for treatment and an emergency room will not deny you care.

Slightly different request for the end of this post — if you have any links for the resources I mentioned in the last two paragraphs above that aren’t region-specific (so national or international), I’d love to add them in! 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 because y’all don’t want to see my knee.)

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I accidentally went on a health kick

That headline is 100% serious. I am (for myself) firmly against diets and not really into New Year’s resolutions. But somehow over the last month, a variety of small choices and practices have developed into a fairly holistic health focus — probably the best I’ve done in that area a while. This was all spurred by a variety of motivations that all center on the idea of health: for my body, for my head/heart, and for the planet.

This post should probably start with a disclaimer that this post is a lot more “me-focused” than I usually go for here. None of these things are meant to be prescriptive, but hopefully they spark ideas regarding how you can prioritize health in your own life.

Physical

  • Going to yoga class with my best friend (almost) every week. That’s tonight (yay)! I’m not big on group exercise, but attending yoga classes has been sooooo beneficial for my muscles, stress, and overall well-being.
  • Trying to walk and generally move around more. Especially since winter weather restricts most of the exercise I like to do, this one has proven challenging. But I’m doing alright with it, and it will get easier as the weather warms.
  • Paying attention to my muscles and the ridiculous levels of tension they build up. I carry stress in my neck and shoulders, and boy does it stack up. A few at-home tools to help get knots and tension out — as well as stretching throughout the day and occasional massages — have really helped. Oh, and lowering my dang shoulders whenever I notice they’re up by my ears.
  • Getting enough sleep. This is one to be careful about because oversleeping can be harmful, but if I’ve done everything I need to do and feel really tired or sleepy, I just let myself rest.

Mental and emotional

  • Engaging more intentionally in conversations, and bringing extra kindness to interactions. Especially as an introvert, I’d sometimes like to ignore the existence of the outside world instead of putting in the effort to engage with it. But I know how much small kindnesses from other people brighten my day, and I’m trying to get better about doing the same thing.
  • Listening to a poem on my morning commute as a meditation of sorts. There are also apps and other methods of doing this, but I’ve found this is the easiest one for me to be consistent with.
  • Reading anything I want. Sometimes it’s an article or Twitter thread, but I’ve actually blown through several books in the last few weeks (much faster than my rate the last few years) because I stopped bothering with what I should be reading and just started reading stuff I felt like reading. (Surrendering to the idea of reading two books at once also helped this.)
  • Noticing when I feel anxious or drained, and responding to that. Sometimes life or my brain or who knows what other factors get to me more than I’d like. This is less of a recent thing, and more another step in the long process of learning to identify how I’m feeling and what’s behind that, to talk myself through it and reach out for help as needed, and to be patient with the reminder that it will get better and I’ve got what it takes to keep going.

Nutrition

  • Drinking more water. I really can’t emphasize how big of a difference this one makes for me. Seriously, my skin is clearer, I get fewer headaches, and I have more energy. My body needs way more water than I used to give it, and making sure I always have a cup or my reusable water bottle on hand means I don’t have excuses not to.
  • Eating more vegetables and less junk food. I like dessert. I still eat it when I want to. But making sure I toss veggies into at least 1-2 meals a day and switching to a healthier breakfast (a grainy bread, toasted with almond butter) have made it easier to over-processed foods and junk I don’t need to be eating.
  • I gave up meat one day a week. This is less for personal health reasons than environmental ones — meat production takes a big toll on the environment, which humanity has done a pretty crap job taking care of the last 200 years. I love steak and burgers and bacon, and haven’t given them up completely. But intentionally not eating meat 1 day a week (it’s really only in about half my meals anyway), and swapping in more sustainable options when possible — like turkey tacos instead of ground beef — is a step I know I can do to help protect the planet we can’t afford to lose.

These are small things, but they add up to a big difference. I know what it’s like to work to the bone and to not take care of myself, and I’ve let that pull me down too many times. What works for you might be a mix of these things, or involve something totally different. The most important thing is to make sure it’s a healthy practice for where you’re at, and to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

What small things have you done to take better care of yourself and your surroundings? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this is the kind of stuff that motivates me to stick with the whole health thing.)

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Rejection happens

We’ve all experienced it, likely in a few forms. Whether it was school applications, job applications or interviews, a dating prospect, a leadership position, or something else entirely. You can’t win ‘em all. The trick is learning how to take the L.

I’ll be the first to confess that I’m not awesome with rejection. I got in to the (very few, not moonshot) colleges I applied to, but rejected for most of the scholarships. I got snubbed a few times by guys I was into. I applied for 61 jobs before getting hired at my current position. Knowing that it’s normal doesn’t make it suck any less.

Of course, the more invested someone is in something, the more rejection stings, and I tend to be the kind of person who invests pretty heavily in things that are important to me. Still, I’ve gotten better with it in my emerging adult years, and have found a few tricks that help:

Manage expectations. This is not me saying to be a pessimist, or insist that it won’t happen to try and protect yourself from possible rejection. But it can be helpful to remind yourself that it may not work out. If possible, especially with things like college/grad school and job applications, you can do a little research regarding response and acceptance rates to inform what your odds of success might be. (That being said, if doing that only freaks you out, don’t do it.)

Diversify. Or don’t put all your eggs in one basket, or whatever other pithy sound byte you want to use there. The point is that it is very, very rarely a good idea to put all you’ve got in terms of resources into one chance. By all means, put in all your effort, but don’t call in all your favors or put all your hope in the one thing if you know there’s a significant chance of it not working out.

It usually isn’t personal. Sometimes people are mean, and really do make rejection personal and unnecessarily hurtful. But usually, they’re just saying they don’t think what you’re looking for is the right fit, whether that’s a job possibility, date, or submission for publication. And even if it felt personal, there is zero excuse for you to be a jerk or take the loss out on someone, whether they were involved or not.

If you see a pattern, there might be a problem. The problem could be on your end or the other party’s, but if rejection persists and repeatedly doesn’t make sense, it might be time to re-examine. Maybe you need to change your approach or figure out what thing they’re looking for that you might not have. Maybe the timing is wrong. Though I would caution to never jump to this as a first conclusion, it’s also worth being aware that some level of discrimination may be a factor. Unfortunately, there are always hurdles, but figuring out what they are is the first part of getting past them.

It’s not the end. It might be the end of that opportunity, but you might get another shot at it later on. Even if you don’t, there are other opportunities out there. There are a thousand and one success stories that were preceded by piles of rejection. It might take a lot of tries, but it only has to work once.

What are your tips for handling rejection? 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 because it’s a weird thing to visualize.)

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23

Music means the world to me. It grounds me, gives me something to hold onto, offers new perspectives and reminders I need, gives me a hug when no one else is around, and takes me home no matter how far I feel.

So for my birthday last year, I published a playlist that encapsulated the music that had meant the most to me over the course of that year. Not only was it fun (and a nice break from regular adulting), but it gave me a new way to reflect and process, as well as something that I really enjoyed going back to. Based on all of that, I decided to make it a bit of a tradition.

Same rules as before: a playlist of the songs that have meant the most to me over the last year, one song for every year I’ve been around, and they’re in listening order — not order of significance. And, of course, I’ve included a link to the playlist on Spotify if you feel like giving it a listen!

  1. Hard Times – Paramore
  2. Dark Blue – Jack’s Mannequin
  3. Dear World – Echosmith
  4. Dirty and Left Out – The Almost
  5. Send Me Home – Asking Alexandria
  6. Buried Beneath – Red
  7. Hunger – Florence + The Machine
  8. Man of Stone – Matthew Thiessen & The Earthquakes
  9. Avalanche – Bring Me The Horizon
  10. Zombie – Bad Wolves
  11. Letters to God, Pt II – Angels & Airwaves
  12. Heavydirtysoul – Twenty One Pilots
  13. LA Devotee – Panic! At The Disco
  14. Last Hope – Paramore
  15. Vice Verses – Switchfoot
  16. Start A Riot – BANNERS
  17. Better Days – The Goo Goo Dolls
  18. Hallelujah – Rufus Wainwright
  19. Vindicated – Dashboard Confessional
  20. Don’t Let It Pass – Junip
  21. Found/Tonight – Ben Platt and Lin-Manuel Miranda
  22. The Best – Tina Turner
  23. Empress – Snow Patrol

What songs have been stuck with you lately? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I know there’s a duplicate from last year. I was going to change it, but honestly it’s still earned its spot.

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The importance of art

Art is cool. Most of us appreciate it in various forms, and can join in on conversations about how it’s contributed to human society and culture throughout history. Which is awesome. But it seems like a lot of us, particularly emerging adults who are juggling responsibilities with trying to figure out just where we are in the world, act like we don’t have a lot of time or energy for art in our everyday lives.

I’ve definitely been there. In the last year, it has been a struggle not only to be creative, but to even make time to take in other people’s creative works. We’re always busy, and if we’re not then we feel like we should be — or we’re so exhausted that we feel like we don’t have enough brainpower left to do much more than throw on a relaxing tv show.

This habit isn’t good for us. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a greater effort to do things like read things I want to read and to take in more poetry (a favorite medium). I’ve been lucky enough to listen to people play instruments and have conversations with friends about big life questions. And it has made such a significant difference in my well-being. Of course, it doesn’t magically make problems go away or make life easy. But it has made each day noticeably better.

Art has been shown to reduce stress and, in some cases, even help people dealing with various illnesses. There’s a reason we’ve been making it for thousands of years, and have devoted so much time and energy to preserving art over the ages. A quote I recently read by Thomas Merton says, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

But we have to allow it the time and space to do that for us. And if you’re into creating art in any form, the time to practice so what we make can do that for both us and others. Creating and enjoying art can take innumerable different forms — written, visual, musical, some combination of those, or maybe something else entirely. There are pieces of art (in my case, largely written) that have indelibly affected my life. Pieces that I’ve written have helped me process things I couldn’t address head-on.

It’s also worth noting that even if you think art is not your thing, you’re probably wrong. I have friends who are amazing visual artists and cannot hold a tune, know someone who is seriously not great at drawing but loves playing guitar, a friend who collects skateboard decks, and people who don’t create much art but can have incredibly thoughtful conversations about it. Art is art because of the way it affects us and what it means to us, plain and simple.

All this is just a reminder that even though we’re busy and figuring out what adulting looks like, it really is important for us to prioritize art — for us, and for each other.

If you’re looking for more ways to bring some art into your life, these are a few I really like:

  • The Slowdown – This is a podcast and radio show hosted by U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith that my dear friend Kami turned me onto. It’s 5 minutes, 5 days a week, and so worth it. Even if you aren’t a poetry person, it’s almost like a little meditation or break from the world you can dive into for just a few moments.
  • Netflix options – You can find happy with Bob Ross, check out one of their music documentaries, or a series like Abstract: The Art of Design.
  • Explore on streaming services – Spotify, Pandora, what have you. I love my playlists dearly (and might have one for y’all next week), but they get old if I never expand. Let the algorithm enlighten you.
  • Read, but only what you want to read – I’m a massive proponent of reading, but it’s going to feel like a drag if you read what you think you’re supposed to be reading. Read what you want — whether that’s comic books, biographies, YA, nonfiction, whatever. I promise it’s way more enjoyable.
  • Go see it in person – Plays, concerts, museums. You really can’t go wrong. I went to 4 concerts in 2018 and honestly lost count of how many museums. I have plans for a few live events soon. Even going to see a movie you’re excited about in theaters. Support the artists. Seriously.

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

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A year at work

This week (yesterday, to be more precise) was my 1-year anniversary at my job. This isn’t my first legit job, or the first one to take up full-time hours, but it is my first legit and full-time job.

I consider myself pretty fortunate. I didn’t have to work in high school other than odd jobs like tutoring and babysitting. I worked in college, but usually only part-time with hours that worked around my classes — and I was compensated in scholarship funds, which made school a lot more affordable (because scholarships aren’t taxed, every penny you earn actually goes toward tuition). After college, I nannied for a wonderful family part-time while I saved up and then hunted for a full-time gig. My first real adulting job is actually in my field. A lot of other folks can only say a couple of those things, if any.

No matter where you’re at on the job/career spectrum, you’ve probably got quite a bit left to learn (I definitely do). And you’ve probably learned quite a bit already (I definitely have).

So in honor of a year at my job, here are some of the things I’ve learned that I’d like to bring with me in my future career path and share with anyone else who might find it helpful:

  • Don’t sell yourself short. Is this my first proper, adult job? Yup. Was I underqualified when I was hired? Absolutely not. I actually exceeded all the requirements (i.e. 7 years of experience instead of the 2 years asked for). A lot of the experience was in an academic setting or not for pay, but it meant I could do the job. I had never officially worked in marketing before, but had still done the tasks in a variety of other contexts. Own your skills, experience, and qualities, and ask for what you deserve.
  • “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer. You want to stand out from the crowd? Admit when you don’t know something, and follow it up with steps you could take to learn whatever it is you don’t know. I spent too much time believing people when they told me “I don’t know” isn’t a real answer, and it messed me up. Be humble, and then grow knowledge where you can.
  • Tact is good. Hedging is not. This is especially prominent among women in the workforce, but happens with men as well. Please, please be thoughtful and intentional about how you interact with coworkers or clients — whether that’s  raising an idea, disagreeing, etc. But don’t undercut your input by over-cushioning anything you say. I talk more about it in this post, and this article has some more advice on that front.
  • Make friends. I have a whole separate post on this, but the gist is that — especially if you moved to a new area for work — your coworkers are going to be your de facto social nexus purely based on the hours you spend working. If you’re willing, strike up conversations at appropriate times or join in on activities outside the workplace. For example, I regularly ask coworkers about things they’ve mentioned in their personal lives, and joined the office softball team for a social opportunity even though it is not my sport.
  • Ask for feedback. In the past year, there have been times I felt like I was totally underperforming, but my colleagues actually thought I was doing great. There have also been times when I thought I had an assignment handled and made big mistakes. The best way to gauge how you’re doing is to literally ask. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your manager/boss right now, ask a coworker who sees the actual work you do.
  • Identify where you want to grow. You don’t have to know where you’ll be in 5 years or 10 years or what your dream job is. But you should know how you want to improve, what you want to learn, and what loose trajectory you want to aim toward. Achievable goals should be able to be measured in some form, and have a method of accountability (that could be a timeline, someone to check up on you, or something else entirely).
  • Remember the basics. Be nice, work hard, listen well, pay attention. General good employee stuff.
  • Your job is not your life. If you live in the U.S. (or another high-productivity focused nation like Japan or the U.K.), we tend to lose sight of this one. If your job is also your passion, that’s awesome. It still shouldn’t be your whole life. I limit this by not having my work email on my phone (I do have Slack), and trying really hard to set clear boundaries between my work life and the rest of my life. Unplug when you get home if you can. Take a vacation when you can. Set time limits for doing or talking about work if you need to. This doesn’t mean not to work hard, but simply a reminder to live outside of work.

I really enjoy my job, but know I likely won’t be doing it forever (as of 2016, Millennials were reported to change career-type jobs an average of 4 times in their first decade after college). But it’s a good fit for now, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn in my second year.

What has your first big job taught you? 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 because the camera angles at my desk are not prime.)

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So long 2018

2018 ended fairly similar to how it started: not the way I had envisioned. Of course, this time it was alone on my couch instead of asleep too early on a friend’s bedroom floor, but you get the picture. Actually, not what I’d envisioned sums up the whole year pretty well.

The last year has included some of my most treasured memories and proudest achievements — getting engaged to the person I love more than anything, moving out and starting my first full-time job, surprising my little sister for her 10th birthday and my family for Christmas, my first tattoo, a phenomenal trip to Europe, getting my writing accepted for publication, and so many wonderful moments with loved ones.

But I have to be honest. Between those gems, the rest of the year has felt like a slog and sometimes worse. Not that I ever expect life to be easy, but this year was the most difficult one I’ve been through, period. It both dragged on and raced past, and was always ready to dole out another hit as soon as I got back up (sometimes before). The stuff that happened a year or even 6 months ago feels as blurry as things that happened several years ago.

Some of it I don’t care to remember. Some of it will never leave. Some of it is far from over. It has been a constant struggle to stay tender-hearted enough to avoid apathy or resignation, and to stay strong enough that every new thing life sends my way isn’t completely overwhelming.

Still, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’ve learned and grown and have been incredibly fortunate in a lot of regards. But if all the things that have happened in the last year — good and bad — have one collective lesson to offer, it’s this: There will always be pain and there will always be beauty, and all you can control is how you respond to them. The world is a wonderful, meaningful, screwed up place. People are capable of unfathomable good and unimaginable malice. Life doesn’t stop or slow down, no matter how much to want it to — whether it’s to savor the moment or catch a break.

Very little is constant. Love, hope, and faith are — but you have to nurture them. I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions, and there’s no way to know what a new year will bring. But whatever does come, I’m hoping to respond to the good things more readily and not let the challenges drag me down. I changed a lot in the last year, and it’s hard to say how much of it was growth. This year I’m hoping to grow more instead of just reacting.

What lesson do you want to bring into the new year? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and here’s to adulting in the new year!

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Power to the purchaser

Having finally gotten back from running way too many errands, at the tail end of a season of rampant consumerism, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the way we buy things. If you’re reading this, chances are you live in a mostly capitalism-driven economy. That reality, of course, come with pros and cons. One of the cons is that companies and corporations sometimes prioritize profit over integrity and ethical practices. One of the pros is that you, as a consumer, get to choose what companies you give money to.

This means that any practice or belief you hold to strongly can, in theory, be supported further through what you do or don’t buy (and who you do or don’t buy from). This might mean buying organic produce and free-range chicken products, not buying products that were tested on animals, or ensuring that something you buy is local or fair trade.

Sometimes, of course, convenience or cost may make sticking to any buying preferences difficult if not impossible. For many emerging adults who are on stricter budgets than more established adults, sometimes purchasing power is a lot more limited than we’d like.

Here are some quick numbers:

  • Despite Millennials earning only 62.6% of the pre-tax income that Gen-Xers do, housing for Millennials costs an average of 75% of housing costs for Gen-Xers.1
  • Millennials spend two-thirds the amount spent by Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers on entertainment.1
  • 60% of Millennials prefer to purchase generic brands over name brands.2
  • Nearly 50% of Millennials would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if that specific purchase supports a cause.2
  • 81% of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to charitable causes and corporate citizenship.3

In other words, a lot of us care how we’re spending our money — even though we have less buying power than older generations do now, and in many cases less than they did at our age. (Caused by things like the fact that in the U.S., college tuition and fees have increased approximately 225% over the last 30 years4, while the average wage index has only increased 26.6%.5)

I care about putting my money where my mouth is as much as is reasonably possible. I’ll buy less from — or cut out completely — brands whose ethics, environmental, and/or labor practices I don’t agree with. But sometimes it’s hard. I love to shop local and support small businesses, but having to buy a bunch of last-minute Christmas gifts meant that Amazon was infinitely more practical.

So how do we balance the two? I don’t have the perfect answer, but these are a few practices I’m going to be trying to implement more in 2019:

  • Read the labels. This is literally the easiest one. Look for labels (in-stores or online) that proclaim practices you want to support. And know when it’s just a marketing ploy: organic and fair trade can be certified, but words like “natural” don’t require any proof of standards
  • Source it. Find out where your stuff is coming from. Usually, the closer to home the more sustainably and/or ethically it’s been made. Not always, of course, but buying local also means a smaller carbon footprint!
  • Look into the company. I’m of the mindset that the bigger the company is, the more cautious I need to be about blindly purchasing from them, as large corporations too often hurt the little guy to stuff the pockets of higher-ups. I buy from a lot of chains and big retailers anyways, but I do try to buy less and at least be aware of their practices as a consumer.
  • Know the real cost difference. Keep in mind that sometimes cheap, mass-produced stuff won’t last as long or will be worse for you in the long run than spending a little more for practices and quality you can get behind.
  • Find other ways to support. If you find a brand whose practices you really like and want to support, say so. That can mean telling friends, following them on social media, buying more of their product, whatever.
  • Be honest about what you can afford. I’ll be honest: I don’t buy all fair-trade, sustainable, organic stuff. I can’t afford it all the time, and I know a lot of other folks can’t either. At that point, you have to determine which purchases are worth it to you, and which ones are areas where you’re okay sticking to the status quo.

This is something I definitely don’t do as well as I’d like, but I hope it’s one that we as a society can continuously improve at. As much as I appreciate low costs and convenience, I want to take care of all the people, creatures, and resources that inhabit our world — and that often means saying so with my wallet.

What do you do for more ethical purchasing? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.

2 Millennial Marketing, 2018.

3 Horizon Media Finger on the Pulse Study, via Forbes, 2014.

4 CollegeBoard, 2018.

5 Social Security Administration, 2017.

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So you blew your budget

Despite meticulous, careful planning, I seriously blew my Christmas shopping budget this year. The biggest reason is that family grew on a few sides — like, last year I bought 12 or 13 gifts total and this year I bought 26 just for family. Plus some gifts cost more than expected, and being busy meant I didn’t make as many presents this year as I usually do.

None of those things are bad, but as someone who is very careful and intentional about finances, it does create a bit of a dilemma. Luckily I’ve found a few things that help bridge the gap.

First, the standard disclaimer that I knew everyone’s financial situation is different, which can make well-intentioned gift giving even trickier than finding the right idea. We all want to give something the person will enjoy and feels nice, but don’t want to break the bank or go too extravagant.

For emerging adults in particular, we’re usually considered grown-up enough to be expected to choose/buy gifts for people on our own, but often non financially established enough to be able to comfortably afford that. Which proves a sticky situation this time of year.

Also, I have some issues with the materialism and the contractualism that have seeped into the holiday season for so many of us, but at the end of the day, I still like giving loved ones gift that hopefully make them happy in some way. So we’ll start off with some ways to save when holiday shopping:

  • Gifts in bulk. I hate giving duplicate gifts, but I also have a crap ton of family. My way around this is usually to choose a category of gift and then try to individualize them for each person. For example, personalized ornaments or a batch of sweets with a note about why I’m grateful for them.
  • DIY when wise. Sometimes, DIY can prove more expensive and more time-consuming than just buying, but if you can do it cost-effectively, it can mean a lot to people that you made something for them rather than just going to the store and buying it.
  • Memories over stuff. Connecting a small gift to a memory or meaningful moment can be a lot more special for a loved one than stuff at all. Experiences, photographs, or even their favorite candy bar with a note show that you care about and know them, not just that you can buy stuff for them.

Sometimes, of course, it’s too late to save. Or just plain hard. I could have gone less overboard with Christmas shopping this year, but I’m not sure I could have stayed in budget, and the closer I got the more I’d be unsure if I was getting each person enough (again, the contractualism thing). So what about after the budget has already been blown?

Here are the most useful methods I’ve found for recovering from going over budget:

  • Cut back in other flexible areas (aka fun stuff). I went over budget on Christmas shopping, so I won’t get to eat out for, like, a couple months. I still have to eat and I’m not going to avoid all fun activities, but I am cutting back quite a bit on what was already a small budget (fun spending makes up about 10% of my monthly budget).
  • See if there are areas you can redistribute. I overspent on Christmas this month but needed way less gas than usual. So I moved some funds around in my budget and brought the deficit down a little.
  • If it’s worth it, it’s okay to pull a little from savings once in a while. Savings isn’t meant to be hoarded forever — but it is meant to be used with careful discretion. I try to save 30% of my income every month (and fully realize that isn’t possible for everyone, though saving some is), and try to only dip into it for large expenses like a vacation — still, of course, setting limits on how much. But I put a little less into savings this month so I know that it’s covered, and because I’ve already saved carefully and doing so doesn’t threaten my emergency fund.
  • Don’t compromise what you shouldn’t. Your bills still have to get paid. For me, how much I donate to charity or people in need every month is also non-negotiable, and not something that consumerism (no matter how holiday-themed) gets to threaten. Those things come first, period.
  • Adjust your budget so you don’t do it again. Few categories of purchase are truly one-time things. So if something ends up costing more than you realized, adjust your budget accordingly so that next time you’re ready. In my case, I’ll be cutting back slightly on fun spending throughout the year as well as lowering the budget for each gift to make sure I’m in a better spot next year.

How do you avoid going over budget, and how do you handle it when you do? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and have a warm and happy holiday season!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am definitely not done wrapping gifts.)

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Recipes: Homemade chicken soup

Hi all! Sorry posts have been a little extra intermittent lately — trying to stay on top of everything amidst work, travel, wedding planning, and the holidays has proved a challenge. The weather is (finally) chilly here so, especially on a busy schedule, soup is a go-to meal for me.

Once again, let me sing the praises of using a crock pot. This is a super easy recipe, and as long as you’re careful of the sodium content, really healthy. Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • about 1.5 lbs. potatoes (I used baby golden potatoes, but any work)
  • 1 full stalks celery
  • about 2/3 lb. carrots
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use any, but this is the easiest to deal with)
  • about 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • a hearty amount of garlic powder and Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to tasteIMG_8302

Instructions:

  1. Halve onion, peel outer layer off, and cut off ends. If you like onion, you can chop a little into small pieces for the actual soup, but mostly it’s here for flavor during the cooking process.
  2. Wash and chop all remaining veggies into whatever size you’re comfortable being in a bite.
  3. Layer veggies into crock pot in this order (so the things that need to cooke more are on the bottom): onion, potatoes, carrots, celery. Then top with seasoning.IMG_8301.jpg
  4. Add chicken breasts on top, and season again.
  5. Pour broth and water around chicken.
  6. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.IMG_8307.jpg
  7. Remove chicken from bowl and shred (can just use two forks), then return to crock pot and allow to warm.
  8. Serve and enjoy!IMG_8308.jpg

Cost about $17, makes about 8 servings

For my first time making soup, this was definitely a success. It had plenty of flavor and was really hearty, but next time I make it I’d like to try adding more seasoning, as both the chicken and potatoes were a tad bland for my taste. You can also substitute some of the veggies if there are ones you like better, or use egg noodles instead of potatoes (add them for the last hour of cooking instead of at the beginning).

Also note that technically I spent more on ingredients, but only used 1/2 or 2/3 of each thing on this batch, as the cost above reflects. This also makes so much soup. Unless you really, really love soup, it might not be a dish to make for just yourself. If you aren’t already cooking for more people, you can give some to a friend or potentially freeze some for later in the season. Just make sure to be careful that the baggie doesn’t break!

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

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Perfection and other myths

Hey all! I know posts have been a little sparser lately; in addition to life being generally busy, it’s been a tougher season personally than I’d anticipated. Unsurprisingly, challenges cropping up means not everything works quite the way I want — including me. Being okay with mistakes and imperfection is the lesson I’ve been trying to get through my head the last 6 months.

In fact, I’ve actually been waiting to talk about it here because I wanted to feel like I had made significant progress first. Mistakes, or simply not being able to do and be everything you want, are realities we all have to come to terms with eventually. It’s not a strong suit of mine. If I make a mistake out of ignorance or some other factor I can’t control, that might be fine. But if I make a mistake out of an oversight, or anything for which I might have “known better,” it’s really hard to get over.

And frankly, it’s super unhealthy. It means I tend to be too rigid, am easily and often stressed, and have a hard time moving on and rolling with the punches. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that becomes even more painful and pointed for emerging adults. Many of us are feeling ridiculous pressure to perform perfectly in so many areas: work, school, family, social life, romantic relationships, even general adulting. The weight we often put on ourselves to be essentially perfect in all these areas can be crippling. It usually means we’re overworked and stressed, but can also lead to initiating or exacerbating mental health issues, physical illness, and strained relationships.

I’d love to offer some epiphany or magic formula for learning to not hold ourselves to such debilitating, difficult standards, but the truth is it’s a long often personal process. You’ve got to figure out what drives that feeling, and then how to combat it.

That being said, I have found a couple of things that help:

Talk yourself through it. I’m not a huge fan of the “what’s the worst that could happen?” trick because I can always imagine incredibly horrible things resulting from tiny mistakes. Instead, try asking “what’s likely to happen?” It brings a reality-check back into the thought process, and makes it easier to not feel like any tiny shortcoming will bring the whole castle down.

Reframe it. Instead of looking at the less-than-ideal thing and panicking that it went wrong, or focusing on what you should have done better, honestly assess whether there is a need to fix/address the thing or if it’s better to move on. If you can do something about it, do that. If not, tell yourself it’s just a small thing, that you’re allowed to make mistakes, that you don’t have to be perfect, and (try to) let it go.

Search your feelings. When you start to feel any of the negative emotions that can come with not meeting personal expectations of perfection (frustration, disappointment, stress, anxiety, etc.), acknowledge what you’re feeling. Name it, and analyze what’s making you feel that way. Think about how your body is expressing that emotion, through tension, cortisol, or some other thing, and instead of being in all those feelings, try to look at them from the outside. This perspective shift can work wonders.

Don’t project. I can’t stress this one enough. You feeling a need to be perfect is a you thing. Projecting that expectation onto other people and expecting them to live up to every mental standard you set is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy. It’s not good for you because you’ll be constantly disappointed, it’s not fair to the other person, and it can easily damage relationships.

No one cares. Being quite this blunt isn’t always helpful, but it is important to keep in mind that it’s very likely you care about this far more than anyone else. Things go wrong. People aren’t perfect. For the most part, other people won’t expect you to be. Remembering that can help make it easier to not expect yourself to be perfect either.

Find ways to relax. This looks different for everybody, so you’ve got to find what work best for you. Some of my favorite options that I can do often are spending time outside, cooking or baking, doing yoga, and meditation. Sometimes you might need a stronger emotional release like hard exercise or crying, and that’s okay too.

Use the buddy system. Have one or two people who you can talk to when you’re feeling this way, and who will remind you that it’s okay to not be perfect and to make mistakes. You’re still learning and growing and it’s a journey that none of us will ever fully reach the end of. And that’s completely okay.

Progress isn’t linear. You will have days or stretches where you’ll be doing a lot better, and days or months where you feel like you’ve backslid. That’s normal. Give yourself the grace to make progress at your own pace.

I hope that helps! If you have any ideas to add, feel free to comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Everything hurts (and it’s going to be okay)

The last 11 or so days have been, collectively, the worst stretch of time I’ve experienced. I’ve had worse individual days and moments, of course. And by absolutely no means do I have the market cornered on difficult situations. But in between events that impacted me directly (most significantly my car getting broken into and getting miserably sick), people and places I know and love have been facing impossibly more difficult circumstances.

I live in California, and while I personally haven’t been near the shooting and wildfires that have been ravaging the state the last week, they’ve been affecting folks and communities that are close to my heart. Places I used to go are no longer there. Friends have lost loved ones, everything they own, and in some cases both.

On Friday night, I stayed up stupidly late refreshing Twitter even though I was exhausted because it was the only way to know if people were safe (I firmly limit texting during emergencies so anyone at risk can conserve battery for the most necessary communications). Not only knowing that thousands of people are in danger and experiencing loss, but knowing many of them personally — and being able to do so profoundly little about it — is one of the most uncomfortable, terrifying experiences I can imagine. Certainly one of the most that I’ve been through.

Thankfully, first responders and citizens have worked tirelessly and sacrificed endlessly to ensure that as many people as possible have remained safe, as well as animals and property. It would be impossible to thank them enough. I also can’t understate my appreciation for the journalists, many of whom I know personally, that have been dedicated to covering one disaster after another and keeping the public informed while experiencing each tragedy themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that these moments are painful. So many have lost so much. Even for those that were further away, these kinds of tragedies strip away an element of home and security that, while intangible, is meaningful nonetheless. At the end of the day, so many people are hurting.

So what do we do when it just hurts? When there’s little or nothing we can do about it, or we’ve done all we can, and it still stings or surges up like a wave we had our back turned to? What do we say when no words would be enough to fix or fully comfort?

We stick together. We give each other hugs when we can, and find other ways to send love if we’re too far. We give what we can, whether it’s money or time or food or supplies or just a card. We tell people how much we care about them. We make sure we’re there for each other. We thank the people who have made the challenge more manageable, or kept people safe, or ensured people had correct and timely information. We keep our head above water, and tell other people when we need help doing so. We set aside our differences and work for the good of the community, both present and future. We speak thoughtfully and compassionately. We speak out when necessary. We’re honest about the fact that it might not be okay right now, and it might not get better soon, but it will get better. We hold onto hope and find strength in community.

I’m really proud to say that I’ve seen the communities affected by these tragedies do all of these things.

It still hurts. It’s not over yet. Kids, teenagers, emerging adults, and full-fledged grownups will be dealing with the effects of these events to varying extents through the rest of their lives. We won’t magically be okay overnight. But we will be okay. And that’s enough to keep going.

If you’re able to help or give in any of the ways I mentioned above, here are some helpful links (both general and a few that are particularly close to my heart):

Coming together amidst tragedy is unfortunately something we all experience at some point. But I’m honored to be part of communities that do so selflessly, even when the heartbreak doesn’t seem to let up. If you have any questions on or additions of more ways to help, please comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo credit goes to Jessica Burns via the LA Times.)

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Not another notification

Sometimes social media is way too much. Let me preface this with the fact that I am (hopefully obviously) in no way against social media outright. I think it’s useful, I appreciate the benefits, and overall for me the pros outweigh the cons. But some days, the cons loom really, really large.

As emerging adults — and specifically Millennials/Gen Z — we’re young enough to be native to the latest technology, and old enough to be responsible for the ways we engage with them and allow them to affect us. That’s no small ask.

If I’m being completely honest, there are few things that get under my skin more than older generations bagging on younger generations for being plugged in to technology. I’m on my phone a lot. But most of the time I’m using it to stay in touch with people whom I otherwise wouldn’t be able to, whether it’s messaging a friend about a joke I heard or Facetiming my family across the country. Following that, I’m likely using it as a tool; my navigation, calculator, news, to-do list, and more are all contained in that one handy device. And sometimes, it’s pure entertainment. I’m looking at cute animal videos or playing the one game I have and am completely okay with that.

Of course, there are times to put the phone, or other tech, away. It’s never cool to be disruptive or impolite at a show or event. When you’re having more than the most casual of conversations with someone, they deserve your attention. Sometimes it’s just time to go to bed or go outside or read a book. But I want to be clear that the issues arise in when and how technology like phones and social media get used, not the fact that it’s used at all.

Including the ones for this blog, I consistently use six social media accounts on four platforms. I have limits set for all of them to keep any from becoming too much of a rabbit hole — or at least, from letting myself go too far down it. Some of them have time limits or a number of posts I’m allowed to scroll through before moving on, some of them I try to check a limited number of times per day. A couple of them are more of a self-contained “honor system” where I’m honest with myself about when it’s no longer serving a good purpose and I put it away.

But sometimes those don’t work. This morning I opened up my phone and within a few minutes just felt inundated and bogged down by the quantity and content of posts and ads and opinions and so on. I’m pretty introverted, and sometimes forget that even social media takes energy and a mental/emotional toll to engage with. When it starts to feel overwhelming like that, I walk away. Usually I’ll stay off of certain platforms for a while or set stricter limits on the time I do spend. There are no set rules to it, just an acknowledgment and response to knowing that the dopamine we get from scrolling isn’t worth the rest of what it’s costing me right now.

The lesson here is simple, but not always easy. It’s entirely up to us to know when it’s worthwhile to engage with such complicated beasts as social media. To know when it’s too much, when it benefits us or helps build relationships, when more important things are in front of us, and when we could just use a break.

It’s something most of us are still working on, and will hopefully strike a better balance of as time goes on. What are your favorite tips for not letting social media become overwhelming? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. If you’re looking for a song in this vein, I highly recommend “Look On Up” by Relient K.

(Photo is a free stock photo again because of the whole camera phone conundrum.)

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Taking down jet lag

Hi folks! Sorry it has been so long since my last post — I was sick (still getting over it actually) and then out of town for 11 days, but I’m back! That being said, I only got back yesterday evening, and am therefore very tired.

After flying nearly 7,000 miles yesterday, I am, predictably, a little jet lagged. This was my first international trip in a while (a post on it coming soon), but I travel across time zones a couple times a year. As such, it’s always an adjustment to get back on schedule once home, so that’s what today’s post is on.

Emerging adulthood means we’re responsible for our own sleep schedules and generally making it through the day. That, combined with so many Millennials and young adults wanting to travel, means we have to know how to combat jet lag. Different tips and tricks work better for some people than others, but here are the things I’ve found most helpful:

  • Sleep on the plane. If you can sleep on the flight (or train or whatever) at least a little, this will help you immensely. Traveling itself is way tiring, so give yourself a chance to rest while you’re already stuck in a seat.
  • Keep track of the hours. Know what time your body thinks it is in both the time zone you were in and the one you’re going to, and keep that in mind when planning your sleep schedule.
  • Ease back into your normal routine. I got back from my trip before dinnertime yesterday, and could have gotten to sleep basically right away. But I made myself stay up until 9 to get a little closer to my normal schedule while still leaving extra time to sleep.
  • Use safe, natural, gentle aids. I’m not a big proponent of serious energy or sleep aids — or even gentle ones for constant use — but this is a time that can be well worth it.
    • For energy: snacks with protein and a little sugar (i.e. cheese and fruit), green tea, a little coffee, a cool shower, a quick walk
    • For sleep: melatonin, herbal (non-caffeinated) tea, magnesium, lavender, a warm shower
  • Don’t nap. I love naps. Love them. But when you’re trying to get your body back to normal, they’re counterproductive. Alternatively, go to bed a little earlier or let yourself sleep in a little later, but stay up and active during daytime hours.
  • Don’t push it. Better to have a weird sleep schedule for a little bit than be super cranky or get sick, so if your body really needs sleep, go for it. If it’s the middle of the night and you’ve tried everything but are still wide awake, do a couple of small productive things (ones that don’t involve screens, as the blue light prevents sleep) before trying to go back to bed. The most important thing is nudging your body back to a good routine.

What have you found most effective for fighting jet lag? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. Happy Halloween! My costume was a lot less involved this year than last year (for the reasons above haha), but per tradition here is my favorite ’80s movie come to life!

take-a-day.jpg

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Better together

I don’t usually talk a lot about romantic relationships on here because every person and every couple is different, and a lot of advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. But as my fiancé and I are planning our wedding, and as a lot of friends and acquaintances are in relationships, engaged, or married, it seemed time to talk about the topic a bit more.

Let’s start with the most important thing: You are under absolutely no obligation to be in a relationship at all, or to remain in an unhealthy one. Your personal health and well-being are way more important than societal pressures. No matter what anyone tells you, if you don’t want to be in a romantic relationship you don’t have to be. Period. If you’re in a relationship and it isn’t healthy, get out.* Period.

But healthy romantic relationships are a common thing to want, and something a lot of us spend most of our lives working toward. Oh look, there’s the first piece of advice! It’s a process, and not something that will ever be fully accomplished. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Before you get into a relationship

  • Ask yourself why you want to be in one. Do you want it because everyone else is in a relationship, because you think it would be good for you, or because you really care about and have feelings for each other? (Hint: Only the last one is a thumbs up.)
  • Ask if this is healthy/logical for the stage you’re at in life. If you’re traveling for months at a time for work or often away from modern methods of communication, it just might not be the right time. If you know you don’t have the time and energy to invest in building a strong relationship, it might be better to save yourself and the other person the hurt.
  • Ask yourself if there’s anything holding you back. Are you still dealing with stuff in other parts of your personal life? Is there a circumstance that’s affecting things? Are you just nervous? Depending on what’s holding you back, determine whether it’s something to push through or to pause for.
  • Make sure you’re friends with the person. Attraction is cool, but it will not sustain a relationship. This is someone you’re looking at spending a lot of time with, and should want to get to know even better. (Side note that if you don’t know this person at all maybe take things slow and just be friends for a bit first.)

Before committing to a long-term relationship

  • Ask if you make each other better people. It doesn’t have to be in every single aspect (when my fiancé and I were in college, our long conversations wrecked my sleep schedule and it never fully recovered). But it does have to be in the areas that matter. Do you help each other be more patient, kind, understanding, thoughtful, forthright, compassionate, persevering?
  • Give it time. This is so important. Ultimately, you gotta do what’s right for both of you and your relationship. But if you haven’t known the person and/or been in the relationship very long, I’d usually advise against making any sort of long-term or lifelong commitments. (The younger you are, the longer it’s usually better to wait.)
  • Go through changes. This is the biggest reason giving it time is important. You’re both going to change over time because human beings aren’t static, nor are our circumstances. See how you both (and your relationship) respond to change, and whether the relationship has strengthened or you’ve grown apart. Life is only going to bring more changes, and it’s so, so important to make sure you’re ready to face them together.
  • Take a trip together. Especially if you’re someone who wants to travel, I can’t understate the importance of this. Take a road trip, a flight, whatever. But see how you both handle stress, small spaces, and being around each other almost constantly for at least a few days.
  • See how you handle being apart. I’m not suggesting everyone do long-distance (because honestly it sucks), but you should make sure that you can both handle being apart/talking less for several days or even a couple weeks, because co-dependency often carries a plethora of issues.
  • Find out what things they do that bother you, and how you react, and vice versa. Everybody has little habits that aren’t your preference, from the way they load the dishwasher to dog-earing book pages instead of using a bookmark. If they’re minor, they’re likely things to figure out how to accommodate. If they really bother you (or your significant other), then have a conversation and see if you can come up with a solution you’re both happy with. If they’re big things, ask yourself whether they affect your commitment to the relationship and handle accordingly. But if you or your significant other jumps to overreacting or lashing out over small things, it’s time to at least reassess that reaction in light of everyone’s well-being, and possibly reassess the relationship.
  • Love languages. It’s not a complete measure of a person, nor a full understanding of personality. But knowing how each of you gives and receives love best can minimize misunderstandings and make it easier to meet your significant other where they’re at in a way that’s meaningful to them.
  • Make sure you’re best friends with the person. I don’t believe that your significant other should be your only best friend; that seems unhealthy more often than not. But before you commit to spending your life with them, make sure they’re someone you really love hanging out with.

General

  • The work’s never done. Healthy relationships can be amazing. I am grateful beyond words for my fiancé, but that doesn’t mean we don’t encounter challenges. A healthy relationship shouldn’t feel like constant work, but it will require effort. And as you each change and grow (and your relationship does), adjusting to those changes will require efforts to shift as well.
  • Outside help is always okay. Reading a book or seeing a counselor to improve your relationship is absolutely never anything to be embarrassed about — but it should be something you’re on the same page about trying before you sign up.
  • That being said, don’t air all the dirty laundry. You don’t need to share every single detail of your relationship with friends or family. It’s still your guys’ business, and there are other aspects of your life you can talk about with loved ones.
  • Give yourselves time alone. Not all of my plans or interests involve my significant other. Nor should they. He is absolutely my favorite person to spend time with, but we’re very intentional to set aside time that isn’t with the other person, whether we’re with other friends or alone.
  • Communicate. I was an Interpersonal Communication major in college, and even with everything I learned, this is an area that constantly requires attention. Talk about how you talk to each other, through what methods, and how often. Talk about your days and your dreams for the future. Talk about silly things and important things. Talk about nothing. Get comfortable with silence. Talk in a way that gives each other space and respects their personhood. Talk about what’s bothering you, and what could be done better next time. Talk about your feelings. Talk about all of it.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned about romantic relationships? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

*Some unhealthy relationships may feel too dangerous or risky to get out of. Please, please don’t let yourself remain stuck. Reach out to resources like The National Domestic Violence Hotline (phone number is 1-800-799-7233) or Womenshealth.gov.

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On a jet plane

I just got back from a trip across the country, and have some even bigger travel plans coming up in a few weeks. Which means I am quickly become reacquainted with spending lots and lots of time on planes and in airports.

Chances are you’ve taken a few flights in your lifetime, but if you’re anything like the average emerging adult (particularly Millennials), you’re hoping to travel a lot more in the future — and learning to handle flights and airports like a pro is a necessity.

As always, the disclaimer: I have taken a lot of flights in my life, but I am by no means the expert. I’ve flown tiny 40-minute domestic puddle jumpers, and 19-plus-hour treks halfway across the globe. But I haven’t been to every continent or country, haven’t dealt with every travel challenge, and so on. Even still, I hope you’ll find some of this helpful.

Booking your flights

  • Book early. If at all possible, booking early can save you quite a bit. Adulthood means (usually) paying for your own flights, so this is a big deal.
  • Alternately, book really late. If you’re the kind of person who is cool with last-minute travel plans (note: I am not this person), then waiting until the last minute can offer up some phenomenal deals.
  • Travel sites. Comparing prices on sites like Kayak, or booking flights with a package through a site like Tripmasters can help you find deals you might not otherwise be able to.
  • Know your standards. Budget airlines like Wow Air and Ryanair can be super cost-effective — if you’re willing to deal with the small spaces, weird schedules, and cost of checking luggage. I’m cool to fly budget or coach, but there are certain airlines I simply don’t like, so I won’t book with them even if it means spending more money.
  • Pay attention to what your airline does and doesn’t cover. Know ahead of time if it will cost you extra (and how much) to check a bag, if you choose your seat when you book, or any other details that impact the cost and comfort of your trip.

Packing

  • I am far from the most efficient packer. I tend to over-pack, but I am (slowly) working on it. I have a 10-day trip coming up and am attempting to make everything I’ll need fit in a carryon and a backpack. We’ll see how it goes.
  • Make a list. If I don’t make a packing list, I will forget something important. Just a fact. I try to make the list several hours or even a day before I pack so there’s time for my subconscious to remember things I forgot to put on the list.
  • You only need one extra. I’m not the person who will tell you to only pack clothes for the exact length of time you’ll be gone. Sometimes stuff happens, and you need a spare. But you don’t need that many. A good rule of thumb is 1-2 extra pairs of underwear, 1 extra shirt, and just what you need of basically everything else.
  • Make it versatile. Especially with bottoms and shoes, don’t bring something you’ll only wear once unless it’s for a specific occasion you know you’ll be at. Lots of things (except underwear!) can be worn more than once.
  • Minimize your toiletries. This isn’t a problem for some people, but is one I tend to struggle with. Make sure everything is travel-size (3 ounces or less), and only bring the things you’ll actually need while you’re on the trip — which may mean emptying out your usual toiletry bag and opting not to bring once-in-a-while or half-empty items.
  • Be prepared. On the flipside, under-packing sucks. Like the time I spent a month in England and didn’t bring an umbrella or shoes that were good in the rain. The good news is you can often buy stuff there if you need to (I still use the umbrella I bought there and am wearing the shoes right now), but it’s better to have what you’ll need. Think about weather, what activities you’ll be doing, and any random elements like maps or chargers.
  • Leave room. If you’ll be going somewhere you plan on bringing extra things home from (souvenirs, gifts, etc.) then be sure to leave some extra room in your bag.
  • Roll it up. I tend to fold clothes, but if you’re tight for space, rolling them is without a doubt the most efficient way to pack.
  • Wear the bulk. If you have some larger clothing items that you need to bring (jackets, boots, etc.), try to wear them on the plane. Then there’s more room in your bag and you still get your bigger items without a problem.

The airport

  • Check in ahead of time. If you’re able to check in for your flight online, it will save you time and stress at the airport.
  • Dress comfortably. You’re going to be walking around, sitting around, and then sitting in an even tinier area on your flight. Wear something you’ll be comfortable in for the duration of the trip.
  • Get there early. If it’s a domestic flight, I like to be there about an hour and a half early. It leaves plenty of time to get through security and maybe get a bite to eat without feeling like I’m there forever.
  • If it’s close to a holiday or you’re flying international, get there extra early. The security lines are endlessly long around holidays, and international flights are not something you want to cut close on time around. I’d recommend a minimum of 2 hours before your flight.
  • Have your documents ready. Make sure you know where your ID and boarding pass are, as well as anything else you’ll need handy.
  • Don’t make insensitive jokes. This should go without saying, but please don’t talk about terrorist attacks or guns or explosives. It’s not only rude but dangerous, and could get you in a lot of trouble (same goes for on the plane).
  • Be a nice person. Make room for people who are clearly in a rush, don’t move super slow in the middle of a walkway, general thoughtful travel stuff.

The plane ride

  • If you get to choose your seat, choose it wisely. I fly Southwest a lot, so I usually choose my seat based on my priority. If I want to get off the plane asap when it lands, I’ll take anything that’s close to the front of the plane. If it’s a long flight or I mostly care about bring comfortable, I go for a window. If I just downed a lot of water, the aisle seat is my friend.
  • Entertain yourself. Being bored on a plane sucks. If you’re already asleep before takeoff, good for you. Otherwise, I recommend books, puzzles, music, podcasts, and movies to make all that time stuck in one seat a little more manageable.
  • Bring snacks. Not very many airlines feed you more than tiny bags of snacks (and depending on the flight sometimes don’t do that), so make sure you have food — especially if it’s a longer flight or close to a normal meal time. (Pro tip: TSA restricts liquids, but you can bring all the solid snacks you want.)
  • Stretch your legs. This gets more important the longer the flight is. I don’t like getting up on flights more than absolutely necessary, but doing so helps get the blood moving in your legs. At minimum, it helps keep your ankles from swelling, and can help prevent more serious conditions for some people. You can also do little exercises in your seat.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Aka don’t take both armrests, don’t put your stuff (including legs and feet) into your neighbor’s already limited foot space, don’t be mean to the parents trying to calm an upset baby. Also, be nice to the airline staff, they’re tired too.

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

(Photo is a free stock photo because dang it’s so cool)

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Renting 101

Today’s post is a little later than I prefer because this week has genuinely been so busy I wasn’t able to start drafting it until this afternoon. But as fall and winter are popular seasons for renting/rental leases to start, so I didn’t want to push this topic back any further.

If you currently own a house, good for you. You get to choose whether to keep reading or not, but know that you may be renting again in the future and even if you don’t, people close to you likely will. For emerging adults — especially Millennials and likely the upcoming Gen Z folks — renting is a fact of life. Many of us won’t be able to afford to buy a home until many years in the future, if ever.

There are pros and cons to renting vs. owning, of course. When you own a home, all that responsibility falls on you. But renting means it’s only temporarily yours, and that the money you’re spending on housing isn’t going towards anything that will pay off in the future (the way a mortgage does). It’s not like you’re throwing money away, because a roof over your head is important, but you’ll never get anything back out of it.

On that cheery note, let’s jump in. Full disclosure: I had never had to rent before I moved into the apartment I’m currently living in. I got a lot of advice from friends and family (and the internet), and I’m still figuring things out. But I have been thoroughly acquainted with the process, and it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it may feel at first.

Looking for a place to rent

I’m gonna be honest, this is a crappy process. When my roommates and I were looking for our place, we scoured websites, had massive email chains, and spent a lot of time looking at various options. But there are a few things that can make it easier:

  • Know your budget — and stick to it. We set a range based on research of average rent in the area, knowing that anything below our range was probably sketchy, and anything above it (which was still a lot of places) was more than we were comfortable paying.
  • Know your “musts” versus “nice-to-haves.” Number of bedrooms and bathrooms, laundry facilities, parking, pet policies, included utilities, kitchen and living room setup, stairs, flooring, etc. There’s a ton of options and you need to know what you are and aren’t willing to be flexible on (do note that more “musts” might up your cost).
  • Don’t consider places that don’t meet your musts. You’re just wasting your time looking at a place you wouldn’t be happy in.
  • Determine how long you want the lease to be. A year is pretty standard, but some places do 3, 6, or 9-month leases, and others are willing to do month-to-month or more flexible arrangements. Make sure you’re willing to commit to the amount of time they’re asking you to sign on for.
  • Search all the websites. com (my favorite), Zillow, Craigslist, etc. Also check out Facebook rentals which can sometimes have gems that aren’t posted on the bigger sites.
  • Be careful. Make sure areas aren’t sketchy and that listings aren’t fake before you go out to see a place. If you aren’t sure, do some more digging, and if you end up going, bring a friend with you (and make sure another person knows where you’re going).
  • Know what documents you’ll need. For most people, this is proof of rental history, a few forms of ID, pay stubs to prove you meet the income requirements (often anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times the rent total), and credit score. Be aware that you shouldn’t be required to show any of this info (besides ID and some contact info) until you’re actually applying to rent — aka not when touring.
  • On that note, make sure you have decent credit. If you have not great credit, you may still be able to rent, but your deposit will likely be a lot higher. I always recommend extreme caution with any kind of debt, but encourage having one credit card that you pay off in full every month to establish a good credit history.
  • Rental history matters. A lot of places won’t rent to you without it. (Though property ownership can count!) For a first place, this may mean your parents need to also put their names on the lease.
  • Try to schedule tours in chunks. Especially if they’re close by, then you have to take less time out of your day (and potentially off of work). Birds, stones, etc.
  • Keep notes on the places you tour. After a while, they will start to blur together. No way around it. I found it helpful to give each place a letter grade (B-, A+, etc.) as well as to take notes on details and things I did or didn’t like about it.
  • Location, location, location. Be absolutely sure to check out how far a potential place is from your work, school, or whatever not just distance-wise, but how long that will actually take you in traffic. Think about how far you’re willing to drive or take public transportation, and how accessible your place is from where you’ll frequently be traveling.

Being a good renter

Woohoo, you found a place to rent! Assuming you got all the finances and paperwork squared away, you should be ready to move in. Here are my biggest tips:

  • Clean everything before you move all your crap in. Honestly, your new space will feel so much better. Trust. (It will also give you a mental picture of what your place should look like when you let too long pass between cleanings.)
  • Take pictures of any damage, also before you move all your crap in. This will help ensure you get your full deposit back and keep any liability off of you. It’s often part of a move-in checklist, but if it isn’t make sure you still do it.
  • Follow the rules, and if you’re not sure if something is allowed, just ask. Some places let you paint, others don’t. Some places let you have pets, others don’t (or charge an additional fee). If you’re not sure about anything — from installing shelving to HOA policies — just reach out to your landlord and check before moving forward.
  • Be nice to your neighbors. I brought cookies to the neighbors we share walls with when we moved in. I’ll probably also bring cookies or cards around the holidays. You don’t have to do that specifically, but simply being respectful in terms of noise/any shared areas and saying hi when you see each other can go a long way.
  • Mail your rent check on time. Or pay it electronically, or whatever. I usually make sure mine is sent a few days before the end of the month (it’s due on the first) to ensure it has plenty of time to arrive. Pro tip: Take a picture of the check and/or you mailing it as proof in case the landlord tries to dispute payment. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but better to be covered.
  • Clean every few weeks at minimum. Human beings are gross. But our living spaces don’t have to be. You’ll feel a lot more relaxed if half the surfaces aren’t sticky.
  • When something breaks, let someone know. My apartment has a property manager who has helped us fix a number of random issues, and ensured that we get reimbursed for parts related to any we fixed ourselves. Stuff breaks. Better to get it fixed in a timely manner than not say anything until you’re moving out and 1) have it come out of your deposit, or 2) be a nuisance for the next renter.
  • Change your mailing address. This goes for both when you move in and when you move out. It’s good to get your own mail, and annoying when randos in your old place get it instead of you. Be sure to change it on all your accounts and let loved ones know in case they send you anything.
  • When it’s finally time to move out, clean everything even more thoroughly than when you moved in. Some people hire a professional cleaning service for this; if you don’t want to do it yourself and that’s in your budget, go for it. If it’s out of the price range, buy a friend or two pizza, blast the music, and get to it.

What are the best tips and lessons you’ve learned when it comes to renting? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because my apartment is not this pretty.)

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Follow the sunbeam back up to the sun

Anyone who’s spent more than a few hours with me has probably heard me quote or reference C.S. Lewis. He has long been my favorite author (though ironically not the author of my favorite book), and portions from his writings have informed my perspectives on the world, life, and myself.

The little lesson I’ve been contemplating on recently is the idea of gratitude. Life has been full of a lot of ups and downs lately, and even the good things can sometimes feel overwhelming. A friend mentioned that one of her favorite ways to stay centered is gratitude, specifically listing things she’s thankful for. I realized that I’ve been doing a poor job of that, and have been working to change it.

Gratitude, at its most basic level, is acknowledging good things that affect you, and crediting the source of the good thing. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm, to be grateful is to follow the sunbeam back up to the sun. Seeing a sunbeam in a forest or feeling its warmth is the good thing, and tracing it back up to the sun is the act of gratitude.

The most interesting thing about gratitude is that, if you let it, it’s a chain reaction. If I feel the sunbeam and am grateful for it, I can extrapolate that to being grateful for the sun and the earth (and the atmosphere that makes the proximity hospitable), and the sheer improbability of it all existing in just this way, which for me is then a segue to faith. If I keep following the rabbit trail, I would never stop listing all the things I’m thankful for.

Externally it can be the same thing. An attitude of thankfulness and appreciation spreads among people so, so quickly. Part of that is thanks to our ingrained reciprocal, social nature as humans, but we all know that it also just feels good.

Growing up we were all taught to say thank you at the necessary times, but it’s surprising how much extra meaningful it can feel when unprompted. Maybe that means an extra thank you to your server at a restaurant, maybe it means writing a coworker a note to tell them how much you appreciate them. Maybe it means randomly sending a family member or close friend a text about why you’re grateful for them.

It can also be through gestures, not just words. Buying someone a cup of coffee or completing a task that makes things easier on them is an easy way to share your gratitude. I really like to bake, so now and then I bake treats for my office to boost morale after we’ve done a good job on a project.

And sometimes it’s just for you. Being an emerging adult is hard (no matter what anyone tells you), and being grateful is often the best way to shift your perspective if you’re feeling overwhelmed or negative. So here’s a quick list of some tips for practicing gratitude:

  • Write a list of things you’re thankful for — you can also keep a journal for this if you want something you can look back on
  • Tell or show someone why you’re grateful for them
  • Go for a walk or spend time outside with no agenda except to experience some part of nature that you enjoy
  • Look through some pictures or memorabilia that represent good memories
  • Think about things you’re looking forward to
  • Name some things you’re proud of about yourself, and then consider what/who helped you achieve those things

I also want to note that in no way is this intended to be flippant. While I do believe there are always things to be grateful for, it’s important to allow space for other emotions as well, especially in times of pain or crisis. It’s okay to be sad or angry or exhausted. Healthy gratitude will never replace those things, but it can come alongside them and hold you up when the rest of life feels heavy.

At the end of the day, you made it this far, you’ve got people who care about you, and you’ve got it in you to keep going. Sounds like some good things to be grateful for.

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

(Photo is a free stock photo because somehow I don’t have any of these?)

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Stretched too thin

We’re gonna kick this week’s post off with a very exciting announcement: My boyfriend proposed (and I said yes)! He is wonderful and made the whole experience incredibly special, and I’m very excited for the future.

That being said, the present is *ahem* quite busy. I work full time, try to exercise, have some upcoming plans with friends as well as two large upcoming trips, blog, do general adulting like cleaning the apartment, and now am also wedding planning. I am very used to juggling tasks and priorities, but the last couple of months have been less busy than I’m used to. Which for the most part was really nice.

As someone who’s prone to feeling overwhelmed quickly when here’s a lot on my plate, I was pretty proud of myself for not getting particularly stressed with the things starting to pile up. Until this morning. A big project with a tight deadline came in at work and I momentarily lost my cool.

Most of us, as emerging adults and people in general, have phases where we feel like we’re stretched too thin and we don’t know how or if we can get it all done. I know several people who are in the middle of one of those phases now. And while I’ve talked on here several times about what to do when you’re tired, need to take a day, or burnt out, today I wanted to talk about ways to dig in and get it done. Because sometimes that’s all you can do for a while.

Break it up. I don’t know about you but it’s rare that I can sit down and devote more than an hour or two to a single project before I need a break. So set a timer for 45 minutes, an hour, or some decent chunk of time that works for you and don’t touch anything else until that time is up. Alternately, you can break the work up into smaller, more reasonable goals. You’ll feel like you’re making progress even if it’s just checking off one small thing at a time.

Jam out. Depending on the kind of work you’re doing, listening to music can be a really, really good way to pass the time and keep yourself at a good pace. I have an instrumental playlist just for that, or I’ll throw on some music I know well enough that I don’t have to pay it much attention, and dive into my work.

Have snacks and water nearby. This will keep you from getting distracted every time you get up to get a bite to eat or a drink, and make sure you don’t skip too much sustenance or get dehydrated.

Set rewards. Tell yourself that when you accomplish a given task, you can have a treat of some sort, whether that’s food, a break, or something else. For example, my reward for working my butt off at work today will be no expectation of getting anything productive done at home tonight, and I bought myself a present when I finished my last big freelancing project.

Surround yourself well. My coworkers get all the credit for pulling me out of the totally negative spot I was stressed out in this morning. They’re task-oriented, and acknowledge the challenge while remaining functionally positive (in other words, not necessarily chipper, but optimistic that we’ll get the job done well).

What helps you most when you’ve got a lot on your plate? 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 because y’all have already seen all my city photos.)

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Tied to your desk

Hi all! This week has been very busy for a number of good reasons, which I’m hoping to make a post on very soon. But in the meantime, I’ve got some helpful advice. Whether you’re a student or full-time employee, classroom and office settings have one thing in common: sitting for a long time and staring at screens.

It can be fatiguing, boring, and even unhealthy to sit at a desk for 8 hours constantly looking at bright screens. So what to do about it?

In school I didn’t have it too bad in this regard. Classes changed every few hours and my campus was one big hillside, so I had a fair amount of walking in-between. I also didn’t bring my computer to class often, and when doing homework would take breaks whenever I needed. But I did intern in a couple of office, and found my eyes in particular getting incredibly fatigued. At my current job, I have a nice desk with a big computer monitor plus a laptop, and usually only have to get up to run to the printer or ask someone a question. In other words, I have a lot of sedentary time in front of screens.

It’s not good for us. Humans need natural light and reasonable amounts of movement throughout the day not just to be healthy, but to be focused and productive. So over time, I’ve found a few things that help:

  • Take 5. Go outside or even somewhere else in the office for a few minutes to resent your concentration, get a change of scenery, use your muscles, and give your eyes a break
  • Look further. When my eyes started getting computer-tired for the first time in college, I learned that you follow this 20-20-20 rule to help. Basically, every 20ish minutes, look at something 20 or more feet away for about 20 seconds. If your eyes are still getting fatigued, you can also look into getting glasses that minimize digital eye strain by blocking glare and combatting blue light (I got some almost a year ago and they make a huge difference).
  • Check your settings. Turn down your brightness, and make sure you’re sitting with your computer screen situated so you’re 20-24 inches from you and not having to crane up or down to see it. You can also adjust the color temperature on your monitor’s display to increase yellow light and decrease blue light. My laptop has an app called Flux that puts a yellowing filter on my display in the evening and keeps it until morning to make night work easier on my eyes and not fend off sleep.
  • Move around. It’s simple, we hear it all the time. But even moving around and stretching your legs while sitting — in addition to getting up and walking now and then — help keep your body in a better spot.
  • Sit up straight. Good posture is a learned habit. I’m not the best at it. But having a chair that ergonomically supports your back can minimize fatigue and aid focus when you’re stuck at your desk. Or sit on a medicine ball if it wouldn’t be too distracting (the reason why I don’t).
  • Let the light in. Make sure that you’re getting natural light if possible, but also that your lights aren’t too dim causing your eyes to strain. Adding pops of color into your desk space — especially with items like plants — can also make things easier on the eyes.

Do you have any helpful tips for sitting in front of the computer all day? 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 because my office isn’t the most photogrenic.)

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Parting ways with the clutter

I’m not the tidiest person you’ll ever meet. Some areas of my life are incredibly tidy, probably to the point of being annoying to other people. Some are, um, not. For example, I have to have the bed made every day, but am not allowed to have a desk anymore because I will cover any “spare” horizontal surface with piles of crap. The inside of my car is usually pretty free of trash and clutter, but until last weekend the outside looked like Pigpen’s 16th birthday present.

The point here is that there’s (sort of) a balance. Part of me would love to boast about fully embracing the Marie Kondo* lifestyle, with the kind of aesthetic minimalism that makes people feel both peaceful and impressed as soon as they walk in the room. In other words, part of me would love for my possessions to give you the impression that I have my whole life together.

But another part of me wants everything cushy with a ton of healthy houseplants and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with an honest-to-God rolling ladder because that is the dream. However, neither of these acknowledges the part of me that sometimes mentally just can’t deal and needs to put all those papers in a pile until I can handle them later.

So we compromise. I, as a typical American, have too much stuff. To be fair, I’ve been progressively whittling down my stuff over the past 5+ years. Growing up with two houses, I did not have two of everything, but I did have too much. Moving a lot, certain boxes just got moved around and never gone through. And if I could find some little corner to tuck stuff in (which I am very good at), then I never had to deal with it because I couldn’t see it. But that shouldn’t be the norm. So began the rounds of purging.

The first big one was when I left for college. I spent days — and utilized the help of several people — to go through literally every item I owned and get rid of as much as possible. The nice thing is I had the time to be fun and nostalgic about it, and I really did get rid of a ton.

I tried to do at least a medium purge at the end of every school year, because I had to singlehandedly pack up everything I had brought to school and either store it or fit it in my car and drive it to the other end of the state. (Side note: This improved my already very efficient car-packing skills. It’s real-life Tetris.)

I did another sort-of purge during the months after college. With personal belongings, it was more like sorting because a lot was stuff I’d need again as soon as I moved out. But I did the most thorough purge of old school stuff I had ever completed and it felt amazing. I had saved so many papers and books and general crap because “I might need to go back and find it one day.” Let me tell you: The only things from college that I have gone back to were a very short list of books, notes and assignments from like four classes, and some concepts that were an easy find on Google. What stuff have I gone back to from high school and grade school? Absolutely. Nothing.*

When I moved out was the latest big purge. It mattered to me that I feel fully moved out, and I didn’t want to make my parents deal with a bunch of my stuff in my old room. It wasn’t a flawless execution — as much as I got rid of, they’re still storing a number of boxes for me that my shared apartment simply doesn’t have room for. But those boxes contain almost solely childhood mementos and books. And when I have a bigger space, they’ll come with me and be whittled down again.

But I still have too much stuff. So rather than doing one massive purge, I’ve been going through things in small bursts. And for a lot of us emerging adults, it’s a lot more feasible to tackle our crap that way than attempting to do it all at once. So here is everything I’ve learned in my effort to declutter my space:

  • Would you be sad if it were gone? This is my version of the “Does it bring you joy?” trick. If I would be disappointed not keeping a piece of art or old stuffed animal and regret it later, it matters enough that I can hold onto it — at least for now.
  • Do you need it? This serves a dual purpose: Some stuff is lame but necessary. I’m not sentimentally attached to my cleaning supplies, but I do need them. Some stuff is convenient, but not necessary. I don’t need as many sweaters as I own, so I figure out how many I “need” and get rid of the rest.
  • Do you use it? Also a good one for clothes, but excellent for random clutter and knickknacks. If I haven’t worn a pair of everyday shoes in more than a year, probably not worth keeping. If I avoid using that one blanket because I like the other ones better, I can let it go.
  • File things. Y’all. It can feel like an annoying adult thing, but having a file box is the best. I know where all my important papers are — and if they don’t belong in there, I probably don’t need them.
  • Find things a home. My boyfriend laughs that I phrase it like this, but this is where Marie Kondo and I agree: Treat your stuff like it lives there, and you want its home to be nice. If there isn’t a space where it can belong, it might be time to get rid of it.
  • Ditch duplicates. My current apartment is not the best at this because eventually we won’t all be living together and will want our own stuff when we leave, i.e. we have way more dishes than we need. But if you have multiple of something without a very good justification, pick your favorite and ditch the others.
  • Throw away your trash. I really can’t emphasize this one enough; it’s the only one I’m consistent about even in the more cluttered corners of my life. Trash is not worth the space it takes up. Throw it out (and recycle what you can).
  • It doesn’t have to be clutter-free, but it does have to be clean. A lot of us need at least a little space where we can be messy — it’s often an important part of psychological well-being. But don’t let it get gross, and turn into a health hazard and a source of stress. If you clean regularly, you’ll probably get rid of some unnecessary stuff at the same time. This is why I make the bed every morning and clean off my desk before leaving work.
  • Digital isn’t infinite. Unfortunately, computers and phones also run out of space, but most of the same principles apply as when decluttering tangible spaces: toss what you don’t need, organize what you do need so you can actually find it when you want it. Bonus tips: Keep items off your desktop in documents and other folders (or put your apps in folders for mobile) for some digital breathing room; emptying your trash, deleting old downloads, and restarting your device can all free up storage space.
  • It’s okay to have exceptions. I hate getting rid of pictures. Because especially the older they are, the less likely it is you can get it back. I also own a ton of books, and allow myself to keep more than I need in that category. That being said, the pictures still have to be organized and the books can’t exceed the shelves (even if they are full to the brim).

I know that was a lot, but I hope it proves helpful in making your space feel a little more manageable.

What are your best tips for decluttering? (Seriously, I’m still in the process and could use the help.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

*Marie Kondo is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, aka the first thing most people will bring up when you mention decluttering.

**This isn’t to say you shouldn’t save anything. My mom has a manila folder with the “best of the best” of my brother’s and my schoolwork from each grade, including the spelling test I got a 0% on in 2nd grade, which she occasionally pulls out for a life lesson that it’s okay to fail. I’ve kept some small items that friends gave me or we made. The point is just that the memories are more important than the paper.

(Photo is a free stock photo because this type of space is my goal.)

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It’s okay to set heavy things down

There’s a lot of heavy in the world right now. There always is, but in recent years it’s been paraded and pushed at us with greater speed and numbers than in times past. One of the downsides of our technology. I firmly believe that we have an obligation and a responsibility not just as adults (emerging or otherwise) but as human beings to be aware of and engage with the heavy things happening around us. It’s important. It’s how we protect, heal, learn, and grow.

But I’ll be the first person to say that I find myself feeling bogged down and disheartened increasingly quickly these days. Part of that is my personality and where I’m at in life; I know everyone’s circumstances are different. But part of it comes from the heaviness of the topics I’ve been engaging with. Natural disasters, violence, hatred, war, famine, inequality, illness, injustice, deceit, ignorance. None of the moths from Pandora’s box are new.

They’re realities we have to grapple with, but it’s frankly unrealistic and unhealthy for us to expect ourselves or anyone else to face all or most of them all or even most of the time. I learned a long time ago not to watch scary movies in the evening, or I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep well. Now I’m realizing I also have to be able to disengage from the heavy things and allow myself to engage with lighter things not only right before bed, but throughout my day.

A lot of the media I’ve been consuming lately has been really serious, covering a number of the topics mentioned above. I’ve had conversations, read articles and books, watched films. But there has to be a balance there, which might mean watching videos of cute animals or sitcom reruns, reading one of the happier poetry books I own, or just sending memes to friends.

And it’s not just broad or global heavy things that have to be set down sometimes. One day last week was awful on pretty much all fronts — the worst day I’ve had in months. So I baked 4 dozen cupcakes for my coworkers and roommates (and me obviously). Did it fix the other stuff? Not even close. But it did add some light in when I’d nearly been convinced the heavy stuff would never let me up.

Some heavy stuff should really be set down permanently, especially feelings like guilt, shame, or even grief. They can be a useful initial catalyst to point out an area that needs to be addressed, but clinging to them will do you no good. Then you have room to pick up things like grace and hope.

All of that is much easier said than done, especially if the issue is close to your heart. But if it’s a balance we strive for consistently, it’s one we’ll get much closer to achieving.

What’s your favorite way to add some lightness in when life feels heavy? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Eternally in-between

I’m not someone who’s super comfortable with unknowns or feeling in-between. Which is funny in this stage of life. It’s even funnier when you think about the fact I switched between parents houses a couple times a week until I was 16, and had lived in 17 different houses by the time I turned 17. Still, experience with unknowns and change doesn’t do much to make it more comfortable — it just makes us better equipped to handle it.

Emerging adulthood is the endless in-between. In-between being a teen and being a grownup, in-between being dependent and being full independent, in-between major life stages, in-between school and a steady career, in-between social circles, and so on.

But in knowing that there is often nothing I can do about these in-betweens — at least yet — I’m trying to become better about embracing the middle. Honestly I’m not entirely sure yet what that will look like. Part of it will mean trying not to stress about things outside of my control. And part of it will mean just learning to live in the tension.

There isn’t a call to action here, just a reminder that it’s okay to feel in-between. It’s okay to not love that feeling. It may not go away for a while, and when things settle in one area they’ll probably become more tumultuous in another. But you’ve made it this far, and you’ll keep making it through whatever in-between you might feel stuck in today.

As always, questions and comments welcome below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Recipes: Peach crisp

Hey folks! It has been a very busy week, but I do have a recipe for ya to catch the last little bits of summer before they float away. This is one of my new favorite dessert recipes because it’s gluten-free, vegan, and delicious. Aka I can bring it to work and everyone both can and will eat it. Check it out below:

Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 4-5 cups sliced peaches (depending on the crumble-to-fruit ratio you want), best to use very firm peaches
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
Crumble topping:
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (can use almond flour, but it’s more expensive than crushing sliced almonds)
  • small handful sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • about 1 tsp. cinnamon (a healthy dose)
  • splash of vanillaimg_6475.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF, grease 8×8 glass baking dish or pie pan
  2. Combine filling ingredients in large bowl until well mixed, then empty into baking dish
  3. Combine crumble topping ingredients (I usually use the same bowl the filling was mixed in), then pour evenly over fillingimg_6477.jpg
  4. Bake for about 40 minutes
  5. Serve warm (ideally with ice cream) and enjoy!

img_6479.jpg

Cost about $10* (the most expensive part was the almonds), makes 9 large or 12 small servings.

Pro tip: You can substitute berries or other fruit, just scale back on the cinnamon. Everything else stays the same! I actually started making this as a berry crisp. And if you buy too much fruit, just freeze some to make it again later!

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

*Once again, cost was a rough estimate because most ingredients are regularly stocked in most homes. The peaches were on sale for like $1.50 total, and almonds were the only pricier bit.

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Happy 100

I’ve measured my life in Augusts for almost as long as I can remember. Actually, for as long as I’ve known how to measure time. It started the way it usually does with kids — when summer ends and school starts. Then my boyfriend’s and my anniversary in early August got added on. This year, it’s also the one-year anniversary of this blog. Technically the anniversary is next week, but this is my one-hundredth post, so we’re counting it.

I don’t always love looking back because I know I don’t remember it accurately. Some things do become more clear with time — like how high school was not as decent as I thought it was then — but other things soften and some things just fade. And all those shifts make it hard to examine the past clearly.

The last year has honestly felt really, really long. When I set up this blog and published the first post, I remember where I was sitting (in my parents’ backyard in much too hot of weather to be doing so). Though it’s difficult to remember quite how I felt right then, I know my life felt suspended. I had made it through college, I knew the physical region where I wanted to look for a job, and I had finally snagged a part-time job for the meantime. Little things were in place, but the future seemed like a giant abyss.

Less than 6 months later, I had moved to a whole new area and into a new apartment with friends, started a full-time job, finally (mostly) stopped having to do long-distance with my boyfriend. Things were the best I could have reasonably expected.

Of course, life throws curveballs. Family tragedies, social challenges, unexpected pressures, and the sometimes crippling weight of my own expectations rolled in. And the thing about being a more-or-less self-sufficient adult is you just have to figure out how to handle what gets thrown your way. You grow, or you crumble. Sometimes you crumble and then grow.

I’ve changed a lot more in the last year than I anticipated. Some of it is for the better: I’m more confident in a number of areas, more settled into where I’m at in life, and more straightforward with my thoughts. Of course, there’s also stuff that I’m still working on — some if it is honestly in a bit of worse shape than it was this time last year.

It would be gratifying to share a big long list of all the things I’ve learned, advice I could give to people who might be in a similar spot, but I still really feel like I’m learning. And it seemed much more important to start with a thank you.

Thank you to all the people who continue to read and be supportive of not just the blog itself, but its purpose and the space it was created act as for those of us who are making our way through emerging adulthood in all its wonder and confusion. Thank you to everyone who offered kind and encouraging words over the last year — I seriously can’t believe how great y’all are. Thank you to the people who have tolerated me pacing and huffing when I had writer’s block and a post was due. Thank you to the mentors, leaders, and peers who have taught me basically everything I’ve shared on here. And thanks to you, emerging adults: I hope I’ve made our journey feel even the tiniest bit less murky.

I do have two pieces of advice, and one request. Advice first.

The biggest things I’ve learned this year can be summed up in this: Absolutely everything changes in either substance or feeling, and you really can make it through anything.

People change, jobs change, areas change, the world changes. Constancy is a very, very rare thing. I do believe that a few things don’t change — like hope and love and faith — but how they feel can still change. How you interact with even the most constant, steady forces in the universe will change. Because you’re changing. Your only job is to try to push those changes toward the better.

Life is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. I’m not trying to be either cynical or flippant, it’s just a fact. Some challenges will feel worse than others, and you might get hit when you’re already down, or as soon as you get back up. There’s a lot about life that we have zero control over, but we can always choose to keep going. So no matter what small accomplishment it start with, no matter how insurmountable the odds, you can win just by continuing. Even if it’s not on the same path, you are full of more courage and strength than you know, and can keep moving forward.

Finally, a request. I would absolutely love to hear — particularly from emerging adult readers — what you’d like to see more of on this blog in the coming year. I’ve got some cool posts lined up but am not made of ideas, nor am I in your shoes. What info would be most helpful and/or enjoyable to read?

As always, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thank you for a stellar first year, and happy adulting!

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Write what you don’t know

Freshman year of college, I signed up for a creative writing class because I had room in my schedule and it sounded like fun. I ended up taking two more, and the professor who taught all of them was one of my favorite professors in college. One of the assignments he gave us was based on the idea “write what you don’t know.” This is, of course, pushing back against the age-old advice to write what you know, and we were tasked with creating a story that centered on a task we had no idea how to do — in my case, replacing the spark plugs on a car.

Little did I know that assignment would sum up one of the most important skills I’ve learned so far: doing what you don’t know. As emerging adults, there’s a lot we don’t know. That’s not a bad thing at all; we’re still learning and aren’t usually given much in the way of a roadmap. But it is challenging.

I’ve been given some really exciting tasks recently at work, but some of them are way out of my area of expertise. But instead of just being intimidated, I’m trying to go through the same process I used for that creative writing assignment in figuring out how to not just muddle through, but actually talk about and contribute towards areas I don’t know. Ultimately, it comes down to about four steps:

Research. Watch videos, look up examples, read articles about the thing. Whatever materials you can get your hands on will be helpful context and jumping off points for the topic.

Consult others. Even if you find phenomenal resources, humans are important. Talk to someone who’s done the thing before, or who knows about similar stuff. Ask them for advice or their perspective. Pro tip: If you can, buy them a cup of coffee (or something similar) for their time, and if you can’t make sure to write a thank-you note or email.

Find a way to process it. For me, this usually means writing things down. I’m a super visual person, and need to see things to understand them. Draw a diagram, make a spreadsheet, do a physical run-through if you’re a kinesthetic learner.

Trust yourself. This means leaning into both what you’ve learned and your own capabilities. Your first try might need revisions, and that’s okay. But chances are it will be better than you think, and you’ll become increasingly confident in an area that’s not necessarily your field.

I’ll be putting all of this into practice even more in the coming weeks, and as much as it is a bit nerve-racking it’s also a welcome challenge because it’s an opportunity to grow.

What tips have you found most helpful for doing what you don’t know? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Less is more

This is my 98th post on this blog, which puts us 2 away from 100. On August 10, it will be 1 year since I started it. I had been waiting for either of those milestones to make this announcement, but part of all the growing I’ve been trying to do the past year has included letting go of needing things to be perfect, and just letting them be right.

Don’t panic, I’ll still be posting weekly. I’m not going anywhere just yet. But after almost a year and almost a hundred posts, my commitment to posting every Sunday and Wednesday has started to become more of an obligation than an enjoyment. So for the foreseeable future, posts will just be on Wednesdays.

Adulting has been a heck of a journey, and I hope sharing what I’ve learned has been helpful. I’ll still be sharing all of those things, and even this announcement is me indirectly trying to say that it’s important to recognize when to shift priorities and commitments, even if it seems like there would be a better time.

I’m really looking forward to a few upcoming post topics, and of course am also always open to new ideas. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for sticking around for this long and I’m excited for what’s next — happy adulting!

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A step back is not a step backward

Not going to lie, I completely forgot to prep today’s post. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out the healthiest balance of responsibilities, personal activities, and time to just… not do anything. I’m not great with the last one in particular, but then I end up putting too much on my plate and/or too much pressure on myself, and other things start slipping through the cracks.

I love the phase of life that I’m in right now, and it has brought so many wonderful things. But it’s also been really challenging. Sometimes it’s little thing after little thing, or sometimes one big thing comes out of the blue and knocks me back. I’m doing my best to try to find the balance between acknowledging that some things suck but that they don’t have to be a catastrophe.

Last weekend was the first time I cleaned my apartment in probably a month. It’s not my personality to do that, and I could have felt disappointed or frustrated that I wasn’t more diligent. I very briefly was. But 1) it’s done now and I did clean it, and 2) feeling like that was doing me exactly zero good. So I’m trying to change that habit.

Unfortunately, I know it’s one that a lot of emerging adults struggle with. We often feel pressured to be doing all the right things or living a particular sort of life. We look around and it can feel like we’re the only one who doesn’t have it all together. But that’s not true. This is the time of life where you really are going at your own pace and figuring out who you are apart from school and often away from family. You’re determining what matters most to you and forging the path for the rest of your life. It’s a hugely important time, but there’s no one way to do it.

Still, setbacks or things going wrong — whether we could have done anything about them or not — can feel like we’re at risk of being derailed. And that can be a scary feeling. But as the title says, a step back isn’t necessarily a step backward. And a step backward isn’t a final sentence. For better or worse, it’s just life. And our job is to keep moving forward.

To help ease the stress of the pressure I put on myself to try to avoid steps backward, I’m trying to take a few steps back:

I’ve decided to try to be both more intentional and more limited in my technology and media consumption. I’m not doing anything drastic, but I will be scaling back on how often I scroll through social media, and not wasting my time with news that doesn’t serve a purpose (whether that purpose is educating me about current events or occasionally positive stories just to make me smile). I’ll still be watching TV and movies, but I’ll also be trying to read more.

I’m not going to stick to crazy rules about cleaning the apartment and doing my laundry, which will hopefully lead to a balance between cleaning it almost too often and definitely not often enough.

I’ve already been minimizing commitments that I don’t enjoy, and making extra effort to invest in relationships. This one has made a huge improvement, especially as I’ve started to view building relationships as not just something in my schedule but something that can be both enjoyable and productive.

I have too much stuff, and not a ton of space to put it in. So I’m going to be making a serious effort to whittle down unnecessary junk and live a little more minimalist. More on that coming later.

I’m trying to accept the fact that life has unknowns, and there is simply no way I can prepare for everything. So the new goal is trying to be prepared, without being overly stressed.

Only you know quite what your life looks like right now, but my guess is that one of these things might have resonated with you. If it did, maybe think about whether a step back might be helpful, and remember that doing so might even be a step forward.

What has helped you when you need to take a step back? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Recipes: Pulled pork

Welcome to another installment of “Wow, I love my crock pot.” Rather than making a whole meal in the crock pot, this time I just made the meat. Having tried to slow roast things in the oven before with slightly underwhelming results, I was so excited when this turned out as pull-apart tender as I was hoping for. The best part is it was insanely easy.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lb. pork loin roast, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper
  • Goya adobo seasoning (or any other you like)
  • about 1 cup grapefruit juice (any citrus will work, use at least 1/2 cup)
  • 1 can root beerIMG_6329

Instructions:

  1. Put the roast in the center of the crock pot, fatty side up.img_6328.jpg
  2. Puncture the roast with holes a few inches deep and 1-2 inches apart.
  3. Cut onion into large chunks (I cut it into eighths), then peel layers apart and place around roast in crock pot.
  4. Season with garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and Goya adobo. NOTE: I seasoned with the intention of using the meat mostly for Caribbean food, hence the brighter flavors and adobo seasoning. If you’re using it for a different cultural food, feel free to adjust the seasonings accordingly.
  5. Pour citrus juice and root beer over roast. These are super important because the acidity breaks down the toughness in the meat and brings in extra flavor.img_6331.jpg
  6. Cook on high for 4-4.5 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
  7. Use two forks to remove roast from crock pot, and then to shred the meat. (Pro tip: Pour some of the juices in the crock pot back over the meat to keep it moist.)img_6335.jpg
  8. Serve however you’d like! I fried mine with lime juice and more seasoning for tacos, but later this week I’ll be using leftovers for pulled pork sandwiches, and to eat over rice. As one of the most versatile meats, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Cost about $16, makes about 6 servings

When making this recipe again, I might like to marinate the meat head of time for the flavor to seep in better (which I really should have remembered from my last crock pot recipe). Reminder to be safe about handling raw meat, and if you aren’t sure that it’s cooked through you can check it with a meat thermometer — any temp above 160ºF you’re good to go.

What’s your favorite way to cook pork? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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It’s all a big backyard

I love traveling. I’ve been to six countries outside the U.S. on three continents, plus 25 states and Puerto Rico — and I’ve hardly made a dent in all the places I want to go. However, despite the dozens of flights I’ve taken by myself those trips were all with a group of some sort, whether family, church, or school. They’ve all been places I wanted to go, but as an emerging adult I’m finally getting the opportunity to take larger trips on my own initiative.

I’m fortunate to have a family who supported traveling and adventuring, and who taught me how to do it well. I have friends who have never been outside the U.S., and friends who have been to more countries than they can list off the top of their head. And while big trips sometimes aren’t feasible based on work or finances, I can’t stress how important it is to explore the world beyond your own experience — especially as a young adult.

Think of it this way: Few of us are married, fewer have kids, and fewer than that own a home. We are likely as untethered as we ever will be again. Money can be tight, but we decide what to do with it. New things and places can be intimidating, but it’s always better to learn how to handle them early on. I haven’t gone 6 months without getting on a plane since early high school. That may sound like a lot to some of you, and not a big deal to others. And I know that affordability is a big obstacle for people wanting to travel. The good news is travel also doesn’t have to mean going across the globe.

My absolute favorite places in the world are only a few hours from where I grew up. And they’re familiar now, but weren’t the first time I went there. I’ve gotten to talk with people from far more places than I’ve ever visited, and listen to amazing stories. I’ve eaten homemade, amazing food from countries that I’ve never been to, and those are some of my favorite meals.

So in an escalating order of how far you’d have to go from home, here are some of my favorite ways to make the big, wide world feel more like something I can see and experience a lot of:

Without leaving home

  • Books – There is no better way to build empathy and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Pick up a novel or nonfiction book that explores a neighborhood, culture, or country different from yours. You might connect to it more than you expect. My favorite: I Am Malala (there are a ton of others on my to-be-read list)
  • Documentaries – I don’t watch a ton of documentaries, but they’re an amazing way to learn stories you otherwise might never see. Plus there are often a bunch on streaming sites like Netflix, and are usually in stock at the local library. My favorite: The White Helmets (less than an hour and on Netflix!)

Without leaving town

  • Food festivals – A lot of towns and regions have cultural or food festivals. See if yours or a nearby town will be hosting any, and go explore without having to get on a plane
  • Mom-and-pop restaurants – Last month I had amazing Colombian food at a little restaurant run by three generations of women that I happened to stop into because I was hungry and it was close. Even if it’s small or out of your comfort zone, you can find some amazing flavors

Without leaving the country

  • Road trips – These are one of my favorite ways to see a lot of a new place, because 1) your car has windows, and 2) you can stop whenever you want. It’s how I’ve explored 20 of the 25 states I’ve been to, and how I plan on visiting more
  • National parks – Nature is beautiful. Visit it. Love it. Protect it. Plus, it’s insight into the history and culture of an area, and you might meet some cool people from other places who are also visiting the park
  • Double up – Lots of cool sights can be seen in one trip if you’re willing to zig-zig or travel just a little further. Before you make plans to go somewhere, see if another place you’d like to visit is nearby. By making your trip just a little longer, you’ll be able to see more while only traveling once. Especially recommended for the East Coast!

Without leaving the atmosphere

  • Sharing is caring – Hostels, Airbnbs, and friend of a friend’s couches all make international travel way more affordable. If there’s a place you really want to visit, see if you can find a non-hotel option for accommodations
  • Budget airlines – They can be bumpy rides, and you usually don’t get to bring a lot of luggage. But places like Wow Airlines and Ryanair can cut way down on what’s often the most expensive part of international travel
  • Travel sites – Ask around and see if friends who have traveled a lot have favorite places to book through. One that was recommended to me is Tripmasters, a site that bundles flights and hotels, but lets you customize the package as much as you want, and offers a huge number of locations

Traveling is hugely valuable, even if it’s done in small steps. Ultimately, all it takes is being open to a world beyond what we know, and letting it teach us and shape us.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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To cook or not to cook

I love cooking. But sometimes I don’t have time, sometimes I don’t want to, and sometimes making the kind of meal I want when it’s only for one person is a challenge. So as much as I love cooking and eating fresh whenever possible, I do eat frozen meals, especially for lunch.

However, being an adult means we get to choose what we eat, and that should never mean we consistently subject ourselves to underwhelming frozen meals. I spent most of college without a kitchen, which started my quest for affordable, enjoyable frozen meals. Relative health is also a factor, so while they are frozen meals I try to only rarely eat ones that are especially unhealthy. And of course, if you’re able, you can always prep meals and freeze them for a more healthful, often even cheaper approach to the same idea.

If you’re in search of store-bought options, I’ve listed some of my favorites below. The best news is that all of them (except the ones with asterisks) are $4 or less, and several can make multiple meals. I’ve also ranked each section in terms of my favorites. Check them out below:

  • Pizza
    • Trader Joe’s tomato and arugula pizza – This is probably my favorite frozen meal. It feels like a treat but isn’t way unhealthy, and I can usually make two smaller meals of it
    • DiGiorno garlic bread crust pepperoni pizza* – Good for 2-3 meals. Less healthy but a good treat if you can find it at Walmart, Target, or a local grocery store
    • Amy’s spinach pizza* – Pricier but fairly healthy. Good for multiple meals and available at most grocery stores
    • NOTE: All of these need to be cooked it an oven based on size
  • Single serving
    • Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala – This is so good. Simple, not super spicy and filling
    • Evol cilantro lime chicken burrito – Could use some lime or guac, but a healthy, well-portioned frozen meal option that can be found at Target and most grocery stores
    • Trader Joe’s organic pesto tortellini – This needs a little something, so I usually top with fresh parmesan, but with the addition is a treat that feels healthy, and is filling without being a large portion
    • Trader Joe’s yellow jackfruit curry with rice – A delicious and flavorful vegan frozen meal. I didn’t even miss the meat, and genuinely enjoyed vegetables I usually don’t like
    • Trader Joe’s chicken and cheese tamales – Homemade tamales still win, but these are a quality substitute. You can always top them with some cheese and/or guacamole to boost the flavor
    • Trader Joe’s chicken and vegetable wonton soup – The only frozen soup that’s been worth it for me. It isn’t restaurant quality, but it’s good on a cold day
  • Mac and cheese
    • Evol truffle mac and cheese – I love these. They are amazing. They are comfort food after a long day. Please go to your nearest Target or grocery store and treat yourself
    • Trader Joe’s gorgonzola gnocchi – not technically mac and cheese, but honestly delicious. Makes two small or 1.5 normal meals
    • Lean Cuisine Vermont white cheddar mac and cheese – I am not usually a Lean Cuisine person, but these are pretty yummy while also being easy and light on calories
  • Not standalone meals
    • Frozen green beans or broccoli – No brand here, though I usually get Trader Joe’s, C&W, or Target’s generic one, but it’s a great way to get veggies in small servings without them going bad before you can use it all
    • Trader Joe’s gyoza potstickers – These are a tiny bit tricky too cook, and definitely need soy sauce, but are great with a side of veggies
    • Trader Joe’s chicken spring rolls – I didn’t love the vegetable spring rolls (too much mushroom for me), but these were a good alternative. A very mild flavor, but good when dipped in sweet chili sauce. NOTE: These guys have to be baked in an oven or toaster oven

General reminders that it’s important to have a balanced diet — which means eating foods besides frozen meals — and that despite my obvious love of Trader Joe’s I’m not compensated in any way for mentioning brands or products. Just trying to save emerging adults the disappointment of buying and trying underwhelming frozen meals.

What are your favorite frozen meals? 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 because my freezer doesn’t have the aesthetic.)

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Remembrance and responsibility

Today is the Fourth of July. Almost 250 years ago, what’s now my country declared its independence from the nation ruling over them. The holiday is often celebrated with barbecues and fireworks, and in my case watching Independence Day and Armageddon because it’s family tradition.

The United States has come a long way in almost 250 years. Countless men and women fought, and many died, to bring us to where we are today. When our founding documents were written, “We the people, by the people, for the people” didn’t include all people. I’m proud to say that we’ve recognized how many more are included in that ideal.

But I’ll be honest. We still have a long way to go. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my country. But refusing to acknowledge its faults isn’t love; it’s blind nationalism. There are still a lot of people who don’t get treated like equal citizens. There are those who demean and harm immigrants, when immigration and opportunity is what our country was built on. Far too many of us forget not just the legacy, but the lives of the nations that called this land home before we took it over, and those who still do. There are those who have fought for our freedoms and rights in the armed services, only to be pushed to the outskirts of society without proper thank or care.

We overpay executives and underpay teachers. We can be arrogant and selfish. We overbuy, under-give, and let the waste pile up. We forget the lessons of our elders and dismiss the young out of hand. We create problems and then act like it’s not our responsibility to help fix them. We ignore the hard truths in favor of sound bites and sensationalism. We are quick to idolize, and quick to tear down. We let our citizens and our fellow humans suffer, sometimes at our own hand. We excuse and enable abuses of power. We feed on anger and pointing fingers until we’ve slung so much mud we don’t recognize ourselves. We forget where we came from, and we forget our neighbor.

But we also have good. We band together when tragedy strikes. We speak out until change is realized. We dig our heels in when the work gets tough. We defend our ideals with every ounce of strength we have. We learn from the generations before us. We labor to give our children the life we wanted. We create, innovate, and explore out of wholehearted curiosity and opportunity. We speak dozens of languages, represent scores of cultures, and still remain individuals. We uphold free speech, free press, and democratic values. We value education and grit, not just pedigree. We root for the underdog. We are a country made of histories, a people made up of infinitely more peoples. We do not have one definition. And that’s what I’m proud of.

So happy Fourth of July to all 50 states, as well as all the U.S. citizens who inhabit Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus U.S. nationals in American Samoa. This holiday, let’s honor our veterans, learn from our history, and care for our neighbor. That sounds a lot like freedom to me.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth!

P.S. If you’re looking for specific ways to help make a difference, you can:

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So you got into a spat

It happens. We’re all humans. I’ve gotten into more than my fair share lately. I’m not going to tell you how to avoid them, because that should be fairly obvious — even if difficult to do all the time. I really, really wish that this was one of the things we all had to learn in school — along with personal finances, ethics, and media literacy — but we’re definitely better off learning it in emerging adulthood than later on in life.

I’ve gotten into my fair share of spats, and as much as they aren’t fun they’re a normal part of imperfect people interacting and trying to relate to each other. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned how to better recover from them, and how to prioritize the person and the relationship over being right or just trying to get the outcome I want. These are the best tips I’ve learned to do that:

  • Apologize for what you did. Chances are you contributed to the disagreement, and/or hurt the other person’s feelings. Own it. A big part of this can be what you’ll work to do better in the future, because then it’s not just “I’m sorry,” but builds on it to work toward a better situation next time the issue comes up.
  • Don’t apologize for what you didn’t do. I’ve talked before about having a tendency to say sorry too much. Own up to what you did, but don’t over-apologize and make yourself feel unnecessarily guilty.
  • Explain how the disagreement made you feel. This is where you say your piece, which (important note!) is different than asking the other person to apologize. This is where I language comes in key.
  • Ask if they’re good. Or okay, or whatever word floats your boat. The point is to touch base, to check that they’re starting to feel better, and to give them a chance to share how they’re feeling. Make sure that if and when they choose to share, you’re really listening.
  • Make sure you’re good. If something’s still bothering you, now’s the time to bring it up. If something outside of the spat is bothering you, ask yourself whether it might have contributed. If it did, talk it through with the other person.
  • Ask if you (plural) are good. This one, for me, often feels like the most crucial before I can begin to emotionally move on from the disagreement. Beyond knowing that the other person is doing okay, and being honest about whether I am, it’s important to me know that whatever the spat was about hasn’t done some irreparable damage, or even just had a bigger impact than I realized.
  • End on a good note. My boyfriend is really good about this, and I’m exceptionally grateful that he’s taught me to be as well. If we were upset about anything, we try not to end the conversation on that note. Even if that means staying on the phone longer, staying up later, whatever. Talk about silly, insignificant stuff or what you’ll be up to the next day or tell a joke or bring up a fond memory. No matter what it is, finding something positive to transition to will help clean the slate and make it easier to let go of residual negative emotion.

What have you found most helpful when recovering from a disagreement with someone? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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In each other we trust (maybe)

Trust is a weird thing. A lot of us aren’t good at it. I’ll be honest enough to say that though I try to be open-minded and think the best of people, the list of folks I trust implicitly is pretty small. In a simultaneously polarized and crowded age, we’re wary of our trust being betrayed. It’s happened at some point or another to most of us, and it’s a horrible feeling. But if we don’t trust we miss out on opportunities, relationships, and even feelings of fulfillment or happy moments.

I’ll go out on a bit of a limb here and say that trust is one of the most important things we still have to learn as an adult. We have to learn to find the balance of trusting while still being reasonably cautious, and it’s not something we just learn once. We have to learn it over again with every person we interact with. When we get it wrong, it can be incredibly painful. But when we get it right, it’s beautiful.

The people I trust most are not only there when I need them, but know that I’m here when they need someone. We may fight now and then, but making up is easier because we know how much we care about one another. We can be our genuine selves with each other, and don’t have to put up fronts. We can rely on each other to keep our word, and we value each other’s opinions even more because of that trust.

Only by trusting each other will we be able to collectively learn and grow. Mind you, I’m not saying you should just go out and put your wholehearted trust in any rando you come across. That’s definitely not safe. It’s also worth saying that having levels of trust is a very, very good thing. How much you trust a stranger on the sidewalk should be different from how much you trust an acquaintance, which should be different from how much you trust a close friend or family member. Having boundaries doesn’t make the trust itself any less valuable. Small extensions of trust — small risks — can help us not only forge new relationships but improve existing ones.

Maybe being more trusting means being open with someone close to you, even when you’d rather not. Maybe it means letting your friend pick the restaurant this time. Maybe it means trusting that putting up a boundary is the healthiest thing, because sometimes trust has to be earned. Maybe it means delegating tasks at work, or asking for input. Maybe it means trusting yourself.

So on this fine Wednesday morning, let’s appreciate trust among the people we’re close to, and even start extending it a little at a time. In what ways has trust helped you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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We should hang out soon

We’ve all said that one a lot and then never actually made plans. It’s normal. We’re busy. As an adult you no longer have the confines of school to encourage and facilitate social interaction. But it can be a bummer when we really do want to make plans with friends and it just doesn’t seem to happen.

This has been a particularly striking topic for me lately, mostly because I don’t have many friends in the area I’m living. I have roommates (who thankfully are also friends) and like one other friend. Three other old friends live back near my family, a couple of hours away, a few friends live in other parts of the state, and a lot of friends live in different states or even countries. It makes casual hangouts kind of hard.

That being said, carving out time to spend with friends is super important, and something I’ve been trying not to let slide. I got to see some friends from college a couple of weeks ago, which reminded me how much I missed being able to take trips and do things with a group of friends. And a couple days ago, an annual trip with a different group of friends got booked for later this summer, which I’m super excited about.

So what’s the trick to making plans with friends actually come together amidst busy and often very separate adult lives? The bad news is there isn’t one answer. But these are some of the things I’ve found most helpful:

  • Group texts – Yeah, yeah, I know how annoying they can get. But they also keep us together, even if it’s just through sending memes
  • Social media – I know we can’t always hang out, but I do like seeing what you’re up to (at reasonable levels of posting)
  • FaceTime/Skype – Y’all, Google Hangouts are how my boyfriend and I made long distance work through 4 years of college. Now, I try to FaceTime friends on occasion so we have a chance to catch up even if it isn’t in person
  • Meeting in the middle – Maybe a friend lives just a little too far to be a convenient quick trip, but you can always meet partway and spend some time together
  • Offering food – If I’m inviting friends over to my place, I always sweeten the deal with food. We usually cook together, which gives us something to do, and then it’s a meal they don’t have to otherwise worry about
  • Reunion trips – That’s the one I’ve got coming up this summer. It will be our sixth year doing the same trip, and every time is different but it’s always a perfect chance to hang out and relax, especially since we don’t get to see each other super often anymore
  • Find an excuse – Maybe it’s someone’s birthday or something bigger like a wedding, but creating an additional reason to get together can help keep plans from falling through quite so easily
  • When you say, “let’s hang out,” ACTUALLY MAKING PLANS – This is the one that I’m worst at. If we do not make plans right then and there, I will probably forget and we will probably not hang out anytime soon. So let’s set something up

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

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House, home, or hovel

Staying in one place is, for better or worse, not the norm for me. I had lived in more than 17 different houses by the time I turned 17, and also spent most of that time switching a couple times a week between mom’s and dad’s. The first time I lived in just one house for a number of months, I didn’t know what to do.

Today, I live in a medium-sized apartment with roommates. I spent last weekend visiting family, and much of the week before that in another part of the state for a friend’s wedding. I’ve taken solo day trips just because I wanted to, and had plenty of opportunities to visit people I care about. I’ve never been made it a year and a half without switching houses and/or moving. I fly several times a year.

Life has brought around some cool opportunities. But even when you’re not physically stuck in the same place all the time doesn’t mean you never feel stir-crazy.

As emerging adults, a lot of us are trying to find our own space in the world. Maybe that means far from home, or maybe that means sticking close to it. Maybe it means trying to figure out what the word “home” even means. Sometimes it means figuring out what to do when the place you’re in isn’t quite doing it.

These are the ways I’ve learned to handle it:

  • Find new things in your city or area, or go visit old ones that you haven’t been to in forever
  • Make staying in fun. Build a fort, cook or bake something special, rearrange your furniture so it feels new
  • Plan for big trips. I’ve got a couple of larger trips coming up, and anytime I feel a little antsy about being in one spot, I remember that I have those new travels to look forward to
  • Have people over. I do a lot better with staying in one place if there are other people there too. Because as much as I enjoy time alone, it does make the minutes drag on
  • Switch up the routine. Take a new route to work, make small adjustments in your schedule. You don’t have to make those the new norm, but shaking things up a little can help
  • Join a group. This could be faith-based, community volunteering, or centered on a hobby you enjoy. But finding a way to connect with other people will make being in one place feel more like roots rather than static
  • Make the most of your space. Whether you live in a big house, a small apartment, or a tiny little excuse for one, find new ways to use and appreciate your space. It’s amazing what we can, with a little TLC, learn to call home

What are your best tips for battling stir-craziness? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because it had the right essence.)

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Thanks Dads

Happy Father’s Day! I’m super lucky to not only have two dads in my life, but a bunch of wonderful grandpas, uncles, and other father figures as well. And all of them — my dads especially — have taught me so much more than I could ever properly thank them for.

My dads cooked and baked with me, and taught me some of their best tricks in the kitchen. They taught me how to not just build and fix things, but also how to decorate them. They taught me to love being outdoors and how to find adventure in small moments. We’ve shared movies and tv shows and books, because even when they weren’t your usual preference, you cared that I liked them.

Most importantly, they taught me how to try new things. They had my back when I was afraid I might fall, and helped me get back up when first tries were a little rough. They give the absolute best hugs, and are always there when I need them.

But it’s not just my dads. My best friends’ dads, my uncles, my grandpas, and close family friends have been so present that it feels like there’s never a dad out of reach. And perhaps the best part is that they’re all different. There’s no one way that a dad has to look or act. Some make ridiculous dad jokes, some love being outdoorsy, some will play board games all day. Some are loud and boisterous while others are quieter. Some are Mr. Fix-It, while others are less mechanically inclined. But of course, they do share the common thread of loving and taking care of their kids (even those who aren’t their kids by blood).

If you’ve got a dad, dads, or a dad figure in your life, make sure you take some time to tell them how much you appreciate them. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without both of my dads, and they mean the world to me.

What do you appreciate most about your dad? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Father’s Day!

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Making a budget 101

Happy Sunday! I’m back with some practical advice, this time regarding budgeting. I’ve written posts in the past about saving or budgeting for gifts or friends, but realize that I haven’t actually talked about making a general budget yet.

Why have a budget? The short answer is because you spend money. Even if you don’t buy much beyond what you need, it’s the best way to make sure you’re on track with savings and building good financial habits for the future. If you like to spend, it’s those reasons plus making sure you don’t overspend. It’s a way to keep yourself accountable — starting as an emerging adult — so that if you ever want to travel, buy a house, have kids, or retire you can actually, y’know, afford it.

Our generation is strapped with high costs of almost everything and staggering amounts of debt. There isn’t always much we can do about where we landed. But we can do something about where we end up.

As always, the disclaimers: No app or service I mention is sponsored, and I’m not compensated in any way. I only mention specific names because myself or someone I know has found them useful, and hope that others will too. None of my advice is ever all-encompassing. You gotta do what works for you, but I hope this serves as a helpful starting point.

With that out of the way, let’s jump in.

Step 1: Research

Do you know how much your cost of living is? Do you know how much you spend in various categories every month? Those basics are the first place to start. Before I set up my budget for the first time, I had been carefully tracking my spending over the course of several months.* I used that data, plus some info from my parents regarding the costs of food, insurance, etc. to figure out ~about~ how much I needed to account for in various categories every year. Once I had the rough annual cost of each category, I then just divided each category by 12 and ta-da! I had a monthly budget.

Step 2: Setup

I use the free version of an application (I just use the website) called EveryDollar. It’s not perfect, but it’s easy to use and lets me be as detailed or as general as I want. The downside is that unlike apps like Mint — which I tried but didn’t love — you’re responsible for inputting whatever you spend. The good or bad part, depending on your perspective, is it’s not linked in any way to your bank account. So there’s no risk, but it also doesn’t do anything for you except serve as a really helpful, less-ugly spreadsheet.

I’ll be honest. I spend several hours every week budgeting and tracking my finances. But I’m the least stressed about money that I have been since my early teens, so it’s more than worth it.

Below is a loose approximation of my budget, with all the relevant categories. Note that the costs of things per person can vary wildly, so take it with a grain of salt, but I have noted in parentheses what percentage of my income is relegated to these categories.

LIVING

Rent (23%)

Utilities, including wi-fi and phone (3%)

GIVING

Donations (10%)

FOOD

Groceries (6%)

Eating out (3%)

TRANSPORTATION

Gas (5%)

Car repairs, misc. (2%)

INSURANCE

Includes auto, renter’s, health, life, etc. (5%)

SAVING

General (25%)

Specific goals, i.e. car replacement (6%)

[Note that retirement savings is taken out of my paycheck automatically, so it doesn’t appear on this list, but it’s 8% of my gross income]

LIFESTYLE

Clothing, toiletries, haircuts, etc. (2%)

Furniture, household items (3%)

Entertainment, spending money, misc. (4%)

GIFTS

Christmas, birthdays, weddings, etc. (4%)

I realize that’s 101% based on rounding, but bear with me. I also have to spend less of my income on rent than a lot of my peers, which gives me more room to save. But notice all my “fun” stuff — eating out, shopping, etc. — accounts for less than 10% of my monthly budget.

So while I will never say “stop eating out and you’ll magically be able to buy a house,” which is simply not true, I would advise caution and relative frugality with finances. Fun is still allowed! I go on trips and eat out with coworkers. I buy a new piece of clothing if I really want it. But the budgeting part is just putting parameters on how far that can go.

Also I didn’t put a category here for debt, because it runs on a simple rule: Pay it off as quickly as possible. Cut down on fun items, and cut back a little on saving, until debt is paid off at its appropriate pace. For example, credit card debt should be paid off as quickly as possible because it has crazy high interest, but student loans can be paid off more slowly. Being in the black is more important than saving a huge percentage of your income.

Step 3: Adjustments and future planning

I adjust my budget every month. I don’t start from scratch, of course. But if my income is higher from a freelancing project, or I know I’ll be spending more on gas, then I can up one category and lower another, and so on. Everything hovers around the percentages I mentioned above, but it’s completely okay to adjust your budget with your life.

Of the money I save every month, some is for retirement, some is for emergencies, and some is for specific goals like when I’ll eventually have to buy a new car. But a lot of it is just general. Because then, when I want to go on a big trip or if I ever decide to buy a house, I will be much better prepared for having started early.

I know that was a long post, but I hope it proved helpful to you. I want emerging adults, both my generation and younger, to be able to do better than the financial situations we’ve grown up seeing. This is where that starts.

What are your favorite budgeting tools or tips? Are there any questions you have about finances as a young adult? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

*For the spending tracking, I literally just used a Google sheet and tracked notes and amount of all money that I spent or received. It was a little painstaking, but very helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo because this was way cooler than my ideas.)

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How to be a good employee

I promise this post won’t be quite as rudimentary as its title, but the more that I think about it, the more I realize how many of us are winging it in a lot of ways with regards to what makes a good employee. You can get advice from older folks, read listicles and books, but you every job is different and you won’t fully get it until you’ve been in it for a while. So to all of us who are still finding our place in the working world, here’s a start:

Take only the best (and sustainable) parts of your student self

Remember putting off big assignments until the last minute because 1) you had a ton of other classes to handle, and 2) you could? Those days end now. Start early. Do a little at a time. Plan for your procrastination. But when rubber meets road, it can be let that student-on-deadline mode kick in to make it happen. Use those research skills. Remember that technology is your friend until it isn’t — utilize it, but don’t trust it. If you’ve got a little time, it’s okay to slow down so you don’t burn out. Because summer break isn’t coming.

Take initiative

This is a huge one. Ask if there is anything extra you can do to help if you finish something early, ask about what people are working on (so long as they aren’t clearly in the middle of something). Start a project early, go above and beyond if you’ve got the time. Read up and learn as much as you can. A lot of the working world is too used to people doing the bare minimum — by taking initiative, you’ll stand out of the crowd.

Be social

Not, you know, too social. Nobody wants to be the one that keeps work from getting done. But go grab coffee, chat over lunch, ask about their family or weekend plans. Bring in treats just because. Having good relationships with your coworkers will make your life so much better. Plus you could actually make friends!

Be cautious of what standards you set

This is one I’m having to be a little more careful with. It’s okay to be clear about your expectations, and important that you don’t create false ones either. For example, doing a project on a crazy deadline in record time does not mean that should be the new standard. But taking your sweet time when you have nothing else to do also doesn’t mark you as an effective part of the team.

Speak up, speak kindly, and say what you mean

This means not being quiet when you have something to contribute — your idea might be just the thing that’s needed. It means not saying sorry all the time. It means treating coworkers and customers with patience and kindness, because that can make a way bigger difference in career success than people often admit. And for heaven’s sake, say what you mean. Yesterday I had to tell a coworker that I wasn’t sure if what the client was asking for was possible based on the resources they had given us, and I didn’t like saying it. But it’s a heck of a lot better than saying I can get something done only to find out that I couldn’t.

Listen

I can’t emphasize this one enough. I’ve screwed up assignments because I didn’t read an email thoroughly enough, and it’s a really crappy feeling. Make sure you understand what’s being asked of you before you jump in, and that you really process feedback or constructive criticism so you can be constantly improving.

Pay attention

This is in the same zone as listening, but goes beyond just you. Pay attention to what successful people at your work are doing, pay attention in big company meetings that feel like they don’t apply to you, pay attention for ways you could offer to help out and get noticed. Cliché or not, paying attention pays off.

What are the most helpful bits of advice you’ve heard for being a good employee? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!