Featured

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.

Featured

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)

Featured

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.)

Featured

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?)

Featured

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.)

Featured

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.)

Featured

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.)

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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.

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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.)

Featured

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:

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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!

Featured

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.)

Featured

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!

Featured

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.)

Featured

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!

Featured

None of us know what we’re doing

That’s it. That’s my whole point today. No clever phrasing or sugarcoating.

Of course, we look around and it sure looks like a lot of other people our age — some even younger — have all their crap figured out while we’re fumbling around in adulthood wishing we had instruction manuals.

But no one really does. Some people are good at pretending like they do. Some people have got a grip on one or even a few areas. But nobody’s got it all handled. Even the most successful people mess up, especially as emerging adults so early in our journeys. Even the most together-seeming people have doubts and insecurities and areas they don’t know enough about. And absolutely everyone feels like someone else is outperforming them.

In that, take comfort. We’re all confused, we’re all learning, we’re all feeling underprepared. Try to let it sink in. Try to let it free you. Relax your shoulders, take a deep breath. Most things will get easier. You’ll learn how to deal. It may never feel like you’ve got it all figured out, but practice and patience will, in time, make the world feel a little more manageable. And in the meantime, we can always call our parents or ask Google.

What helps you the most when you feel like you don’t know quite what you’re doing? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Featured

Summer is almost a myth now

Hate to break it to you. One of the more disappointing parts about not being in school anymore and being a working adult is that summer break doesn’t really exist. My roommate casually mentioned a while ago that we’ve become weekend warriors, and I’m realizing how right she was.

This will be my first summer without a summer break since I was basically a toddler, and it’s odd. Though technically it wasn’t a “summer break” right after graduating, it was full of trips and plans before I hunkered down to job hunt, so in many ways felt like one. I don’t totally know if this summer will start to feel like it’s dragging on, or if it will feel fun and full of adventure regardless.

The bad news, of course, is no automatic vacations, no large stretches of time with fewer responsibilities (fewer because for a lot of people jobs and internships are still a thing). No one date to look forward to, after which life will at least temporarily seem easier.

But there’s good news, too. The good news is that — at the risk of being terribly clichéd — summer is a state of mind. And mine is about to start. Warm weather, more time outside, an effort to make more plans with friends. I’ve got a bunch of concerts lined up as well as a few day trips I want to make. Family will be visited and barbecues will be had. People will be willing to stay up later because the sun lingers in the evening.

The last few days I’ve been able to feel summer starting to seep in, and didn’t realize how much I’d missed it. The nice part is that living in a new area means I’ll hopefully be enjoying milder temperatures than most of my previous summers, and I’m a little closer to the ocean than where I grew up.

Even when you’re still busy with work or school, what makes summer enjoyable for you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

Big, scary steps

I am not the kind of person who likes to take initiative. At all. (If you listen close, you can hear my best friends laughing from hundreds and thousands of miles away.) I have to work up the courage to join conversations I was literally invited to. I once wrote myself notes just to ask my boss about taking a day off. Significant moments in my life literally would not have happened if I’d been left to initiate.

But I do like to plan. Pretty much whatever I can get my hands on. Which means when I set big life goals, part of me wants to panic and avoid everything about it forever, and the other part of me wants to plan every possible detail so I can be prepared for whatever happens. Neither of those is realistic. But life keeps coming, so at some point we all have to face the big, scary steps head-on.

I don’t know what big step or goal or change you might be facing, but most of us have one. Maybe you’re looking at the next step after graduation, maybe you’re eyeing a change at work. Maybe you’re moving or taking the next step forward in a relationship. Maybe you’re committing to taking better care of your health, or are planning a big trip. I know emerging adults who are in all of those situations, and as much as they can be exciting they’re also often intimidating. One of the most important things they have in common, though, is that such changes — or at least being successful through them — rarely fall in your lap.

Grad school and jobs have to be applied for, promotions have to be asked for and negotiated. New places have to be rented (since hardly any of us will be buying for some time), and relationships have to be nurtured. Healthy habits have to be stuck to, and even the best trips take a fair amount of planning.

I know it can be easier to hang back in the land of the undecided. I’ve been that person. Sometimes it seems completely overwhelming to take big steps and make big changes. But here’s the good news: Big steps start with little steps. Send in one application, take small risks at work. Have a difficult conversation, set small goals for your health plan. Everybody’s gotta start somewhere, and we’re still in the starting stages of adulthood. It’s completely okay to tackle life’s big tasks a little bit at a time. But you’ve got to take initiative. It’s something that I’m still not great at, but am steadily working on. And I’m excited to see what opportunities it opens up, for all of us.

Any advice for facing big life moments? 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 oops I already used my one cool staircase photo.)

Featured

In defense of ‘like’

So like, what do you think of the way young adults talk? To be fair, I’ve heard every argument under the sun. I’ve heard that kids these days just don’t care about their words, that young people are the impetus of change in a living language, that it’s just a fad, and that Millennials are ruining English. I think all except the latter are true.

If you’re an emerging adult or young person, bear with me. I’m not here to bash or to tell you what you already know. If you’re past the young adult age, don’t tune out. I really do want to dive into the complexity here, and I’m not interested in picking sides. Because I think when it comes down to it, that’s the main issue that usually arises whenever the topic of “the way young people talk” comes up. And sometimes being an adult means bringing up issues that get under our skin.

As background, I’m a word nerd. My actual job revolves around knowing the ins and outs of proper English, and how to improve people’s words. But being good at my job also means knowing the right times to break the rules. I have worked under various style guides, conceded to rules I didn’t agree with, and fought to get policy changed when old rules became irrelevant or incorrect. I have a lifelong devotion to the Oxford comma, but don’t really care if you end a sentence with a preposition. Why? Because what matters most to me — and what I believe should be the guiding rule anytime we consider our words — is what will make our message most clear, most poignant, and most effective.

It should also be noted that when I speak, my language differs a lot from when I write. If you noticed, I haven’t used the word “like” since the first sentence. If we were having a casual conversation, that wouldn’t be the case. Here comes the controversy — I don’t believe that using the word “like,” especially when speaking, is a bad thing. Of course, there’s a limit to this. I remember listening to a speech in which the speaker said “like” more than 30 times in about 5 minutes. It was overkill, and distracted from their message. But “like” serves a few purposes that naysayers too often ignore.

  1. Simile – If you’re not cool with similes, it might be time to re-evaluate. It was like a breath of fresh air and other comparisons. And since “as” doesn’t always sound right, “like” works well.
  2. Affection – I like tacos. Cool, me too! I personally think English could use a better range of terms for positive affection, but “like” is a good place to start.
  3. Paraphrasing ­– He was like, “Are you kidding me?” Y’all, it’s the perfect shorthand to indicate the message of what someone said without being on the hook for a direct quote, as “said” can imply. And before I hear any objections, older crowds do the exact same thing with “was all.”
  4. Placeholder – This is the one that can get people in trouble for overuse, especially when public speaking. Here’s the rule of thumb: If you’re the only one who has the floor, then scale it back. If it’s a conversation and other people might jump in, it’s a useful way to indicate that you aren’t done speaking while you gather your thoughts.

See, none of those uses of “like” is wrong, just culturally and situationally relevant (or irrelevant). Same thing with “ain’t” and “bro” and “same” and so many of the other linguistic novelties that have skyrocketed in popularity with young generations. While they can be overused — and some are just fads that disappear over time — some of them are harmless colloquialisms or convey nuance that wasn’t previously coded into other words.

Now I’ll be super honest: There are some popular words and phrases that I can’t stand, and therefore refuse to incorporate into my vocabulary. I can’t stand the word “bae” because I find it both annoyingly overused and disagree with its origin as “before anything else.” But I don’t think it’s ruining English. A language can only be ruined by those who are too lazy to convey their message thoughtfully, and by those who insist on stagnating it in outdated tradition to the point of it losing meaning.

And of course, it doesn’t stop at words and phrases. The way that language is changing extends into capitalization, punctuation, emoticons and emojis, casual hyperbole, fatalistic humor, memes, and even type stylization (like bolding, italics, etc.). Honestly all my thoughts on these linguistic trends and trajectories could probably fill a book. But the point, in the end, is that intelligence is not to be measured by how often someone says “like” in a conversation, or whether they have to look slang up on Urban Dictionary. If our language is intentional, thoughtful, honest, and conscious of its impact, then it’s doing its job. Regardless of any dangling participles.

How do you think younger generations are changing language? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

Get out the vote

Congratulations! You’re an adult. Part of being an adult means taking part in shaping your government, which in most places starts with voting. Please note, I do not just mean picking any old bubble to fill in to say that you voted, and I do not mean only voting during major elections like presidential ones. Being a responsible voter means making sure you’re registered, researching issues and candidates, and voting.

There are a lot of responsibilities that come with being an adult. It can be easy for this one to slip through the cracks, but when that happens we give up our voice in a system that — though far from perfect — is perhaps our best opportunity to change our world and create our future.*

So today I’ve got some solutions to common roadblocks that keep people from voting, because those shouldn’t get in your way.**

The Basics

If you want a refresher on how the voting system works in the U.S., the official U.K. Parliament YouTube channel has the best quick summary video I’ve found (weird, but it works).

There are votes for federal, state, county, and city/town positions and measures. The nice thing is they’re all in one spot on your ballot, but you may need to go to different spots to research them.

If you want more government and voting info, PBS has a whole series of crash course videos that break down different topics.

Registering

Do you know if you’re registered to vote? (It’s okay if you don’t, I had to double check that I was.) If you’re not sure, click here to find out. Note that registration deadlines are coming up — if you live in California like me, the registration deadline is tomorrow!

Oops, turns out you’re not registered. Where do you go to do that? There’s a spot on most state and county websites for it, but this page on the federal government’s website can direct you to most of them.

Okay, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to show up in-person. Y’all I am a permanent vote-by-mail voter. You can also request a one-time absentee ballot. Just make sure to check the dates that it needs to be requested and postmarked (aka mailed) by so your vote is sure to count. Here’s a quick guide on the rules in different states.

Researching

I’m registered, but don’t know any of these candidates or issues. Cool! Me neither! I was going over my ballot recently and don’t know anything about a lot of these things I get to vote for. That’s where the research starts.

  • You can find your state’s voter information guide online (here is the one for California)
  • You can search by candidate or issue (clicking through a few links on Google can do wonders)
  • This only works for measures, but if you read through most of the detail on a measure or proposition, there’s actually a lot of information — and sometimes it’s buried
  • You can look at party websites for perspectives. I honestly won’t vote on an issue before reading what Democrats and Republicans think about it. I don’t ever let party determine my vote, but the reasons each side provides can illuminate more about the topic
  • If possible, see if anywhere says who’s funding it. This is a huge deal, and particular corporate or organizational endorsements can be a big clue as to what’s really driving a candidate or measure
  • Ask around. I often talk measures or candidates over with my parents and a couple close friends to get another perspective. Absolutely no one can tell you how to vote, but sometimes they have valuable insight

I’ve done my research, and I don’t like any of the candidates for this position. Sorry, bro. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens. You can choose to not vote on a particular measure or position (even if you do vote on the others), or you can pick the lesser of two evils. There’s also usually a write-in candidate option, but Donald Duck hasn’t won any elections yet.

Actually voting

Make sure you know the deadline! For California, it’s June 5 this year. Find out when your ballot is due here.

Okay cool, but like where do I show up? Click here to find your closest polling place, and make sure to check the hours!

Know your rights. This is so important! Here are the most pressing need-to-knows:

  • If you’re in line when the polling place closes, they still have to let you vote
  • You may need to show ID, but every state is different. Click here to find out what’s required.
  • As long as you’re 18 by election day, you can vote
  • You can be homeless and still meet the residency requirements to vote
  • If you have any sort of disability or language barrier, you can choose someone to assist you in the voting booth (as long as that person is not your employer, an agent of your employer, or an officer or agent of your union)
  • You can ask folks at the polling place to help you as well
  • You can fill out a sample ballot ahead of time and bring that in with you to make things easier (or any other piece of paper). If you were registered to vote a month or more ahead of your election, you should be automatically mailed one. If you weren’t, you can usually request one from your local county website
  • You do not have to tell anyone how you voted, nor is anyone allowed to demand you vote a particular way. Period.

I’m really proud and honored to live somewhere where I — as a mixed-race, non-land owning, unmarried woman — am able to vote. We have an imperfect, sometimes frustrating system, but voting is one of the most important ways we can take part in improving it. A lot of our ancestors and fellow citizens paid with their voices, minds, bodies, and lives to make sure we could. Let’s honor that by voting, and by voting responsibly. The future’s counting on us.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and let’s go get out the vote!

 

*A lot of this is U.S.-centric, so I apologize if you live in a different country and this doesn’t prove as helpful. But to the best of my understanding many similar principles apply and comparable resources exist, so a little digging should provide the info you might need.

**I’ve tried to make this as nonpartisan as possible, but some of the links provided may seem to lean either conservative or liberal. I do not post them as a party, candidate, or measure endorsement, but only because they had the most thorough information I could find. Always look at both sides, and think with both your head and your heart.

Featured

Recipes: Crock Pot chicken & veggies

Hey folks! I’ve got another recipe for you today and this one is exciting because it’s the first thing I made in my brand new crock pot! I had been wanting to get one since I moved, but storage is a bit of an issue in our kitchen. Luckily, we got a little more storage, so I finally made the oh-so-adult purchase and bought one! I got it (a 6-qt. that also has a temperature probe) on sale for about $35, but you can find a ton of good option under $50, and the awesome thing is they do the cooking for you.

I had some chicken in the freezer that I needed to use, and wanted to spruce it up (and fill the crock) with veggies and potatoes, so I looked up a recipe online and then proceeded to mostly ignore it. The nice thing about a crock pot is you can pretty much wing it with a little bit of cooking know-how and still be safe. Though I expected the recipe to be good, it turned out excellent, so I wanted to share it with y’all!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, thawed (you can also use thighs or more meat, but I wouldn’t advise much less than this, which seemed to be about 1.5 lbs.)
  • about 1.5 lbs. red russet potatoes
  • about 1 lb. whole carrots
  • 1 white onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • about 3/4 cup grapefruit juice (I just squeezed 1 big, very ripe grapefruit)
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper

I know that looks like a lot of ingredients. I promise this is still a beginner-level recipe (and tastes at least like an intermediate level). img_5905.jpg

Instructions:

  1. Prep veggies — I don’t usually count potatoes as a veggie, but today they can be. Wash everything, cube the potatoes (I cut them into eighths since red russets are small), cut the carrots into big chunks, and the onions into slightly smaller pieces. Think about 2-inch pieces for potatoes and carrots, and about 1-inch pieces for the onions. (Pro tip: Leave your chicken in the fridge until the last minute so it stays cold and doesn’t get funky.)
  2. I actually sprayed my crock pot with olive oil before I put anything in to hopefully make cleaning easier. I don’t know if that made the difference, but cleaning was definitely easy. Then, put the potatoes in, and add a little salt and pepper.
  3. Set the other veggies aside, and work on the sauce. Stir the soy sauce, honey, grapefruit juice, crushed garlic, and ginger in a bowl until the honey doesn’t give much resistance.
  4. Add the chicken on top of the potatoes, and pour about 3/4 of the sauce over it. You can also add more salt and pepper if you want.img_5907-e1526488110444.jpg
  5. Dump the mixed carrots and onions on top, then pour the rest of the sauce, and add salt and pepper.
  6. Set the crock pot on low for 5 hours. Walk away and let it do its magic. (Pro tip: If you want some greens, add them in about the last 10 minutes of cooking — I used broccoli.)IMG_5908.JPG
  7. When the time goes off, ta da!!!* Enjoy your meal (and serve with rolls if you want)!

Cost about $12, makes about 4 servings

Next time I make the recipe I might want to marinate the chicken, as it seemed like the veggies soaked up the flavor better. But that is pretty much all I would change, and of course, you can switch up the meat or other ingredients as you like.

Most of this recipe is just prep, which is mostly cutting veggies. Easy peasy. So next time you need a few days worth of meals (I ate it for about 3 days), or have guests coming over that you want to impress, or are busy and won’t have time to cook in the evening, you have a solution! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, I’m just really excited.)

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

*Sorry I don’t have a picture of when it all finished in the crock pot, I honestly just forgot to take one. It should smell good and have a lot more liquid in it, and as long as the chicken is cooked through it’s safe to eat.

Featured

Moms are actually the best

Happy Mother’s Day! If you are a mom, I hope your day makes you feel as appreciated and special as you are. If you have a mom (or mom figure!), I hope you let her know how much you care about her.

I’m lucky enough to have two moms. Unfortunately I don’t get to be with either of them in person today, but beyond the usual call and gift, I wanted to say on here how grateful I am for them.

Moms are supportive and patient, but also tell us when it’s time to get our crap together. Moms are people we can joke around with, but know better than to cross. Moms are often our first and strongest role models. My moms taught me life basics like using a spoon, potty-training, etc., and adulting basics like using tools, cleaning, and finances. One mom taught me to love reading, the other how to create and craft — both taught me to love learning. My moms taught me how to cook and bake, and in that regard I also have to thank my grandmothers — and my friends’ moms and grandmothers — for teaching me and sharing secrets in the kitchen. My moms taught me how to process my emotions, and that someone can have vulnerabilities and still be strong.

And beyond that, they taught me what kind of a person I wanted to be: someone who is smart and kind, knows when to speak and when to listen, who is always willing to learn and ready to teach, who to call when I needed something (them), who is compassionate and always considers the perspective of others.

I know not everyone’s mom has always been the kind of presence in their life that they needed. I know not everyone knows their mom, and that not everyone’s mom is around anymore. But I also know that chances are when you hear the word “mom,” there are people who come to mind that aren’t your mother, but who do love you and stand by you and mentor you. Sometimes mom is a symbolic word, so hopefully in addition to appreciating our moms today we can also share some of the best qualities they instilled in us.

What makes you grateful for your mom? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Mother’s Day!

Featured

Dial tones and mobile phones

I don’t know about you, but I hate talking on the phone. I wish I was exaggerating. It’s something that at best is a lower-quality conversation than I prefer, and at worst is almost paralyzingly stressful.

Alas, as an adult they are not something that can be avoided. Emerging adulthood means we now get to call to set up various appointments on our own, to make reservations or interact with customer service, to handle professional matters, and often to stay in touch with family.

I’m better about phone calls than I used to be. For a long time, I would avoid calling anytime I could and pretty much only called my grandmama just because — for anyone else, it had better be urgent.

Now, I call (okay, sometimes text) my grandparents on most holidays and sometimes just because we haven’t talked in a little bit, call my mom fairly frequently (I often have random adulting questions), set up all my own appointments and such, have weekly conference calls for work, and call my boyfriend when video chats aren’t an option.

Though they’re still far from my favorite method of communication, I’ve found a few things that have made them less daunting:

  • Put a frame on it. Different mediums of communication have different levels of richness — basically how many layers you’re communicating on at a given time. An email is probably the least rich method, because all you get are words on a screen. In-person is the richest, because you get voice, words, tone, facial expressions and other nonverbals, etc. Phone calls allow for voice, words, and tone but not being face-to-face means tone can be easily misinterpreted.
  • Can you hear me now? The answer is probably sort of. Cell phones are amazing inventions but they aren’t flawless even at full bars. Which means what you’re saying or hearing is often distorted or breaks up, making natural and comfortable conversation more difficult.
  • Know what you’re saying. I am capable of being quite charming, but that skill mostly relies on being in-person. Therefore, I rehearse any phone call that’s more than just a “how’s it going?” conversation ahead of time, usually several times. Props if you’re not the kind of person that needs to do this, but if you’re not this is a super helpful trick. You can always make some notes on talking points or things your need to remember to say/ask as well, and it will help keep you from feeling flustered or sounding awkward.
  • Leave a message. Fun fact, if you don’t leave a voicemail said person will be way less likely to call you back (sometimes exceptions for family and friends). So leave a voicemail — and be sure to mention your name and phone number, and repeat both before you hang up.
  • If someone left you a voicemail, listen to it before you call back. This way, you actually know what they were calling about and they don’t have to repeat themselves. Win-win.
  • Use that weird nice voice your parents use. You don’t have to do the “mmmbye” thing we remember grownups doing from our collective childhood, but do use your extra sweet, polite voice to make up for the fact you don’t get to be so charming in person.
  • Eyes up. I have a horrible tendency to get distracted with other things while I’m on the phone, which results in me not listening or being as involved in the conversation as I ought to be. To help, I often have something I can do mindlessly with my hands or feet (like crocheting or going for a walk) to prevent my mind from wandering so much.

Phone calls don’t have to be awful, even if they can be intimidating. And they are, unfortunately, sometimes necessary, so it’s best to get good at them earlier rather than later.

What helps you with phone calls you don’t want to make? 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 turns out I can’t take a picture of my phone with my phone.)

Featured

That’s a tomorrow me problem

I’ve been putting off writing this post. Not because it’s difficult, but because the last few weeks I’ve been procrastinating way more than I had in a long time. Don’t get me wrong: I always do what’s really necessary, and even during my productive stretches there’s usually one or two things on my to-do list being habitually ignored. We’re all human here.

But lately I’ve been putting things off and making more excuses than usual. I’m pretty convinced it’s just a season and circumstances thing. There were stretches when I procrastinated like crazy in college, and I always procrastinate more when I’m alone than when other people are around. I’ve also been extra tired lately, which has made being motivated more difficult.

It’s unfortunately a leftover habit from school days. As an emerging adult, I have the freedom to (mostly) decide when to do or not do my own crap, but juggling responsibilities in high school and college meant that I was often putting things off until the last minute because I was either too busy or too tired to do them immediately. Not my best play. But here we are.

I wish I had some magic cure-all for procrastination. I don’t. There’s a pile of stuff in my trunk that has needed to go to Goodwill for weeks (it’s finally getting dropped off today). I cleaned the whole apartment last weekend, but when I remembered that I didn’t clean the microwave decided I’d deal with that later. There are some personal side projects that have been getting pushed back further and further.

Rather than trying to stop procrastinating cold turkey (I’ve tried, it doesn’t work), I’m just trying to take things in small increments. I was procrastinating putting together a couple of gifts, so I’m just doing a little every day until they’re done. I work on them when I think about it, and stop when I’m no longer focused.

I’m trying to let a few things go. There are projects that have been ongoing, and I’m slowly learning how to feel less guilty that I’m not working on them. I’m also trying not to start projects or endeavors that I know I don’t have time for, because being overextended is a one-way ticket to Procrastinationville. It’s not a pretty place to live.

Setting small rewards or thinking about reasons why I want (or need) certain things to get done also help me move past the tendency to procrastinate. I cleaned the apartment last weekend because I knew I wouldn’t be able to this weekend, and after I cleaned I took the rest of the day off. Sometimes it’s about determining what actually has to get done today, or even this week. If it’s urgent, make it happen. If it’s not, it’s probably okay to let it be a tomorrow you problem.

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

(Photo credit goes to my awesome brother!)

Featured

Graduated, sort of

I graduated from college one year ago today. That’s still a really weird thought. Unfortunately, in one year’s time I have not become a fountain of wisdom who can share every secret of life after school lets out. But it has been a year, and I have learned a lot.

Given that, and for all of my friends who are starting their own post-undergrad lives, these are the things I wish someone would have told me when I graduated:

There will be times when you feel crowded, and times when you feel lonely. Both feelings are inevitable, and neither being with a bunch of people nor being by yourself is a bad thing. Figure out how to enjoy both, but also know that it’s okay if you’re stuck with one and want the other.

Start reading again. Go at your own pace. Read whatever you want. It’s cool to watch tv too. But pick up a book or those magazines that have been piling or the comic books that have been gathering dust. Read the news on purpose instead of just when something comes across your feed. I’m so glad that I set aside time most days to read, and that I’m starting to enjoy it again. I truly believe reading is the best way to keep learning, and you might just find the magic in it again.

Start saving up asap. Whether you’re looking to pay down student loans, start paying your own bills if you don’t, or just save up for other adult-ish things, start saving. If you already did that’s awesome. I started actively saving later into college than I should have, so it was a huge priority when I got out, and now I am happy to say that I am basically self-sufficient (aka I still call my parents for advice and they buy me food when I come visit but I pay for all my own junk). Being financially independent is a really nice feeling, so don’t put it off for too long.

You will have to work a lot harder to find community. It bums me out all the time that I can’t just go knock on a friend’s door or text them about last-minute plans because we’re only 3 minutes away. My new church is more of a drive and I don’t know many people there. My family and most of my close friends are hours or plane flights away. And there are no longer classes and clubs and school events and a cafeteria all set up in some way to help make friends. I joined a soccer team and I try to hang out with coworkers when I can, but building a sense of community is a lot trickier than it used to be.

Related, you have to choose to stay in touch. I figured a lot of friends from college would fade a bit into the background, which has happened. But there are still some that I talk to every day. I’ve been able to see friends from back home at least a little more often than I used to, but all our schedules are harder to work with. The good news is this makes it easier to let go of relationships that weren’t good for you or them. The bad news is you have to find ways to make it work. I often FaceTime friends who are far, constantly text a close friend who’s across the country, and social media has actually been more of a help than a weird distraction. But if it’s an important relationship, it’s on you to maintain it.

Romanticizing the past will leave you stuck, and romanticizing the future will leave you disappointed. I hope college was cool for you. I really enjoyed (most of) the time I was there. But hanging onto it is going to stunt the enjoyment and growth of this new stage of life. If college wasn’t your favorite or you just think the grass is greener, take a deep breath. There will be awesome things and crappy things about being a grownup and not a student, and realistic expectations will help keep you on the right track.

You will (probably) feel more like a grownup. This is honestly my favorite part. And it took a while to settle in. When I was still living with my parents and applying for jobs and working part-time I didn’t feel like a grownup — I felt very in-between. But now living on my own (still with roommates), working full-time with my other obligations totally up to me, I’m pretty stoked. I come home at the end of the day and there is no homework, there is no job to get to after classes, there is no packing up all my junk twice a year. I still have to cook and clean and generally be responsible, but the rest is up to me. So I’ve visited friends and taken day trips and caught up on a bunch of tv shows and read books and tried new recipes and been able to not stress about when a paper was due or if I could afford pizza. I fully realize not everyone is yet or is still at that spot, but there’s something to be said for feeling a little more settled.

You can’t be in three places at once. Not that you could before either, but after college it often feels like those different priorities tugging at you are more spread out and unfortunately you won’t be able to make them all happen. I wanted to be in three other states this weekend, plus two different parts of the state I’m actually in, but I only got one. And it sucks, but it’s something we have to learn to live with.

You will hopefully get a little closer with your family. When I was living at home I got to see extended family way more often than I did during school, and even now that I’ve moved out I still visit family about once a month, FaceTime regularly, call often, and you know what? It’s awesome. Your family misses you. As long as it’s a safe, fairly healthy relationship, nurture it.

Days off are when you choose now. Mostly, of course. I was the kind of person who did not randomly skip class or take days off when I was in school. Actually, the only classes I ever missed for a non-academic reason were PE classes or one weekend when I went home to visit an ailing family member. (I did also miss for a couple of school-related trips and to help out with other classes.) The first day I took off at my current job was just because I wanted to. Wasn’t sick, didn’t have big plans, just because I could. I’ve also got time off scheduled to be a part of some exciting events in the next few months. So yeah, no summer break, but there is likely a lot more freedom to plan your life now.

You’re not old yet. You will feel like it sometimes. I go to bed around 9 p.m. so often now and it’s really weird. People will be getting married and having kids and you’ll wonder if you’re really old or even missing something. You’re not. All this stuff goes at a different pace for everyone now, and you’re in the middle of real life, but you’ve still got time left to savor it.

You’re going to keep changing, and hopefully growing. I’ve changed more in the last year than I did during my first year of college. A lot of it has been for the better: I feel more settled, more confident (in some areas), I sleep better, and all of the things I mentioned above. The other stuff I’m working on: I stress for different reasons, I don’t get to listen to as much music, I don’t do as well with being alone. I’ve learned new skills and  Some things have remained the same, of course, but I hadn’t realized that I would change just as much as my circumstances after walking across that stage. So don’t think you’re done growing yet.

So there you go. To all my friends who have just graduated or will be doing so shortly, congratulations. I’m insanely proud of y’all. To all my friends who graduated with me, I miss you guys. Life’s got some cool stuff in store for all of us, and we’ve got a lot of people who care about us to make it through the difficult times. Let’s make it an adventure.

What do you most wish someone would have told you when you graduated? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo credit goes to my mom, for catching the same pose I’ve been making since childhood when I want to show something off — sorry it’s low-res but yes, that is how happy I was after graduation.)

Featured

Sick day

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. It will pass, as feeling unwell or being sick always does. But it sucks in the meantime. And since I often take the role of the mom friend, I’ve spent a lot of time taking care of friends who are sick. As emerging adults, this is — for better or worse — something we have to master doing for ourselves.

So below are some of my favorite tips for helping make being sick slightly less miserable. Some of them are common sense or exactly what your mom told you, but they work for a reason. Of course, take them or leave them at will, but hopefully you find something that comes in handy.

Also, if you’re just a little under the weather or you know you’re not contagious, go about your normal business with extra hand washing. But if you are actually sick or in any way contagious, STAY HOME. Actual jobs let you take actual sick days, and you’ll get better faster if you do.

For a cold:

  • Sleep. Your body is really good at making itself better, even if it’s more slowly than you would like. But being awake makes it way harder. Give it a chance to catch up by catching some z’s.
  • Liquids, liquids, liquids. Preferably clear, not sugary ones. This means water, tea, hot water with lemon, broth, etc. Juice is cool, but it shouldn’t be your primary intake.
  • I like natural remedies. You’ll see them interspersed in here. But cold medicine is perfectly safe when used as intended. NyQuil (if you want to sleep) and DayQuil (if you don’t) can help kick a cold way faster, Sudafed unclogs sinuses quite well, and Alka-Seltzer cold is a great addition.
  • If your colds are real sinus-y, get a Neti Pot. They suck. But they cut my colds in half. It’s basically just a small plastic teapot that your put a warm saline (salt) solution into, and you pour it in one nostril and out the other like a kid who didn’t believe they were really connected. Weird, but natural, inexpensive, and effective.
  • Up your vitamin C intake, but don’t go nuts. Eat some strawberries (higher in vitamin C than oranges!) or take Emergen-C, but keep your doses at a normal level. Your body will automatically flush out excess, so all you have to do is make sure it gets a normal amount.
  • Blow your nose! I’m sorry if that’s gross, but sniffling with a cold is counterproductive. My mom is so happy I finally understand that. But yeah, head for the tissues.
  • Add a little bit of honey or (if you’re old enough) 1 tbsp. of a brown liquor like whiskey or rum to help soothe a sore throat. Cough drops with menthol are also very effective, and onion is a good thing to eat to stop coughs.
  • Spring for a humidifier and/or take a steamy shower. Having extra (clean) moisture in your home or loosening up the gunk in your system with a hot shower are both easy ways to help with a simple cold.
  • Go for essential oils. Having some helpful essential oils floating around (especially eucalyptus, frankincense, lemon, tea tree, and lavender) can gently ease that cold. (NOTE: Be careful with essential oils that you’re buying safe brands, using them in small doses to avoid bad reactions, and mindful of possible allergies. Both my college roommate and myself have had bad reactions to certain oils and it’s not fun.)

For the flu or an otherwise upset stomach:

  • Sleep. See above.
  • Lay down. You don’t have to sleep, but just paying back and being horizontal helps.
  • Eat simple foods. Soup, broth, crackers, toast, tea, water. Nibble and sip on things your stomach can handle.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to eat if you can’t keep anything down. The body can go for a pretty long time without food. But simple, starchy foods are a good start.
  • Electrolytes. Gatorade, Smartwater, Vitaminwater, even putting extra salt on your food. Get some electrolytes in your body so you can stay hydrated better and start getting back to normal.
  • Cinnamon can help with an upset stomach, as can ginger. Try ginger ale, or cinnamon toast.
  • Peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon essential oils can also be good. Again, use as directed and be careful of potential allergies.
  • Put a cold compress (cool, damp washcloth) on your forehead, and put a little water on the back of your neck, and your wrists and ankles. They’re important spots in your body and can be really soothing.

For something else:

  • For allergies, try eating local honey. I think it’s about a spoonful a day, and your symptoms should lessen.
  • If you’re having a bit of trouble sleeping, try taking melatonin or magnesium. Both are natural sleep aids and super safe in small doses. If it’s a bigger or more persistent issue like insomnia, talk to your doctor.
  • Get vaccinated. If you want to skip your yearly flu shot, I don’t care. But risking more serious illnesses is not worth it. If you’re feeling unsure about a vaccine, ask your doctor about any side effects or risks, as well as how long the vaccine has been used (usually the longer, the more tested and safer it is).
  • Track your symptoms. If anything seems odd for what you think you have or unlike how you normally get sick, call your doctor.
  • If any medical issue persists, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Get a friend to take you or take yourself or call your mom. Don’t care. Medical professionals are there for a reason.
  • Almost all health insurance providers offer a free, 24/7 hotline to call a registered nurse or other medical professional for health advice. If you don’t have insurance, lots of hospitals and local agencies offer similar free programs. Google what’s in your area if you need simple advice, but if it’s an emergency or immediate health risk please call 911.

I hope that was helpful, and I also hope that if you’re not feeling well you get better soon. Being sick makes adulting more difficult than it already is, but taking care of one’s health is a too-often ignored responsibility.

Do you have any favorite cold or flu remedies? 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 work tea mug does not look this cool.)

Featured

Green like new

Green, beyond being simply a color, can be an adjective used to describe someone who’s new or getting the hang of things. For us emerging adults, we’re green to this part of life. There’s a lot of stuff we’re still learning. But there’s one thing I really hope Millennials have made more progress on than previous generations had at our age: taking care of the environment.

Humans have always been really good at destroying stuff. But it seems like we used to be a lot better at harmony, at not taking too much, at not exhausting resources. The advent of the modern world — particularly industrialization in its many facets — has skyrocketed our civilization forward, while robbing and decimating our environment.

We’ve only got one planet guys, and we’ve made remarkable progress toward screwing it up irreparably. Whether or not you think the shifts we’re seeing in our climate are part of a large natural cycle the Earth goes through, or something humans are wholly responsible for, we haven’t been making it better. And if we continue to accelerate the changes, we’re going to make it a heck of a lot harder to live on this planet.

I hate getting apocalyptic, but the facts cannot be turned away from. Reefs and rainforests are dying, disappearing, or are already destroyed. Biodiversity is dropping all over the world, at a rate that begins to threaten the balance of ecosystems. The amount of waste we create, and are constantly creating, is overwhelming. As the dominant species on the planet, it ought to be our responsibility to care for it, and to ensure its continued health as much as possible, for the sake of all its inhabitants.

It is incredibly difficult to be environmentally friendly in all of one’s actions. From an information perspective, it’s hard to know the full impact of every choice we make. From a lifestyle perspective, there are some things I at least find it difficult to change or do without. But a little progress — a little awareness and change — is at least a step in the right direction. So I hope you’ll join me in taking some of these steps to help care for our planet.

How we eat

  • Drink from a reusable water bottle — and skip the straw. Plastic bottles and straws are one of the easiest ways to cut needless waste, and especially to keep it out of oceans and other places it might harm the wildlife. Same goes for avoiding plastic dishes and silverware.
  • Environmentally friendly means responsible farming, too. Eating organic, local, and/or from sources that use eco- and animal-friendly methods is getting easier. You can check out farmer’s markets, health food stores if your wallet allows, and the labels on items you buy.
  • Compost. You can buy a compost bin and either keep it under your kitchen sink or outside if the smell bothers you, and let any food waste (eggshells, potato peels, small scraps, etc.) get funky until it’s a sweet fertilizer for your — or your neighbor’s — garden.
  • On that note, minimize food waste. Especially in the U.S., we waste so much food. It’s horrible. Don’t buy extra if you know you won’t eat it, don’t throw it out if it isn’t actually bad (i.e. browning on cut fruit), and check to see if your community or city has any sort of a food waste program where people can donate excess food.

How we shop

  • Grab some reusable bags. Where I live shoppers actually have to pay for non-reusable bags, but even if plastic or paper is free, bringing bags from home will save waste.
  • Green is the new black. The fashion industry is reported to be the second largest polluter in the world, after oil. This Nylon article offers more info, and simple ways to support sustainable fashion.
  • Skip extra packaging whenever possible. When packaging is needed, try to use renewable/eco-friendly means like recycled cardboard.
  • Check labels/brands to see if they source their materials responsibly. Of course, the benchmark for this is companies like Patagonia, who has a whole sections on its website detailing its commitment to lessening environmental impact. But recently other brands like Allbirds have been making protecting the environment a pillar of their business.
  • Buy used. Almost everything (almost!) is less expensive and more eco-friendly to buy used. Used clothes, furniture, and cars (especially ones that aren’t particularly old) are a great place to start. Refurbished tech can also help cut down on manufacturing demand and the impact of those plants.
  • Build sustainable. Wood stuff is awesome, and in principle all renewable — but some wood is way less sustainable than other types. Trees and plants that grow slower are more difficult to keep sustainable, so materials like bamboo and pine are grow a lot faster than oak and mahogany, but there are sustainable sources of most woods.

How we live

  • Recycle. Most forms of plastic packaging, paper and cardboard, glass bottles, and metal cans can all be recycled. (Note that Styrofoam can’t be recycled, which is another reason to avoid it when possible.)
  • Don’t litter. I can’t believe I have to say that one but I still see so much trash and waste on the side of the road, in landscaping, any busy area, and even beaches.
  • Buy a plant. Or at least water the ones you have. I’m terrible at keeping plants alive, but they’re really important to the environment and balancing out carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
  • Turn the lights off. Seriously, the lights only need to be on for the rooms people are actually in. In the same vein, using the A/C and heat as little as possible, as well as swapping your lightbulbs for LED or compact fluorescent, will not only save your energy bill, but prove a little less taxing on the planet.
  • Ride green. This isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can walk or bike to work, do it. If you can take public transportation, more power to you. If you need to drive, try to carpool. Support vehicle manufacturing that not only reduces the need for natural gas and cuts down on pollution, but is conscientious manufacturing.
  • Support renewable energy sources. Solar, hydroelectric, wind. It’s not all gas and coal folks. The more we support and explore responsible and sustainable energy sources, the more we’re able to be responsible about how we consume resources that aren’t available so easily. You can do this by checking out the energy sources of businesses you support, or even installing solar panels on your own home (if you own it, which is a big if). A lot of power companies will give discounts to people who commit to more eco-friendly energy.
  • Support other people who care. There are so many wildlife reserves, state and national parks, and environmental impact organizations. Usually the people who spend the most time in nature are most committed to preserving it. Support them, be them.

All of those things feel like a lot to ask. I’ll be super honest and admit that not all of them are possible for me right now. But I stick to the ones that are possible, and we can all look for ways to reduce waste and be nice to the planet. We only have one, and we aren’t alone on it. There are billions more people and trillions more animals and plants — currently estimated at a total of about 8.7 million species. They’re counting on us. We’re counting on us. But together I think we can save the world.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to go green in everyday life? I’d love to hear, so let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Earth Day!

Featured

Measure twice

Hopefully by now you have come to realize that adulting means occasionally fixing stuff. I mean actual, handyman-style, get-out-a-real-toolbox fixing stuff. I really enjoy fixing and building things, but know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But sometimes you’re making lunch in your kitchen when the cabinet door falls off the frame and almost lands on you, and subsequently has to be fixed. (Yes, that really happened to me, and something similar will probably happen to you.)

Inspired by two trips to Home Depot and being thankful that I have a proper toolbox, here are the things everybody should have under their belt.

First, the toolbox. This is not a completely comprehensive list, but I do believe it’s the minimum that every home (apartments included) should have on hand.

  • Screwdrivers. If you have nothing else, have Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, preferably in a few sizes. (I have two normal ones, one fancy one with interchangeable bits, and one pack of tiny ones.)
  • Measuring tape. I consider this the second most important thing. If you are buying furniture, installing something, whatever, your life will be made better with access to a measuring tape.
  • X-Acto knife/boxcutter. Scissors are cool, but they don’t always do the trick. Keep these on hand and make sure the blade can be covered.
  • Hammer. You can use a mallet or a rock if you need to, but do you really want to be that guy?
  • Level. You need to be able to make things hang, mount, or set straight. It is important. When the bubble is in the middle of the lines you should be good to go. (Pro tip that if you live in an old place and/or don’t trust the level 100%, you can measure from the floor up at each end point of whatever you’re hanging/mounting and mark those spots with a pencil.
  • Duct tape and masking tape. The masking tape is so you don’t mess up your paint. The duct tape is because fancy tools don’t fix everything.
  • Superglue and wood glue. Again, fancy tools don’t fix everything, and wood glue especially is a cinch for minor furniture repairs.
  • Cordless drill. I don’t care if you’re only building Target furniture, you might find yourself in need of a drill.
  • Pliers, especially needlenose. They’re just useful. Your fingers really aren’t that good at holding stuff in comparison.
  • Wrench(es). Keep in stock a regular wrench and a set of allen wrenches if possible.
  • Pair of work gloves. You will not need them often but you will be very grateful you have them when you do need them.
  • Pencil. You do not have to keep this in your toolkit, but it’s honestly a lot easier if you do.

Next, tips and hacks to save you time and frustration:

  1. Measure twice, cut once. Or drill, or hammer, or whatever. You get the point. But if you’re careful and double check your work ahead of time, you aren’t as likely to be in a bind later finding out you did something incorrectly.
  2. Measure twice, purchase once. This is what sent me to Home Depot twice this week. I picked up new hinges for that kitchen cabinet without measuring what turned out to be a critical area (frame overlay, if you’re wondering) and then got home to find out it was too big. It wasn’t a big deal to swap them out the next day, but doing it right the first time is a lot better. This is also true when it comes to furniture! Do not buy an expensive piece of furniture only to find out it doesn’t fit in the space.
  3. On that note, you have a pencil. Use it. Mark where you’re going to hang or install something, where you need to drill or nail, etc. Then after you mark it, measure it again. If you messed up, erase and do over.
  4. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BEFOREHAND. Yes, this one needs all caps. I am sometimes tempted to skip the instructions and “figure it out for myself.” Don’t. It’s dumb. Read them thoroughly and follow them so “oops” isn’t a common utterance.
  5. Help is not for the weak. If you haven’t tried, don’t ask for help. But if you tried and can’t do it, or if it’s something that poses any sort of physical risk, please ask for help. Two people is usually a lot safer than one. I’ve only partially fixed my cabinet because I know I’ll need someone else’s help for the last part. Nothing wrong with that.
  6. Pilot holes are your best friend. If you are screwing into literally anything, it needs to have pilot holes. These are the little holes Ikea puts in the furniture to show you where the screws go. You can also make them yourself with a drill, using a bit smaller than the screw. They are not optional. They make sure your screw seats properly, and keep you from accidentally splitting the wood.
  7. Count your parts before you start — and then don’t lose them. Make sure you have all the right pieces before you get halfway into a project, and place small items like nails, screws, washers, etc. into a dish or something where they will not run away from you.
  8. Don’t strip your screws. If you’re using the wrong size screwdriver, or not applying enough pressure when screwing something in, you can basically grind the fitting off the head of the screw, which makes tightening it or removing it nigh impossible.
  9. Know the right tool for the job. There is no shame in googling. Or asking your mom or dad or roommate.
  10. Be safe. Don’t screw around with sharp things or power tools, wear eye protection if you’re doing anything more intense than assembling furniture, and clean up your workspace. Responsible stuff.

A huge thanks to all four of my parents, my freshman woodshop teacher, and various other relatives and friends for making sure I can build and fix stuff.

What are the most helpful handiwork tips and tricks you’ve learned? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Featured

Choose who you sit next to

My office has a fairly open floorplan, and though our (large) desks have short walls, none of the space feels as closed in as a traditional cubicle. This makes it easy to chat with coworkers and figure out if the person I need to talk to is actually at their desk before I walk over there. But of course, the easiest people to talk to are the ones you sit right next to.

Despite being one of the newest employees to the company (I’ve been here just over 3 months), my desk happens to be right next to one of the most senior people at the company. Sometimes, that doesn’t mean much. We’re both often busy and may not get a chance to say more than cheerful greetings throughout a work day. However, when there are brief stretches of more flexible time, we’ll often talk.

Sometimes it’s about personal lives, but more often it’s about work. I’ve been able to help out with big-name clients and learn way more about the business and the company than I would have picked up otherwise. It’s opened my eyes to how things work, and made me feel more valued and empowered in my position.

The best ways I’ve found to capitalize on that opportunity are to:

  • Listen well. People are funny in that a lot of them will tell you more simply for the fact that you’re listening. Listening thoughtfully and carefully (and knowing when not to eavesdrop!) is a really underrated skill.
  • Ask good questions. This will not only show that you’ve been listening, but show that you care about the work and/or the company, and that you’re invested in both its growth and your own.
  • Offer any value you can. This might be offering to run a quick errand for them on your way somewhere, but it’s better if it has to do with what your job is. My work involves editing and writing, so I ensure that I can make a little time to help out my desk buddy or anyone else who needs it with small favors like fine-tuning an email.

Of course, it’s a two-way street. One day you’ll hopefully have the opportunity to be on the other end of this opportunity. Here are the things you can do from a more senior position, to assist and mentor a younger colleague:

  • Learn names, learn people. Treat colleagues like they are not just valuable, but valued. Speaking to people by name and with respect builds credibility and likability faster than just about anything else.
  • Bring them in where you can. Ask their thoughts on something you’re working on, or for their help if it would be useful. This allows them an opportunity to succeed on a small scale, which builds their confidence and experience, while also fostering investment in their career at your company.
  • Level with them. Everyone loves to be in the loop, and the more open communication can be across an organization, the better it is for everyone. Of course, this should still be kind and professional, but it will also help the newer person feel like a respected and valued member of the team.

We don’t always get to choose where we sit, of course. My desk was assigned to me and I happened to get lucky. But if you aren’t sitting in an advantageous spot, there are other ways to forge positive connections. You can do things like ask a more experienced colleague to grab coffee, sit with coworkers you don’t know as well for lunch, or ask thoughtful questions when you’re already talking to your boss.

What are the best ways you’ve found to learn from more experienced coworkers? 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 apparently I need to take more cityscapes.)

Featured

The Defining Decade

One of the reasons I started this blog was due to frustration that this stage of life has no instruction manual. There is no prescribed path, and no set timeline for when you should do any of those major “adult milestones” like starting your career, getting married, starting a family, etc. This book isn’t an instruction manual. But it is the most well-informed and helpful piece of writing I’ve come across about emerging adulthood and the twentysomething years.*

The author, Dr. Meg Jay, is a renowned and experienced clinical psychologist who manages to ride the line between speaking with wisdom and a removed perspective about people’s twenties without ever being dismissive, pandering, condescending, or judgmental. That’s a huge deal.

The book breaks down into three sections: work, love, and the brain and the body. I found the work section most helpful and informative — likely because that’s the area which I feel the least equipped to handle and the least prepared for.

Of course, the content of the book will strike everyone differently, which is why I highly recommend reading it if you are college-age or in your twenties. It’s an informative read for other ages too, but covers aspects of high school kids don’t need to prioritize yet and would serve as more of an informative (rather than useful) nonfiction piece for folks much over 30. But these are the points that struck me most as I read it, paraphrased and with commentary:

  • “Later” doesn’t mean the distant future — and it might mean now. One of the biggest themes among examples mentioned in the book was twentysomethings feeling like, or at least saying, that all the important things are for later down the road. It can be easy to feel lost at this age, and I’m certainly guilty of procrastinating. But Jay reminds readers that putting off investing in goals — from careers to relationships — is guaranteed to make things harder down the road.
  • The things you care about and are good at have value beyond trivia. Jay calls this “identity capital.” You need to offer more than what’s on your resume, which means identifying and nurturing aspects of who you are that can benefit you and the people around you.
  • Choosing might actually open more doors. Sometimes we delay significant choices or transitions because we’re afraid it will limit our options down the road, especially if we don’t feel like we have “enough” of our future goals figured out. But just starting in the general direction you want to move will make the next steps easier and clearer.
  • Drop the “should.” It’s your life. Stop worrying about what you see all your peers doing on Facebook or what media or your family tells you that you “should” be doing. This stage of life is the first one where people are on such wildly different paths with such varied timelines. Listening to advice and planning well for goals are wise, but if your whole life is run by “should,” you’ll just make yourself miserable.
  • It’s not a time to be unintentional about relationships. Jay mostly talks about romantic relationships, but I think it also applies generally. I feel really glad that I’m in a thoughtful, worthwhile relationship where we actually treat the relationship as something to be tended to. But it can be easy to let that slide, or to not be intentional about investing in friendships and family relationships that are important to us.
  • Show your brain some respect. I had no idea how much brain development actually happens in the emerging adult/twentysomething years. (Hint: It’s a lot.) The cool thing is that means there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and improve. The catch is that you’ve got to capitalize on it — the patterns, habits, and skills you build now are generally the foundation for the rest of your adult life.

There were certain times as I was reading the book where it started to feel like a lot of pressure given all that evidently rides on the twentysomething years. But every time that started to concern me, Jay offered thoughtful commentary and helpful advice to mitigate the pressure. It’s the kind of book that I’d like to pick up and re-read every year or two for the rest of my twenties, and which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Is there a book or article that has helped you decipher the twentysomething years? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

*The usual disclaimer that, as always, I receive no compensation of any kind for discussing this book, and my opinions are entirely my own. Also a huge thanks to my friend Kami for recommending the book!

Featured

Gotta budget for your friends’ lives too

Back to budgeting! Emerging adulthood is tricky. In the midst of learning how to handle and manage our finances, we often forget necessary budget items. Maybe you consistently save for car repairs, but not for car replacement. Maybe you forget to calculate a trip you have planned for into your month’s eating out budget. But one of the big ones we often forget — and frankly, one of the ones that’s hardest to plan for — is budgeting for friends’ lives.

There are mostly big occasions for this: birthdays, graduations, weddings, babies, and the like. For example, I’m going to a couple of friends’ weddings in the next few months, and am realizing that I had not budgeted enough in the “wedding gifts” category. Many weddings also require travel, lodging, and new clothes (especially if you’re in the wedding party).

I’ve been thoughtful to budget for Christmas, but hadn’t quite planned for the fact that late spring brings, in quick succession, four important birthdays and now a few weddings.

So what to do when you go over budget?

First, don’t panic. Be mindful not to go too over budget, but it’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen now and then. You can’t plan perfectly for everything. So take a deep breath.

Try to minimize spending where you can, and/or pull funds from other categories. I won’t be spending as much on food (particularly eating out) or miscellaneous things the next couple of months in order to help offset the costs of big friend events.

Prioritize, and say no if you have to. I’ve had to say no to attending events because the travel and/or other costs were simply too much amidst other events or commitments. It’s a bummer, but it’s a spot that everyone is in at some point or another, so your friend(s) will more than likely understand.

Figure out how much your budget was off by. Then you can adjust it for the future. On that note, it’s also a good idea to have some general, “extra” savings for times like this so when you go over budget you’re pulling from excess or flexible funds instead of necessary ones.

We try to plan for as much as we can, but it doesn’t always work. When it doesn’t we adjust. It may mean adding more to that budget category in the future or stocking away a little cash, but there are usually ways to make sure we’re there for as much as possible of friends’ important moments.

How do you address budget spikes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

One’s company

Suddenly finding yourself alone is odd.

Context: As of Monday, my boyfriend and I have (begrudgingly) been hurtled back into long-distance. The last 3ish months of being able to see each other nearly every day, to catch up on tv shows and go on dates just because, went by wonderfully. And we knew he’d be getting sent back across the country for work eventually, even if we didn’t anticipate it happening so suddenly.

The good news, of course, is that it won’t last forever — right now the estimate is about 6-8 weeks. But almost 2 months apart still sucks. Plans got put on hold, adjusted, or canceled entirely. Even video calls — a staple mode of communication for our first 4.5 years of long-distance — won’t frequently be an option. I’m not stoked.

Even for someone who enjoys time alone, having copious amounts of time to oneself can be not just boring, but stifling. Hence today’s topic: being alone in a good way.

For the record, I’m not here to say that being alone is the way to go 24/7. I spent more than a month almost constantly alone a couple years ago — don’t need to do it again. But sometimes we surround ourselves with people, or other distractions like tech, because we don’t know how to be alone. And for emerging adults as well as everyone else, it’s a good skill to develop.

These are some of the best ways I’ve found to make being alone a positive experience:

Take yourself on a date. It doesn’t have to be a nice dinner, and it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. Go to a movie, walk to the park, cook a favorite food. Last night I went to go see a movie I’d been looking forward to, and even when I don’t have to be alone I’ll often plan occasional day or half-day trips to just go do stuff I like without having to worry about anything else.

Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies. I read, crochet, and whittle. And when I’m unable to spend time with other people, they’re a good way to make my time feel well-spent. I promise it beats scrolling through social media feeds for hours on end (which I have also done).

Break a sweat. Exercise is good for you (obviously), but it’s also a good thing to do alone that isn’t as introspective as some of the other options. Plus your body will thank you.

Take a drive. You can pick a place to go, or just a direction. When I have extended stretches of time alone I try to head places that are outside, like walking trails or the beach if I can. But if that doesn’t work (or even on the way there), taking a drive can be a good way to clear your head or just pass time.

Try something new. Go to a new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, try to learn a new skill, or watch something you haven’t gotten around to yet.

Sleep. You think I’m kidding. Time alone generally means fewer obligations, and going to bed on time is a good idea, contrary to our collective habit of terrible sleep schedules.

Be quiet. When we’re around other people, we’re usually talking. And talking is good, but too many of us aren’t comfortable with quiet. If you’re alone, there’s no obligation to fill the airspace, so practice embracing the opportunity to let life speak for itself.

If you’re stuck in your head, it’s okay to not be alone. Learning how to be alone is important. Forcing yourself to be alone can be unhealthy. When I spent that month alone, I began spacing out my errands so I would at least see some part of civilization most days, even if it was less efficient. Trust your gut, and if being alone isn’t what you need, find a friend to FaceTime or call your parents or go to a shopping center so you at least aren’t fully by yourself.

I’m trying to plan for all of those things in the next several weeks. My roommate is awesome and we’ve been hanging out, and I have plans with a few friends in the next week or so. But I’ll keep taking myself to the movies, have upped my workouts, am ramping up my hobbies, and am trying to plan some small solo trips for weekends. The point isn’t just to pass the time, but to do it in a way that allows you to be your own company.

What are some of your favorite adventures that you’ve done alone? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Featured

The balancing act

First off, happy Easter if you celebrate it! If not, I hope you’re having a peaceful and pleasant weekend. Because it’s Easter, I’m out of town and away from the computer, which also means I’m away from anything work-related.

Of course, achieving a good work-life balance is something that a lot of people talk about without being straight about how elusive it can be. I’m really lucky. My hours are (more or less) 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. I’m usually at work early and stay late whenever needed, but my company is flexible about sometimes leaving work early when there isn’t anything to do, or taking days off now and then. I know it isn’t that simple for a lot of people.

But on occasion (like lately), work gets hectic and I end up putting in extra hours or working on weekends. I also freelance, which means nights and weekends have previously been spent working when I would have preferred to be reading or watching tv. During a major transition at an old job I spent — out of my 3-day weekend — 24 total hours working. (After that, we made some adjustments.) During times like that, which is a lot of people’s consistent reality, finding a healthy work-life balance can be really tricky.

For emerging adults in particular, we’re often so new that we either feel obligated to or are required to put in extra time and effort to make a good impression. Not to mention that a fair number of us grew up with such a pile of academic, extracurricular, and/or family responsibilities that we’re used to being overloaded. And the goal of that is good; none of us should ever shy away from hard work. But if your work is consuming you, then an adjustment may be in order.

So here are a few thoughts and reminders when it comes to achieving that balance:

Work should be a top priority. Your safety and well-being, the urgent needs of loved ones, and major life milestones get to trump work. But shirking responsibility or avoiding effort isn’t cool — especially when it pays your bills. Fulfilling your commitments and putting in full effort will not only be good for your career, but your character.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking a day off just because you could use one. A couple of weeks ago I took a day off for no other reason than I wanted to. I’d been at my job almost 3 months, hadn’t taken any formal time off, and knew I wouldn’t be taking more days for a while. So I put in for the day off, my boss approved it, and it turned out to be much needed because the previous work days that week had been insane.

When you work you get paid, but you’re also losing valuable time that could be used in other ways. It isn’t just a work = money, fun = no money thing here. Spending time with friends, volunteering, or maintaining a hobby can all actually add value to your life. It’s important not to discount that.

Work-life balance doesn’t just mean your job. It also means balancing chores and other adult responsibilities with doing fun stuff and, you know, having a life. I am in general a very responsible person, so unfortunately I actually lean toward having too little of a life, and I’m working on it. I’ll limit chores for the day or say that at whatever time, I’ll put any work away and just relax for the rest of the evening. Now and then I try to take a full day off and not handle any responsibilities that aren’t crucial (dishes are usually the exception).

It’s a process. Don’t expect balance to happen overnight, or for it to be balanced forever once you feel like you’ve got a good thing going. As circumstances fluctuate, so will the balance. Go with its flow, and adjust as needed.

What are some of the best tips you’ve learned for moving toward a better work-life balance? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

Recipes: Cold smoked salmon

Even when life gets crazy, you still have to eat (hence all the food-focused posts lately). Today’s recipe is courtesy of my second mom, who taught me a bunch of my cooking and baking skills, and makes some of my absolute favorite recipes.

This one is super simple, and the best part is you don’t actually have to cook anything! As a disclaimer, I realize that salmon is a bit of a pricy ingredient, especially for budget-mindful emerging adults. But the rest of the recipe is inexpensive, and if you keep an eye out for sales — or shop at cheaper places like Costco — it can still be a cost-effective way to eat healthy. On the health note, whenever you can, try to buy wild-caught salmon that doesn’t have color added (and hasn’t been frozen if available). Farm-raised salmon are often less healthy, and the farms frequently have bad environmental impacts.

Also general reminders to practice food safety with meats, including washing your hands with soap before and after handling it, and storing it in the fridge at all times.

With all that said, let’s dive in!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. raw salmon (it’s okay if it has skin, but boneless is better)
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt (if you can’t find pickling salt, it’s okay to use sea salt or kosher salt that has no additives or anti-caking agents)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke

IMG_5500

Instructions:

  1. Rinse off the salmon, and pluck out any bones if it has them (a small pair of pliers is actually best for this, check out how here). I was under the false impression that I needed to remove the skin too, but you can avoid the time and hassle I spent and leave it on until later.
  2. Mix together the pickling salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub the mixture all over the salmon, and put the salmon in a sealed container with any extra mix. I used a *super fancy* gallon Ziploc bag, but you can also use a baking dish and saran wrap. It just needs to have a tight seal.IMG_5504
  4. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours. I’d recommend somewhere in the 36-hour zone, but 24 is the minimum and you can always go 48 to play it safe. This process basically cures it, and the salt and sugar sink into the meat making a cool chemical reaction that means you don’t have to cook it. IMG_5505
  5. After salmon has cured, take it out of the fridge and rinse well. (Pro tip: If you left the skin on til now, you should be able to pull it off at this point.)
  6. Rub 1/2 tbsp. liquid smoke over fish, and place it in a clean sealed container. (Note: There are other ways to smoke it, but I promise this one is the easiest. Google the fancy ones if you feel like.)
  7. Refrigerate for another 24 hours, then remove and rinse thoroughly.
  8. Enjoy!

Cost varies*, makes about 6 servings

*Cost mostly depends on how much the salmon costs. I got mine on sale for $8/lb., which means I spent about $12 on the salmon. I also had to buy the pickling salt and liquid smoke, but each ingredient will last me several more uses. Total ingredients used besides the salmon cost about $2, and with the salmon it was about $14.

I’ve been adding the smoked salmon to my morning bagel for bagel and lox, but you can also have it with a sandwich, in a salad, or solo with other side dishes!

Things I’d change next time: I really wish I’d bought boneless salmon, and that I hadn’t tried to filet it to remove the skin before curing it. I also think I may have left it in the liquid smoke a bit too long, but overall I’m happy with the first effort.

What are your favorite no-cook dishes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

Psst… You don’t have to love meal prep

Confession: I hate meal prepping. I don’t mean chopping vegetables and seasoning meat before I actually cook my food. That part I enjoy. I mean cooking enough food for 4-7 meals, packaging it separately, and then eating it throughout the week. I’ve tried it. It annoys the heck out of me.

Of course, the problem that it’s trying to solve is good. Cooking for one person sucks. I’m used to cooking for a whole family, or at least a decent group of friends, which means making enough food for 4-6 people and often having a little leftover. It’s easy to cook that way, and I’m happier to put effort in because it isn’t just for my sake.

When I’m cooking for just me, it’s harder to portion things, a lot of effort for just one person, and can lead to extra expense or wasting ingredients. To avoid that, the lazy thing to do is to eat lazy food like frozen meals and takeout, which are often unhealthy and are usually also more expensive than normal cooking. Hence — especially since emerging adulthood often means we’re cooking solo and short on funds — meal prep.

But I have been forced to realize that I simply will not eat more than 2 (maybe 3) portions of what are effectively leftovers. I don’t like leftovers, and that’s a very privileged problem to have, but here we are. However, part of the issue is that I don’t like anyone telling me what I have to eat, including past me. And while I’m willing to eat the same thing frequently, three dinners in a row is too much.

Which, of course, presents a problem. To which I am currently trying out what has (so far) been an effective solution. I present to you: partial meal prep. What I mean by that is that I go to the store, buy a number of ingredients that are an A+ in the mix-and-match department, do all the washing and chopping ahead of time, and then package them up and put them in the fridge/freezer/whatever. This way, I have options where I still get to choose the details of what I’m having and do the final stages of putting it together (rather than just reheating it). But all my options are fairly healthy and I’ve taken some of the work out of the process.

So far, this has mostly been with fruits and veggies because like most of us I know I need to be eating more of them. I bought a bunch of salad ingredients I actually like, prepped them, and then when it’s time to eat I just pick whichever ones I’m feeling like and make a salad that actually tastes good.

I’ve also been pre-cutting and packaging berries so that I have those as a snack at home or at work instead of chips or bread or other things I already eat enough of. I’m still working on incorporating more proteins, but have at least separated some meats into smaller portions sizes in the freezer so when I cook it it’s a couple rounds of leftovers and I don’t end up wasting food.

Of course, if the full meal prep thing works for you, go for it. But if you’re like me and are prone to food boredom, then this is a good halfway point to help out your health and your wallet without making a week’s worth of dinners in one go.

What have you found most helpful when cooking for one person? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Featured

So you’re burnt out. Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Featured

Income talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Featured

How to eat vegetables and not hate it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best for: celery, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best for: asparagus, bell peppers, artichoke

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured

Kindergarten 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured

International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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