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A step back is not a step backward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recipes: Pulled pork

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

Cost about $16, makes about 6 servings

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

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

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It’s all a big backyard

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

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

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

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

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

Without leaving home

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

Without leaving town

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

Without leaving the country

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

Without leaving the atmosphere

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

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

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

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To cook or not to cook

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo is a free stock photo because my freezer doesn’t have the aesthetic.)

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Remembrance and responsibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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So you got into a spat

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

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

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

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

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In each other we trust (maybe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We should hang out soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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House, home, or hovel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks Dads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Making a budget 101

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Research

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

Step 2: Setup

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

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

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

LIVING

Rent (23%)

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

GIVING

Donations (10%)

FOOD

Groceries (6%)

Eating out (3%)

TRANSPORTATION

Gas (5%)

Car repairs, misc. (2%)

INSURANCE

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

SAVING

General (25%)

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

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

LIFESTYLE

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

Furniture, household items (3%)

Entertainment, spending money, misc. (4%)

GIFTS

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Adjustments and future planning

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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How to be a good employee

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

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

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

Take initiative

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

Be social

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

Be cautious of what standards you set

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

Speak up, speak kindly, and say what you mean

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

Listen

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

Pay attention

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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.)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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!)

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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.)

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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.)

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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!

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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!

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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.)

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.)

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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!)

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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!

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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!

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The future doesn’t save for itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Recipes: Slow-roasted pork tacos

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

IMG_5351

Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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Loss & grief

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

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

But there are some things that can help:

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

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

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

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Yours for the reading

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

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

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

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

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

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

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

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

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

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

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

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

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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

Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis

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

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

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

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Debunking dream jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Something like love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You don’t need to be sorry all the time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nobody gets to decide your dreams for you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When old-fashioned is worth it

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

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

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

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

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

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Professional can be relative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Go the heck to sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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22

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

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

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

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Media literacy

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

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

A lack of media literacy leads to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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