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Anchors

Yesterday I drove 40 minutes each way to sit on the beach alone and read for an hour. I hadn’t seen the ocean in 8 or 9 months, which is the longest I’ve spent away from the water in years, maybe in memory. Just an hour there was like refilling my soul, which the stresses and challenges of everyday life — and this year in particular — had siphoned away bit by bit.

I think everyone has a place like that. A place that is full of enough personal meaning to provide peace the moment you step foot into it, that acts as an anchor when the rest of life feels entirely chaotic.

Other points that provide that anchor for me are looking at a clear night sky, taking a walk through a city with nowhere to be, curling up with a book by a warm fire.

In such times as these, nearing the close of a year unlike any most of us have experienced, these anchors means more than ever. With travel limited*, that anchor may have to be a facsimile for a while. For me, taking a walk in a city has been replaced with taking a walk on the paved path behind my apartment.

If you already know you anchor(s), take some time to (safely) make space for them. If you’re not sure what that point is for you, think about when you feel the most content and at peace. We could all use a bit more of that.

What’s your anchor? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

* Please, please take this virus seriously. Don’t travel unless you absolutely must. Stay home whenever you can. Wear a proper face covering when you do go out. Too many people have gotten sick and lost loved ones, including people I know. In the US, it’s less safe now than it’s been at any point since the pandemic hit. Please do everything you can to keep yourself and other safe.

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Just getting by

Hey y’all. I know I haven’t made a post in a while. Admittedly, it’s not the top priority when it feels like the world is on fire and I’m just trying to feed myself and keep my head on straight.

I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring. Really, none of us do. But more stress and turmoil is almost guaranteed.

So today I just wanted to offer some things that can help when life feels like a lot, maybe even too much, to handle.

(If you haven’t voted yet, do that first! Resources here.)

Cover the basics

Have you slept enough? Have you eaten recently? Had a glass of water? Lowered your shoulders? Unclenched your jaw? It’s the little things, really.

Movies & TV

I have a list of comfort movies and TV that I watch when I need to just feel better. Some of my favorites are listed below, but of course there are treasure troves of streaming services out there.

  • Favorite movies: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Martian, Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Princess Diaries, The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Bride
  • Favorite TV: Schitt’s Creek, Brooklyn 99, The Good Place, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Friends

Reading, but make it escapism

I love reading, and usually try to challenge myself to mix in some serious and nonfiction reading between more popcorn fiction picks. But I was recently reading a short story collection that was, how shall we say, not helping. So I put it down for now and picked up a cute rom-com one of my best friends recommended instead. Read something that makes you happy 🙂

Do something with your hands

I go absolutely nuts if I don’t have something to do with my hands. Often that’s just fidgeting, but I also crochet and garden, and even cooking and baking help give my body and mind something to do so I don’t just spiral.

Move

If you can, go for a run, take a walk, or do some yoga — anything that gets your whole body moving and some endorphins flowing.

Breathe

I hate how often I forget this one. You can try a number of techniques, and I’ve found a few especially helpful

  • Square breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat.
  • Belly breathing. Breathe in deeply, filling your whole belly with air, then your chest. Exhale slowly, letting air leave your chest first, and finally your belly. Repeat.
  • Literally just take 10 deep breaths (slowly).

Music

I put together this playlist to help when I’m feeling crappy, especially if I’m anxious. You might have your own playlist or album that you turn to, but there’s a lot of comfort to be found in a familiar melody.

I know all of this isn’t much to offer, but sometimes adulting is just getting by. What helps you out when life gets overwhelming? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and know that you’re not alone in this.

Photo is a free stock photo because, well, this is life right now.

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Recipes: Mediterranean Salad

Yes, I’m back with yet another recipe. Honestly real life has been kicking my butt lately and this is the best I’ve got to offer for the time being.

Before we get started: In between feeding myself, one of the things that’s been most prominent on my mind is the upcoming U.S. election. It’s absolutely crucial that we all exercise our right to vote, and do so responsibly. For all kinds of info and resources, check out this post.

Now on to the food! The inspiration here was simple: I had ingredients I needed to use. Specifically, fresh organic tomatoes and cucumber from my best friend’s garden. I’ve also been trying to eat more lentils since they’re a great source of iron. Disclaimer: I was 100% winging it with this recipe and honestly didn’t even measure much of it. The good news is it’s a really forgiving recipe, so no need to fret about being exact.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup green lentils*
  • 1 cup couscous* (I had envisioned making this with pearl (Israeli) couscous, but the store was out so I used Moroccan couscous. I think both would work great!)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Feta cheese (I think I used 1/4 cup, but it’s really as much as you want)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Ground allspice
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper to tasteIMG-2565

* These measurements are for how much it is before cooking it! Both will enlarge once cooked

Instructions:

  1. Dice your cucumber and tomatoes, and set aside. (Pro tip: If your cucumbers are at all bitter, cut off the ends and rub it in a circle on the portion you just cut it away from. A white foamy liquid will seep out, which has most of the bitterness. Wipe or rinse that off and you’re good to go!)
  2. Rinse the lentils thoroughly in cold water (this helps prevent them from making you feel bloated), then add the 1/2 cup of lentils to a small pot with 1 cup of water.
    1. This is where you can add the optional bay leaf if you want! (I think it helps the flavor, but it’s no big if you don’t have it or forget.)
  3. Bring lentils and water (and if using, bay leaf) to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes. (Pro tip: The best way to know when the lentils are done is to try one. Better to have them be a little firm than to get mushy and mealy.)
  4. In another small pot, boil 1 cup water and add a splash of olive oil (about 1tsp.) and a dash of salt.
  5. Stir in the couscous, remove from the heat, and cover.
  6. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff (aka gently stir with a fork or spoon).
  7. Move couscous into a large bowl, and mix in another tsp. or so of olive oil (to help it from clumping).
  8. Strain lentils and rinse with cold water.
  9. Mix lentils, then diced veggies into couscous.IMG-2566
  10. Stir in lemon juice, then salt, pepper, a dash of garlic powder and about 1/4tsp. of allspice. (Pro tip: Go easy on the garlic powder, be liberal with the allspice. It’s the magic ingredient here.) Top or mix in as much feta as desired.
  11. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2569

Costs about $8, makes about 6 servings (more if you’re only having it as a side dish and not a main course).

As always, the cost estimate is rough, especially depending on how inexpensively you can source the product (in my case, free). Also I’d intended to serve this cold, but the first time because the couscous was warm it was a bit warm and really nice that way as well! I’ve been keeping the leftovers in the fridge and eating it as an easy cold lunch.

What else would you like to see on the blog? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. Go vote!

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Recipes: Casa Roma

Y’all this recipe is one of the few good things to come out of quarantine. Most of the recipes I’ve posted on here have been ones I’ve picked up elsewhere, but this one is an original. Early in the days of our everlasting stay-at-home order, my spouse and I were having fun experimenting with some new recipes, and one day, he wanted to freestyle it. This is the result, and it is no joke my favorite pasta recipe ever. (And that’s coming from someone who freaking loves pasta.)

The name is an homage to it being a sort of Italian-inspired meal, a house recipe, and the Roma tomatoes that become the key to its success. I hope you like it as much as we do!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. (1 box) linguine (as always, you can use other shapes, but this complements the sauce best)
  • 1.5–2 cups finely diced onion (recommend white or yellow onion)
  • 2 finely diced Roma tomatoes
  • 5ish garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5oz. pancetta (or more if you want! Small pancetta works best for it to get crunchy)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Pro tip: Pick something you also enjoy drinking since you’ll still have most of the bottle left!)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Olive oil
  • 4tbsp. butter
  • Salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes
  • At least 1 cup fresh-grated Parmesan
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil (technically this is optional, but honestly it shouldn’t be — I recommend ~2tbsp. per serving)IMG-2348

Instructions:

  1. Chop onion and tomato (I usually cut the basil while the sauce is finishing up, but you can do it here as well).IMG-2350
  2. Cook pancetta in olive oil (this can get smoky, so use that above-stove fan if you have it!)
  3. Drain the oil out of the pancetta.
  4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
  5. Add in onion, then the pancetta, garlic, and spices (amount of seasoning is up to you, but I’d again recommend not skimping on the red chili pepper flakes to bring in some complexity).IMG-2346
  6. Start boiling the water.
  7. Once the onions are cooked — they should be translucent and giving off a nice aroma — add in the cup of wine (and pour a glass for yourself if you haven’t already).
  8. Add pasta into pot of boiling water.
  9. Simmer until the wine reduces by about half, then add in 1/3 cup heavy cream and diced tomatoes. (Pro tip: This step needs to cook for ~5 minutes to help the tomatoes break down and bring out their sweetness.)IMG-2352
  10. Drain pasta, but reserve a small amount of pasta water. This is for adding into your sauce to help it stick to the pasta. We usually use just a splash, sometimes more if the sauce is runny.
  11. Take the sauce off the heat and mix in about 1/3 cup of cheese, then mix in the pasta.
  12. Add in basil, and top with more cheese as desired.
  13. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2354

Costs about $20, makes makes 4–5 servings.

Heads up that the cost estimate is super rough since we typically have a lot of the ingredients on hand and the basil is always from my garden. Also note that I typically use wine that’s $3–$10 per bottle — you really don’t need anything expensive for cooking (like, ever) and Trader Joe’s has some delicious cheap options.

Just like the amatriciana recipe, this goes excellently with homemade sourdough. (You may notice a lot of ingredients and steps overlap between the two pasta recipes, but their flavor profiles end up totally different.)

What other recipes or topics would you like to see on the blog? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. If you make this recipe, let me know how you liked it!

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Recipes: Amatriciana

Welcome to your new favorite tomato sauce. Now that I finally remembered to take pictures, I have a new recipe for y’all! This is a slightly personalized version of a classic amatriciana, aka hearty pasta deliciousness.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb. (1 box) fettucine (the wide noodles are ideal for the sauce, but you could use any noodle if you feel strongly. Except angel hair because that’s objectively the worst pasta shape.)
  • 5oz. pancetta
  • 1.5–2 cups finely diced onion (recommend white or yellow onion)
  • 5–8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes
  • At least 1/2 cup fresh-grated Romano cheese
  • At least 3/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Cook pancetta in olive oil (~2tbsp. should be plenty). Note that this can get smoky, so use an above-stove fan if you have it!IMG-2323
  3. Drain some of the oil out of the pancetta (don’t drain it all! You’ll want it to meld the flavors for the next step).
  4. Move into a large saucepan, and add the onion, garlic, and spices (you may want to add a little more olive oil here as well). Pro tip: The amount of spices you use is a matter of taste, but I recommend not skimping on the red chili pepper flakes; they bring a needed complexity and a hint of heat to the final sauce.IMG-2326
  5. Cook until onions are translucent, then add crushed tomatoes.IMG-2328
  6. In a large pot, start boiling water for pasta.
  7. Simmer the sauce for 20ish minutes, stirring occasionally (if you neglect the stirring, it will bubble and get tomato all around your stove area…)IMG-2330
  8. Once water is boiling, cook the pasta.
  9. Drain the pasta, but reserve a small amount of pasta water. This is for adding into your sauce to help it stick to the pasta. We usually use just a splash, sometimes up to 1/4 cup if the sauce is runny.
  10. Take the sauce off the heat and mix in about 1/4 cup of cheese, then stir in the pasta. (The extra cheese is to top it off.)
  11. Serve and enjoy!IMG-2332

Costs about $10, makes 4–5 servings.

Note that this recipe goes exceptionally well with a slice of fresh sourdough! This is a pretty straightforward recipe, and doesn’t take too long. My significant other and I love cooking it together, but it’s also simple enough that one could totally handle it solo. 

What other recipes would you like to see? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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Embodiment

A thing that I have been working on — and slowly making progress with — is listening to my body. So much of our culture sends a message that your body is something inherently bad, something to be changed, somehow separate from who you are. The domination of the conscious mind as our conception of self has haunted Western thought since the Enlightenment.

Combine that with my personality tendencies and some of the specific circumstances I grew up in, and I’ve often found it rather difficult not only to listen to my body, but to trust it. In the past, I have ignored, punished, and disbelieved my body to the point of burnout and getting miserably sick. As I’ve gotten older, if I push it too far my body will quite forcefully assert its need for rest, and pronounce limitations that I’m reluctant to accept (for example, I can no longer do standing room only concerts).

There is a concept called “embodiment” that basically posits that you are your body, and living well means being present in and attentive to your body.

Some things I’ve been doing to practice embodiment:

  • Listening for when to eat and when to stop. One of the best lessons I learned growing up was to stop eating when I got full. Not that I never ignored this and stuffed my face anyways, but for the most part I stop eating when I get full, even if that means leftovers (which are very common for me). The bit that, historically, I have been less great about, is eating when I’m hungry. Maybe I don’t feel like going through the effort of getting/preparing food or use the excuse that I’m busy, but I push myself to the point of hanger or an upset stomach way too often.
  • Moving when I feel antsy. I am a hugely fidgety person — like I specifically buy pens that I can absentmindedly disassemble and reassemble during the workday — and letting myself fidget helps me focus and process things better. If it’s more than a fidget, I’ll sometimes get up from wherever I am inevitably sitting and walking or bouncing on my toes for a few minutes.
  • Exercising semi-regularly. I do not pretend to be a fitness god here, people. I do like 1-2 yoga classes a week, maybe go for a walk, and sometimes play tennis. But even that little bit makes a huge difference.
  • Asking my body what it’s feeling. This sounds ridiculous, but dude it works. Sometimes I’ll just feel… weird, or will be feeling a certain way and not know why. Taking a moment to actively listen and feel whatever you’re feeling, to notice the sensations and what emotions or needs they might be tied to.
  • Rest. Like literally lay down. Now that I have surrendered to my morning person ways, my bedtime is early y’all. I sometimes lay down for 5 to 15 minutes in the afternoon to recharge before resuming my day. This can also mean letting a couple chores wait until tomorrow and relaxing with a good book or movie!
  • Meditating & mindfulness. I am super novice at this, but I typically do a short meditation on weekday mornings, and find that the practice is really helpful. In terms of mindfulness, I’ve been putting extra effort toward noticing and enjoying tangible things, like fresh air on a hike or the taste of warm buttered bread.
  • Adapting. Like I mentioned above, there’s stuff my body has just decided is not for me, like concerts where my twentysomething butt doesn’t have a seat. I need more sleep than my significant other, which means sometimes I miss out on stuff. I use tools and medicine like my inhaler when I need to. And sometimes those things can be frustrating, but leaning into them means that I end up feeling way better.
  • On that note, being intentional in the way I think about my body. It’s not just a skin suit, it’s me. It’s not bad or weak, I’m probably just tired. Specifically, framing it as being thankful for the ways that my body takes care of me helps me be more loving and thoughtful to care for it.

In light of recent and ongoing events, I would challenge you to think about what actions you can take to join the effort of caring for and protecting Black and brown bodies. We live in a world and a society that is built upon systems designed to harm and to exploit, and our neighbor’s body and spirit are just as precious as our own. My post on anti-racism offers some starting points if you’d find them helpful.

What are your experiences with embodiment? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m running late this week, y’all.)

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Fine, I’m a morning person

I have avoided admitting this for a long time. Maybe because almost all my close friends are night owls, or because in my early/mid-twenties I feel like I should be “cooler” than this somehow, but here we are. I’m a morning person. Welp.

To be fair, I’m also a late afternoon person and occasionally a just after dinner person, in that these are the times when I feel the most engaged with and energized about things I’m doing. By 10 p.m., if it’s not done it’s not getting done. After 9 p.m., I am here to relax and/or dwell in my emotions, not do things.

I’ve had a harder time focusing in general lately, but both with work and hobbies I’ve noticed that I tend to do better when I dive into them intentionally, and ideally during times of day that my body is naturally more on board with that sort of thing.

Recently, I started setting aside the first 30 to 60 minutes of my weekdays (after getting ready and before work) for whatever thing I want to do. Sometimes that’s writing or revising, sometimes it’s meditating or reading, sometimes going for a walk. It always involves watering the garden. I don’t necessarily feel “productive” during all of that time, but I do feel like I’m taking care of myself, and cutting out time to slow down a listen to all the things my brain and body are trying to tell me. I don’t use social media, check my email, or watch TV, but those are about the only rules.

When I start the work day, I feel more settled and less frantic. At the end of the work day, I feel less burnt out. It’s not a magic cure-all, but it has made a notable difference in no just individual days but how I feel as the week goes on.

The advice: Set aside intentional time daily (or at least most days) that you can use to center yourself and do things you care about, and choose to not engage with things that are unhelpful during that time.

It definitely doesn’t have to be in the morning if you’re not a morning person, or depending on what your circumstances allow. (For example, my spouse tends to take time to play guitar or unwind with video games after I’ve gone to sleep or when I’m watching TV.) Life is chaotic, and this year hasn’t made navigating adulthood any easier, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself too.

What things have you found helpful during times like this? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I’ll have new recipes coming soon, but in the meantime, check out my Twitter thread on favorite tips for chocolate chip cookies!

(Photo is a free stock photo because even when I’m up before sunrise my view ain’t this pretty.)

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All the plants

I am reluctant to admit that I am a restless person. Even more so when I spent >23 hours inside my apartment every single day. But the one time each day that I am guaranteed a little sunshine and the fresh air that eases the tension out of my shoulders is when I am watering my plants.

I love plants. I love learning their names and watching them grow. I love taking care of things and feeling like I’ve accomplished something tangible. I love the lightness and comfort they bring to any space they’re in.

However, I do not have a natural green thumb. As a teen and college student I struggled to keep plants from floundering. So when I moved into my first apartment, I set a goal: Learn to not kill plants.

And I did great! Over a year and a half, a couple of plants struggled, but most stayed content and a few even flourished. I kept a small stand out on the patio and others on the bookshelf by the window. When I moved into my new place, I planned to set up a tiered planter with herbs, and got the plants settled on the new patio and inside the apartment.

Except then I killed like six plants in a row. Air plants! Pothos! ZZ! All the plants that are supposed to be nigh impossible to kill. And it turns out, the inside of my apartment is apparently where plants come to die. Suffice it to say I was really disheartened. I’d worked diligently on getting better at caring for plants and then over the course of several months, I. Kept. On. Killing. Them. All the ones outside seemed to be doing well, but as near as I’ve been able to determine, most of my apartment is so low light that even the “low light” friendly plants will give up and die. Which means my patio has now become the garden. In the interest of saving money and also getting more plants(!) I’ve recently started propagating some basics as well: succulents, spider plants, and pothos. The new journey I just started is creating a large planter to grow tomatoes in (companion planted with some basil), because as much as I like pretty plants, I love being able to eat things I grew!

I’m still definitely a novice, but having something physical and really tangible to care for is so good for me. Since lots of folks are taking time to upgrade their green thumbs as well, I’ve included some tips that I’ve found helpful (or learned the hard way) as well as links to a few Instagram accounts by Black plant enthusiasts that I’ve really been enjoying lately.

What not to do:

  • Buy a plant you have zero idea how to take care of. I have done this, and on occasion I’ve gotten lucky and the plant has done well, but it’s a huge risk. Instead, do some online research before purchasing and/or ask for info about the plant from someone at your local nursery.
  • Overwatering. I’m determined this is the fastest way to kill a plant. And I suck at not doing it because I just want to smother the dang things with love. But seriously, it will kill them. Root rot in particular is super hard to come back from. For most plants (especially beginner plants), wait until you can dig your finger into the soil a little and it’s dry to water, then water thoroughly.
  • Ignore when your plant is trying to tell you something. They’re living creatures, and they’re more lively than we usually give them credit for. Plants will stretch if they need more sun, can burn or wither if they get too much sun, and will droop when they need water, then perk up when they’ve gotten it. If you’re noticing odd behavior in your plant, check the basics and then look it up!
  • Neglect pruning. I’m still learning this one, but if your plant has some dead or super damaged leaves, get rid of them! If they come off when you gently pull you can prune that way, or get a pair of sharp scissors/shears and trim.
    • You can also revive plants this way sometimes! I have a polka-dot plant that was hardcore struggling, so I just cut all the leggy stalks down to little nubs and now it’s grown so many new leaves and flourished!
  • Skip drainage holes. Lots of the pretty pots available don’t have good drainage, and that’s an easy way to drown your plant, or promote pests and rot. The best ways around this are to 1) buy a pot with appropriate drainage, 2) drill drainage holes, or 3) keep the plant in a properly drained pot for watering and then set that pot into another pretty pot for the rest of the time.
  • Repot until you need to. Every time a plant moves areas or is repotted, it can be shocked and needs time to adjust. Try to let a plant adjust to its new home when you purchase it before repotting, and only repot when the plant has gotten too big for its current pot or if there’s an issue with the soil (I had to repot one recently because I’d overwatered and didn’t want the roots to rot).

What to actually do:

  • Research your plants. Not everything that says it’s easy is actually easy, depending on both your experience and your setting. Learn what areas of your home have what kinds of light, pay attention to the temperature and humidity, and choose plants that are well-suited for the environment you’ll be brining them into. Also shop local whenever you can, not only to support local businesses, but because folks at local nurseries will know what grows well in your area!
  • Water in the morning. This isn’t crucial, but most plants prefer it as it lets them soak up what they need before the sun is at its strongest.
  • Get the right tools. My little garden doesn’t need much, but I’ve found that the following are indispensable:
    • Watering can and spray bottle
    • Small, sharp pruning shears
    • Something to kneel on while you work (I use a folded beach towel, but you can also get a gardening mat)
    • Pest deterrents. I occasionally buy ladybugs, and frequently use an organic Neem Oil spray to discourage pests
    • Rubber-tipped bamboo gloves
    • A set of plastic bowls for moving soil around as I repot
    • Spare pots (they’re really handy! And save those nursery ones you move plants out of!)

IMG-2103

  • Start with plants you can handle. My favorite starters are spider plants and pothos, but these are the types of plants I currently have:
    • Succulents (including aloe vera, burro’s tail, and lots of others I can’t name)
    • Pothos (one of my favorites to propagate)
    • Spider plants. I literally don’t think I’ve ever killed one, which is saying something.
    • Marimo moss ball. This is the tank of “plants” (it’s technically an algae), though it’s not very exciting.
    • Polka-dot plant
    • Snake plant
    • Herbs, including:
      • Mint
      • Basil
      • Oregano
      • Rosemary
    • Spinach**
    • Green beans**
    • Tomatoes*
    • Marigolds**
    • Note: For all the ones with an asterisk (*), these are new and very young so I’m still getting my footing in terms of caring for them. The ones with two asterisks I planted from seed.

  • Shop around for good prices. A little research on good plant shops and average prices for certain plants will go a long way — you don’t want to pay more than you have to! (@grownbyliz._ has an affordable plant shop as well as good info on other affordable places.) I buy my basil every year from Trader Joe’s for like $4, and local nurseries can often have some good deals!
  • Move plants around as needed. I’ve reorganized the garden a couple of times in the last few months because things were getting too much or not enough light, and that can often
  • Be willing to experiment. I tried to grow garlic in one of my planter boxes a while ago and it shot up before immediately dying. Oh well! Especially if you’re trying with inexpensive plants, it’s okay to take a few risks.
  • Be okay if a plant dies. I’ve killed a number of plants in the last year, and honestly it just happens sometimes. Some plants also won’t last forever! Basil is the kind of plant that typically won’t last through the winter, so I just go into each year knowing I’ll need to buy more the following spring.

Also a necessary shoutout to my best friend Megan, for enabling my plant journey, always giving me tips (including the accounts I recommended above), and also giving me plants haha.

What plants do you love? Any questions about caring for plants or gardening for beginners? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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A letter for Pride

Today’s post is a bit different than usual. I’d hoped to have it ready earlier in the week, but it does seem fitting in some ways to post it today, the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, which was a watershed moment in LGBTQ+* history, and the remembrance of which served as the spark for the first Pride marches and parades 50 years ago.

There are so many wonderful resources out there for learning about LGBTQ+ history, stories, and perspectives, but because I’m still digging into them myself I’m not going to share any here just yet. Keep an eye out for that in a future post.

Instead, I offer a letter. You may see yourself in one of the passages, or several, and if you do, then I hope you are met with the affirmation and gratitude that was poured into it.

 

My dear friend,

To you who are queer and out… Wow, you’re amazing. The vibrancy and joy you bring to this world is so needed. Knowing you is life-giving, and I for one, am better for it. Thank you for being you.

To you who are queer and not yet out… You matter, just as you are. Who you are is wonderful regardless of who knows. Wading through the unknown is a brave thing, and can be a difficult one. You’re not alone, and your path is up to you.

To you who are still figuring things out… There is still so much time. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are certainly not alone. No matter what, you are loved.

To you who are an ally… I hope you know how important you are. How much it means to so many to have someone in their corner, a shoulder to lean on, someone to turn to. Thank you for lending strength when it’s needed.

To you who are wanting to learn… There are so, so many stories. I’m so glad you’re here with us. So many folks have done and are doing excellent work on the topic; dig in deep.

To you who are not sure what to think… I’ve been there, and learned how important it is to challenge what you think you know. Just remember that in the end, as with all things, what matters above all else is love is love is love is love.

The world is better when we can each be ourselves, and can love each other as we are.

 

With all my love, and happy Pride, y’all.

 

 

* I use LGBTQ+ in this post as a way to be more inclusive than the common LGBT term, but also want to acknowledge that the full term is LGBTQIAP+, with the last three letters representing those who are intersex, asexual/aromantic, and pansexual, respectively. These identities have long been overlooked and often marginalized by those both within and outside of the queer community, and are every bit as valid.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and a lovely reminder.)

Featured

Anti-racism

There was no post last week because all the pain out in the open has been a lot to process lately, and sometimes breaks are needed to rest and recover. But I also cannot in good conscience remain silent about the effects of racism on the country I live in.

This is beyond ridiculous. Black lives matter. Absolutely no person should have to fear for their safety or their life by simply existing. Period. The number of Black people in the United States who have been unjustly killed by police and by white people in the last few months alone should make anyone furious, let alone the long list of those whose names we know — and whose names we don’t — before this.

I want to make it clear that I don’t condone violence. But it is entirely justified to be angry. We should be angry. And the nature of racism and other injustices mean that power will not be handed down to those who are hurting. Direct action is necessary, or we will continue to have more years and decades of the same suffering that we have already allowed to go on for far too long.

I grew up with a lot of privileges, including living in a situation where I didn’t really have to confront this reality unless I wanted to. Part of that is the area I grew up in (which is a whole other conversation on systemic furtherance of injustice), and part of it is because of the color of my skin. I’m biracial and white-passing, and am still learning the depth of what it means to be Black in this country.

I’m no expert. It is very pointedly not my place, both because I still have so much to learn and because it matters deeply that those of us with privilege in a given area elevate the voices of those who are experiencing the issue, not speak over them.

So to that end, below is a list of resources that more qualified folks than me have shared on what you can do to become more aware and educated on the reality of racism in America*, and how to take action. Please note that I haven’t read and/or engaged with all of these materials, but will indicate the ones which I have. If you’re not Black and this isn’t your experience — and especially if you’re white — much of this could be difficult to take in. It has been for me. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing lots of different emotions as you engage with these works. I encourage you to take time to examine what you’re feeling and why, then keep learning.

Learning resources**

What is anti-racism?

It is acknowledging that racism exists as more than a personal feeling, and committing to continually learning, growing, and fighting injustice. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an excellent short breakdown of anti-racism and different ways that racism is implemented and perpetuated.

It’s also important to know that anti-racism and all efforts for justice and progress should be a continual part of our lives. This isn’t something that ends once the news cycle moves on or once it’s no longer popular.

Reading

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
    • There is no time when this letter is not poignant, and I recommend it as a starting point. Dr. King’s legacy is one of nonviolence but also direct action, and his words here are exceptionally clear on the impact of “moderate” stances
  • Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [have read]
  • An Anti-Racism Reading List” compiled by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [have read]
    • I recommend this over the movie, though the movie is also good
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou [have read]
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have read]
  • I Bring the Voices of My People by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes [currently reading]
  • Native by Kaitlin Curtice
  • Note: Books aren’t linked this time, because right now it would be stellar if you purchased from your local independent bookstore. Here’s how to find an indie bookstore near you, and a list of Black-owned bookstores.

Listening

  • The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have listened]
  • The Liturgists podcast has done a number of helpful episodes:
    • Black and White: Racism in America[have listened]
      • I really, really recommend this one. It’s from 2016 and I first listened to it in 2018, but it’s every bit as relevant today
    • Anti-Racism with Andre Henry[have listened] — more of Andre’s work is linked in the section below
    • For the whole month of February this year, they offered daily mini episodes on how Black history is American history. They’re accessible, and offer some great discussion and reflection [have listened]
  • Code Switch podcast from NPR
  • The Problem with Racial Colorblindness” TEDx Talk by Phil Mazzocco
    • This is a clear, digestible explanation of why saying things like “we’re all just human” or “race doesn’t matter” aren’t helpful. I strongly recommend this one if those phrases resonated with you

Compilations

  • This public Google Doc, titled “Anti-Racism for Beginners,” has a really thorough list of resources that are accessible at a variety of levels
  • Anti-racism resources for white people” is another public Google Doc with accessible info
  • White Homework” by Tori Williams Douglass
    • This page also includes a list of other resources; I recommend looking at all of them
  • Hope & Hard Pills” is a series (including a weekly email newsletter and a podcast) by Andre Henry

Part of being an adult means not avoiding difficult topics, and it means not being passive toward injustice. This is not a journey we ever reach the end of, but it is one that we all have an obligation to work toward. Let’s do the work.

If you want to do something

  • Commit to continually educating yourself on perspectives that are different from your own, and to studying the history of how so many of the realities we see today came to exist.
  • Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to sign petitions, donate to organizations and funds, learn more, and contact local government to urge them to effect change.
  • Amplify Black voices and other marginalized voices when they are speaking about the experiences and urging change. Repost, share, support. This is a time to center the people who the movement is about, not ourselves.
  • Other people have poured so much effort and caring into creating the resources that we are able to learn from. If you learn from someone’s efforts — especially in a time like this — see if you can tangibly thank them in some way, whether that’s through Venmo, Patreon, purchasing and/or promoting their work.
    • (Note that this does not apply to me! If you learned something from this post, I’m so glad; please direct your gratitude toward one of the funds linked in the bullet point above.)
  • Please keep in mind that no one owes you their time or attention, especially folks you don’t have a close relationship with. Learn to gently accept that.
  • If you notice any instance in which someone is threatening or harming someone, using slurs or exhibiting racist (or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc.) behavior, do something. Often calling out the behavior or engaging in a way that (nonviolently) draws the offending person’s attention away from the person they were targeting can get them to stop or go away, but sometimes it’s not enough. If necessary, do what you can to (with their permission) get the person being harmed and yourself away from the threat.
  • Protesting can be dangerous given the outbreaks of violence from multiple sources and the fact we are still in the middle of a global pandemic of a highly transmissible virus. I also recognize that my ability to stay safe at home is itself a privilege not everyone has. So if either you must go out or feel compelled to join protests, here are some resources on staying safe:
    • FOLLOW CDC GUIDELINES. Mask, hand sanitizer, minimize contact with other people. Please, please, we have lost way too many lives already.
    • Tell someone you trust where you are, try to never be alone, and have the proper supplies.
    • Do your research where community-led (especially Black and/or POC-led) organizations are peacefully protesting, and follow their lead rather than fringe organizations. Know when the curfew is and have a plan to be safely inside well before that time passes.
    • More resources can be found here.
  • The King Center (led by Dr. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) is hosting a daily online protest at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT through Monday, June 8. It’s an opportunity to participate and to learn, and the recordings of each one are available to watch afterward.

An immeasurable thank you to the people who created the works and resources I’ve linked, and who have taken the time and effort to teach me. It’s time to keep learning, and for us as a country to grow up. We need to do better.

If there were any resources I missed or you have questions, please let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. May we each open our eyes and our ears and get our hands in the dirt so that we can all have a better future.

 

 

P.S. This is the post for this week, but I will be continuing to share more resources I come across on Twitter @ohgrowup.

* This post is very United States-centric, only because that is the country I live in and which I have enough knowledge to speak to. However, racism is absolutely not only a U.S. problem. Genocide and policy brutality is not only a U.S. problem. Systemic injustice and casual prejudice is not only a U.S. problem. We’ll only truly solve these issues together.

** Note that these resources mostly focus on anti-Black racism, but that is by no means the only form of racism that exists, though it does have a unique history within the United States. Native American and indigenous peoples, Latinx folks, Asian Americans, and countless immigrants have also faced prejudice and injustice in many forms. Some of the compilations linked above address these demographics as well.

EDITS: Updated Thursday, June 4 with additional resources, noting works I have engaged with since the original posting, small edits to decenter my perspective, and the reminder that this work does not end. Updated again Friday, August 28 with additional resources and updated works I have engaged with.

Featured

For the long haul

One set of parents reached a milestone anniversary this week, and after sheltering in place with my husband for more than 2 months, it seemed like time for a relationship post. I am of course not an expert in anyone’s relationship but my own, so take all advice with the appropriate grain of salt, but we have been together almost 7 years and I’ve been fortunate to observe successful relationships that have lasted even longer.

Invest in the other person’s interests. I am not a video games person, but can keep up in conversation about way more games than I would ever be willing to play because I talk to my significant other about their interests, and actually listen and ask questions. If it’s a hobby you’re not interested in doing, it still means a lot that you listen and engage when they want to talk about it or show you something. And this can extend beyond conversation as well. For example, I’ve found a couple of video games that I like, so sometimes we’ll just sit next to each other and talk while we each play our own game. Jump into a TV show the other person enjoys, find a sport you can play together, get super into puzzles. Whatever floats your boat together!

Keep your own interests, and set aside time to not be together. I don’t love guitar the way my spouse does, and he isn’t super into crocheting like I am. We make time most days to do things that we individually want to do and make an effort to make room for each person to have individual plans. This is especially important with friends! It’s awesome if you have a lot of mutual friends, but it’s important that you each have friends you can hang out with without your significant other. Be consistent with other people in your life too.

Find ways to surprise each other. We’ve been together for almost 7 years, and friends for almost a decade, so often it feels like we know almost everything there is to know about the other. But to his credit, this guy still manages to surprise me. The best part is that surprises don’t have to be big to be special; getting off work a little early or picking up a treat they love at the grocery store can be super meaningful simply because it reflects that you’re thinking about each other and wanting to put in effort to show that you care.

Learn how to be mad, and how to make up. Quarantine is challenging even for folks who get along great, and some tension is both inevitable and — depending on how you respond to it — healthy. Like most people, we’ve had a few spats when cooped up in the house for long stretches, and then we talk it through and figure out how to do better next time. I cannot stress how important it has been for us to articulate why we’re upset and how we feel without picking a fight or going after the other person. It doesn’t make conflict magically go away, it just means we can take down our defenses for long enough to work out a solution together. And then when we figure out what we can do better in the future, actually detailing how we intend to do that helps us stick to the plan instead of falling back into the same cycle.

Be affectionate! It’s great when folks in long-term relationships are super comfortable and don’t need to be touchy-feely all the time (especially if you’re around other people), but super simple stuff like holding hands or a smile from across the room can make things feel so much sweeter. It helps the other person feel seen and loved, and especially in a time when a bunch of us are isolated, positive* physical touch is really beneficial for our emotional and mental health.

If you think something nice about the other person, say it. This seems silly, but can make a big difference. If you catch yourself thinking something complimentary, tell them that instead of tucking it away. As well as you might know each other, no one is a mind reader. Out-of-the-blue compliments can make someone’s day, which is obviously even better when it’s someone you care about.

For more relationships info, check out this post on relationships or this post on being long distance. Obviously nothing I covered here is fully comprehensive, but I hope there was something you found helpful. And if you’re not in a romantic relationship, honestly most of this applies to friendships too!

Anything I missed? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* Positive physical touch meaning touch that is wanted in that moment, welcome, and pleasant rather than painful. Consent is obviously important, but also good to remember that giving your partner a tight hug if they’ve got an injury might not be the way to go.

Featured

Mental Health Awareness

May is mental health awareness month, so I’m going to keep this simple with a list of resources that can help us all take care of our mental (and relatedly, emotional and physical) health a bit better.

(Content warning for this post that there is mention of mental health conditions, as well as self-harm and suicide, with information on where to get help.)

Quick tips

  • Just going for a walk is often a huge mood booster for me when I’m in a funk. If going for a walk is a challenge, then any change of scenery or time I can spend outside still helps.
  • Square breathing. There are a few versions of this technique, but when I’m starting to feel panicky, the one I’ve used most often is the following:
    • Breathe in for a 4-count (slowly)
    • Hold that breath for a 4-count (holding the breath in your belly or toward the base of your chest will feel better than trying to hold it in your mouth or throat)
    • Breathe out for a 4-count (even more slowly)
    • Hold without breath for a 4-count
  • Check in on your physical health. Are you super exhausted? Have you eaten within the last few hours? Had a glass of water? I’ve found that not taking care of myself physically is the fastest way to exacerbate any mental struggles I’m facing, and that once I address those things I usually start to feel better quickly. It doesn’t fix everything by any means, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

To relax

  • Apps like Headspace and Breethe offer meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be a great occasional reset or help build a consistent practice (there are lots of these, but the two listed are ones I’ve used and enjoy*).
    • Note that a lot of the content with both of these apps is paid. If cost is prohibitive, look into whether you can access them for free or a discount (I access Headspace for free through my local library) or you can check out one of the many free options also available online and through apps.
  • I do virtual yoga classes once or twice a week, and have found that the commitment of signing up for an actual class (often with a friend) helps me stick to the plan of taking time to slow down and pay attention to my body for a bit.
  • Find a simple hobby. I’ve been doing a ton of crocheting lately, but also know folks who paint, play an instrument, or have something else that offers a bit of challenge and a bit of comfort, and gives them a way to wind down at the end of the day.
  • It’s hard to hold a candle to listening to music in terms of how much it can take the edge out of negative feelings. Find a playlist or album that’s reliable for you, turn it on, and take a deep breath.

To keep your brain busy

  • Books! I admit that I’ve had a difficult time focusing on reading as much as I would like to, but there is nothing quite like digging into an interesting book. The key here is reading what you want to read, not what you feel like you should be reading.
  • Podcasts are a great alternative to watching something, or if reading a book isn’t quite doing it. There are so many options to choose from out there, so find one that makes you feel good and dive in.
  • Also, movies and TV are not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for us to just let our brain follow something else for a while and not fixate on things that might be bothering us. I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms lately while I crochet, and it’s a nice way to chill after dinner.

To work through it

  • Write it down. I’ve journaled off and on for a long time, and have found that it’s always easier for me to process — and often let go of — something when I put it on paper (or the notes app on my phone). It’s a good way to articulate how you’re feeling with really low risk, and gives those feelings or thoughts an outlet that doesn’t require too much.
  • Talk to a loved one. If you’re just having a rough stretch or an off day, talking to a close friend or family member can be a nice way to process what you’re going through. Just do keep in mind that it should be someone you trust, who listens well, and know that at the end of the day it’s a personal relationship not a strictly therapeutic one.
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist. Friends and family are awesome, but they’re not trained professionals. If what you’re dealing with is more significant than a couple of weeks (or even if it’s just a really awful few weeks!), talking to a mental health professional is a valid, safe option to help you work through what you’re facing. Mental health professionals can help with seasons of difficulty like grief or high levels of stress, and can help with longer-term mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.
    • Note here that mental health conditions are common, and not something to be ashamed of. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, and almost half of Americans will deal with one at some point in their life, according to Mental Health America. If you’re concerned about your mental health, the screenings on their website can be a good place to start, followed by contacting your health provider.
  • Content warning (see note above): Of course if you are considering self-harm or suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to a nearby hospital. If there is a friend or family member you trust, you can also reach out to that person. You matter, and you are not a burden, and you are worth every tomorrow.

I hope some of the info above offers resources or encouragement for you to take care of your mental health (or support someone else’s), especially in the midst of, well, everything.

Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

 

* This post is not sponsored, and I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources in this post. They’re just things myself or others I know have genuinely found helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because the lighting was perfect.)

Featured

Recipes: The Great Sourdough Journey

For those of you who know me personally and have already had to deal with me spamming your feed about this, sorry in advance (well, only a little). For those of you who haven’t been privy to this saga, you’re in for a treat. Warning that this is a looooong post, but it’s the easiest method I’ve come across that still has enough info for noobs.

Here’s the tl;dr: I embraced peak quarantine Millennial and made sourdough bread from scratch. It took a while, but it was awesome.

Background

(aka the part to skip if you actually just want the recipe)

On Easter weekend, since we weren’t seeing family, I wanted to make a special meal to have at home. I was planning on making this delicious garden herb loaf that I’ve been making since I was a teenager, but thanks to everyone stress and boredom baking during the pandemic, the store had no yeast. Luckily, they did have bread flour.

I improvised for Easter dinner and made Irish soda bread (a no-rise, dense, very yummy bread that I used to make with my grandpa). But the lack of yeast at the store planted a little seed of well-I’ll-prove-I-don’t-need-you in my head, and I decided to make sourdough starter so that the next weekend I could make my very own bread, store-bought yeast be damned.

Sourdough starter is literally just home-grown yeast in a jar, and once it’s mature can be used to make sourdough bread. It is super simple and not super easy (but also not too hard). Once it’s ready, you can store it a number of ways, and then revive it anytime you want a fresh loaf of homemade bread! Some folks have apparently had their starters for generations.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon* distilled water**
  • ~5lb.* of bread flour***
  • Salt

* These estimates are super rough and likely slightly more than what you will need, but because the process is so lengthy and I didn’t keep a pristine log of feedings

** You can also use filtered water, boiled water, or leave tap water out overnight if truly necessary. But don’t use straight tap water, as the chlorine and other stuff in the water can kill those good lil yeasties.

** All-purpose, whole wheat, or rye can also be used. Literally whatever you have, though many say a “heartier” flour — aka not all-purpose or baking — is best for getting sourdough starter going.

The Journey

Disclaimers:

  • Costs about $5, makes 1 round loaf of bread 10″-12″ in diameter.
  • I’m not labeling this part instructions like I typically do because there are not only a ton of opinions out there about what methods are ideal, but yeast is a living thing and your setting may affect the details of this process. Throughout, I’ll offer ways that I addressed some of those challenges as they cropped up.
  • As always, Google is your friend and I’m not any sort of magical sourdough expert. This is literally my first time, but it was fun and kept my brain occupied during so much time inside.

Day 1

(Sunday evening)

  1. I did a bunch of research, and settled on this starter recipe.
  2. Found a decent-sized jar with clear sides.
    1. In my case, it was a cleaned out macadamia-nut container, but later I upgraded to a 1-gallon glass jar that I ordered just for my new starter. As long as it can hold 4 cups or so, you’ll have enough room.
  3. Mixed 3/4 cup warm distilled water with 1 cup bread flour until fully incorporated.
    1. Pro tip: Add the water in first whenever you feed so you’ll be less likely to have unincorporated chunks of flour, or flour stuck to the bottom of the container.
  4. Covered jar and left it overnight. The lid should not be airtight, and most folks will tell you to just cover it loosely, but I found that if I *mostly* tightened it but not all the way, that encouraged the most growth. Play around with it and see what work for you.

A note about temperature: I didn’t discover this until day 2, but the ideal ambient temperature for yeast to grow is in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit). My apartment tends to be quite a bit cooler this time of year (high 60s), so I helped keep the little yeast babies warm by putting them on a microwaved heating pack, and then re-warming that every few hours when I remembered. You can also put it in a warmer spot of the house or in the (turned off!) oven with the light on, but it should stay out of direct sunlight. If you can’t keep it warmer that’s okay, just know it might take longer for your starter to mature and it you may not see as much rising.IMG-1565

Day 2

(Monday morning)

  1. I discovered the temperature thing (see above), and ordered a more conducive jar.
  2. “Fed” the starter:
    1. Stirred the starter and removed about half from the jar.*
    2. Added in 3/4 cup warm distilled water and 1 cup bread flour.
    3. Stirred until fully incorporated, and covered jar.
  3. Left for ~24 hours.

* You don’t have to throw away what you take out of the starter! This is called discard, and can be composted or used in other recipes (though you may not want to cook with your discard from the first 1-2 days). My favorite recipe to make with starter discard are these biscuits — solely because they are easy and use the most discard for the least flour.

Day 3

(Tuesday morning)

My starter rose and bubbled on day 2, but most of that had receded by day 3. Often initial rising is due to bacteria and not yeast, so just let it be and stick to the schedule. No need to worry.

  1. Fed the starter (see details above).
  2. Left for ~24 hours.IMG-1566

Day 4

(Wednesday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I used a dry-erase marker to start marking the starter’s level on the outside of the jar when I fed it, so then I could more accurately note any rising throughout the day.IMG-1601

Day 5

(Thursday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~12 hours.
    1. Pro tip: I discovered that if you stir it at about the 12-hour mark (or halfway between feedings), this encourages rising and yeast growth. I didn’t need to continue doing it the whole time, but it really seemed to help on days 5-6.
  3. Left for ~12 hours.

Day 6

(Friday morning)

  1. Fed the starter.
  2. Left for ~24 hours, with occasional stirring.

Day 7

(Saturday morning)

  1. The starter had been foaming and bubbling nicely, and sort of passed the float test*, so I knew it was almost ready.
  2. Here is where I got risky folks. Instead of discarding half like usual, I stirred the starter a bunch and fed it double (1.5 cups water, 2 cups flour). Honestly I would not recommend this step unless you want a whole lot of starter on your hands, but for what it’s worth, it did work.
    1. Pro tip: You only need 1/4 cup of starter to make a loaf of bread, so you really don’t need a ton of starter on hand unless you want to either give some away or make a crap ton of bread.
  3. Left for ~12 hours, with no stirring. My starter rose exponentially during this time, so I just let it do its thing and tried not to mess with it (hence no stirring).

* The float test is just to take a spoonful of starter and drop it in some water. If it floats, that means your starter is mature and ready to use. Mine floated for a minute or two before sinking.IMG-1615

(Saturday evening)

  1. Reserved 1/4 cup starter in a large bowl.
  2. Fed the starter.
  3. Let it rise for ~45 minutes, then popped it in the fridge to go into hibernation mode.
    1. For more details on starter storage, skip to “Day 9 & Beyond” below.
  4. This is where the BREADMAKING begins! I settled on this recipe because it was easy, and used the most starter for the least flour (it’s a trend with me haha).
  5. Made the bread dough (steps 1-2 in the recipe linked above):
    1. Mixed 1.5 cups plus 1tbsp warm distilled water into the 1/4 cup of starter I had set aside.
    2. Gently mixed in 1.5tsp salt and 4 cups plus 2tbsp flour until formed a decent dough, then gently packed together.
    3. Covered with a damp cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
    4. Gently worked dough into a ball, and placed back into bowl. Covered with (newly dampened) cloth and let rest overnight.IMG-1617

Day 8

(Sunday morning)

  1. Kneaded the dough and did a second rise (steps 3-4 in the recipe above):
    1. Gently put the dough onto a floured cutting board, then folded down the top and turned it 90 degrees, repeating for all four sides
      1. Pro tip: The recipe I used has great pictures and a video for this bit.
    2. Let rest for 10 minutes while put a clean dishcloth into a bowl and dusted it with flour.
    3. Gently flipped over the dough and repeat the fold-and-turn process from Step 1a.
    4. Compressed and shaped into a ball (a bench knife/bench scraper really comes in handy here).
    5. Placed into lined bowl with the recently folded side facing up, then covered (I just folded over the dishcloth because it was pretty large) and refrigerated for a few hours (anywhere between 1 and 6 hours is fine).IMG-1618

(Sunday afternoon)

  1. Prepped and baked the bread (steps 4-7 in the recipe above):
    1. Preheated oven to 500˚F, and took dough out of fridge.
    2. Cut a large sheet of parchment paper and placed it over the bowl holding the dough, then flipped it upside down to plop the dough out.
    3. Gently floured the dough, then used a paring knife to score it.
      1. Pro tip: This is the cool part where you cut the bread so it can expand as it bakes. You can cut any design you want, but be sure your incisions are about 1/4” deep so that it cuts into the dough far enough to expand properly (only some of mine were right).
    4. Picked up the loaf using the parchment, and placed inside a Dutch oven. I think you can use other pots, but this is what the recipe asked for and I have one, so not totally sure!IMG-1624
    5. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and placed in the oven, immediately reducing the heat to 450˚F.
    6. Baked covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
    7. Removed from pot and placed the parchment (with the loaf on it obviously) directly on the rack, and baked for 10 more minutes.
      1. Pro tip: My oven runs a little warm and I wish I’d only baked it for 5 here. The bottom of the loaf was a little crispier than I would have preferred.
    8. Removed from oven and let cool for about 1 hour (don’t worry, it will still be warm at this point!)
    9. Took photos, of course.IMG-1627IMG-1635
    10. Sliced into that bad boy, put some butter on it, and ate significantly more than necessary.
      1. Pro tip: Just store what you haven’t used yet in a plastic bag, and squeeze the air out of it. This keeps it fresh and avoids it drying out.

Day 9 & Beyond

  1. Enjoyed daily bread (for 2 people, this lasted us about 4 days including Sunday)!
  2. Left the starter in the fridge just chilling, until
    1. I want to make more bread! Which means it’s time to revive the starter.
    2. Day 12 (Thursday evening), I pulled the jar out of the fridge and let it warm up (on a heating pack like before) for a few hours, marking its levels when I first pulled it out of the fridge and as it rose.
    3. It rose, then started receding within about 4 hours, so I split it and fed it.
      1. I also put it into a clean jar here because I had an extra, but that isn’t strictly necessary.
    4. I’ll continue to feed for 1-2 days until the starter seems happy and ready, then repeat the recipe to make another loaf of bread!
  3. When leaving the starter in the fridge, it only needs to be fed about once per week. You should be able to take it out, let it come to room temp for 45 minutes or an hour, feed, let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour again, then pop it back in the fridge.
  4. My starter is pretty new and I plan to bake about 1 loaf per week so I’ll be feeding more often, but there are also long-term storage options like drying and crumbling it.

Misc. Tips

  • Here is the link to the starter recipe I used again, and to the bread recipe.
  • This site also has a butt ton of info and is good for learning about sourdough/troubleshooting, though it’s a little too precise for my patience level. Also check out this page and this page.
  • If you’re saving discard, mark the container with what day it’s from so you know what’s fresh and what’s maybe not so much.
  • If your starter isn’t really rising, no worries. Give it up to 24 hours, then split and feed it anyways
  • If your starter is rising, sweet! Keep an eye on that bad boy and once it starts to recede (sink back down), that’s when you know it’s hungry. Time to feed (even if it’s been less than 24 hours).
  • If you’re concerned about any other aspects of your starter, just google it. There are lots of helpful sites, forums, etc. including r/sourdough on Reddit.

I know that was an insanely long post, so thank you and props if you actually read the whole thing.

What new recipes have you been trying out lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and stay safe!

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A different kind of winter

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking. Specifically, I was thinking about Easter and spring and all of the ideas that come with those events. The meanings we’ve tied to them are a lot to reckon with.

A lot of it gets painted over with cartoon bunnies and pastel everything, but the roots go much deeper. Spring, and for those who celebrate, Easter, are times of rebirth and new things. But that newness necessarily comes from death and cold and darkness.

And so many of us have spent too long trying to gloss over that bit instead of greeting it face to face. There is a certain grief, in winter.

Now, as we’re in a time of year where new growth is supposed to emerge, the whole world has been thrust into an unforeseen grief of a different sort. Lives lost, loved ones missed, loneliness and anxiety often settling in. It’s quiet, and it’s brutal. And we don’t really know when the spring will come.

I have been finding solace in little places, like the hummingbird feeders outside my windows, and the feeling of tiredness in my hands after physical work. But the difficult times seep in when sometimes I don’t expect it. Like last night when, after trying for a while to scoot it outside, my husband killed a wasp that got stuck between our sliding glass doors. I don’t much care for wasps and wasn’t the one who killed it, but I still grieved its death when freedom seemed so close.

Lyz Lenz wrote an exceptionally poignant article about Holy Saturday and “sitting with the broken pieces.” And in this weird time where the world is hurting, we are all grieving, and the weather marching toward spring seems so deeply incongruous, I am trying to just sit with pain and the worry and let it be instead of forcing it away, knowing that in time it may grow into something new.

I wrote the piece below on Saturday, trying to let all of these ideas just be in my head and in my body, without insisting on any resolution.

Today I spend hours on my patio, on my knees. I am repotting all my plants. Some are root-bound and placed in larger pots. Some have soil that has become too densely packed from watering, or have even rotted. Some do not like being forced from their homes and their steady little lives, and will take time to recover. I fill an empty planter bed with soil. I mix in fertilizer, and I water. It is slow work even on a small garden. It is clean, fresh air and rich, heavy earth.

It is mourning, and it is hope. It is all I can offer today in a universe of mysteries, that when we are suffering and when nothing has gone as we expected, we are still here. That the echoes of death and life are all around us, whether tomorrow turns the tide or not. And it starts to make sense that we plant flowers each year, knowing they will fade and eventually need to be planted again.

So to simply be, today, in everything that means, is enough.

I hope this offered something helpful in the midst of a very strange time. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and may peace settle in a little deeper for you today.

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That’s enough

It probably goes without saying that this is an exceptionally strange, difficult, and unique time across the world right now. You’ve probably been oversaturated with constant news updates and tips for social distancing, sanitizing, and working from home. All I’ll say is that I hope you’re staying home whenever possible, and keeping yourself and others safe and healthy.

We’re simultaneously all in unique situations, and all together in this.

But it can be easy to either feel paralyzed amid all the goings-on or to feel pressured into some flurry of productivity as we try to stay home as much as possible.

Personally, I’ve been working from home for the last 2 weeks and while I’ve been mostly managing to keep up with that, it’s been tough to get much in the way of household labor done. My husband is a champ and doing extra chores since he’s currently working fewer hours than me, but sometimes I still find myself slipping into wondering if I’m doing enough.

And that kind of thinking — at least when it’s about simple chores and to-do list items — is quite frankly ridiculous. For all the things I am getting done, I also spend a fair amount of time looking out the window at all the birds that have been enjoying the sunshine and feeders on our patio. I sometimes play a game on my phone or let myself zone out thinking about whatever comes to mind. It feels indulgent at times, but also needed.

So while I remain impressed by all the folks who are able to get inordinate amounts of things done during this time, none of us ought to be beholden to set even higher standards for ourselves. Whatever you are able to do, whatever your heart and body are nudging that they need you to do or not to, that’s enough.

Leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup with anything you’d like to see on the blog or that would be helpful, especially during this time. Thanks for reading, and be well.

 

P.S. I am trying to reserve some of my energy each day and week to offer kindnesses where I can. Some of these are gestures for loved ones, some for dear causes, and some are on a broader scale. If you do have the means to help other folks out during this time, this list has some excellent resources and ways to do so.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and quite captures the space I’d like to create for a while.)

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Making it

We’re less than halfway through March and I feel like I’ve lived half a year over the last couple months. Work is still slammed (though I’m daring to hope I’m almost at the end of it), and things are starting to slip through the cracks.

Healthy eating has been difficult to keep up with, I keep forgetting what day it is, and it’s difficult to get up in the morning. I’m burnt out. And to top it all off, as of about 6 p.m. yesterday I will be working from home at least through Monday (which I personally do not enjoy), and I was up and online at 6:30 a.m. today because there is *that much* to do.

I’ve been working very hard to take care of my mental health amidst all this. One of the little joys that helps me do that is making things. This is, of course, a very broad hobby concept *but* that’s part of what I like about it!

Things I have enjoyed making recently:

  • Let’s be real, I always enjoy making food. But it’s a great joint activity for my husband and I to do together, and one we can still fit in on occasion even when we’re both busy. We’ve made a number of new recipes in the last few weeks, and I busted out my favorite crepes recipe this last weekend. Plus, y’know, you get to eat whatever you made at the end!
  • Notice how there’s a post this week? (jk, sort of) I have been trying to write a little more, because it helps me process how I’m feeling. That comes in a few forms for me, and I’ve been making sure to submit some of my older work for publication as well.
  • Okay, so you don’t really make crochet, but you do make things by crocheting. And I realize I sound like an old lady with these hobbies, but I am the kind of person whose hands need to be doing something practically at all times, so a little flurry of motion with a hook and some yarn is right up my alley. (Before you ask, I tried knitting and entirely lack the coordination.) I just finished the blanket I’d been working on for — I kid you not — more than a year, and am starting a new basket pattern because, well, I love baskets.
  • I have also been “making” time to sleep and relax, time to exercise, and making myself get off social media when it’s stopped being helpful. I’ve admittedly enjoyed some of these ones a bit less, but also know they’re good for me.

That’s my spiel for today. Make something! Memories, a new craft, an old hobby. The world is a more than a little out of whack right now, and it’s important to find pockets of something you enjoy doing. Specifically, creating something new is a great way to counter all the pain we can’t always avoid.

What do you enjoy making? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

P.S. See my mini thread on some tips for staying healthy and clean during this, well, pandemic.

(Photo is a free stock photo because my hobbies are not that aesthetic haha.)

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Lent

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Lent is a season in the Christian liturgy that lasts for the 40 days leading up to Easter. For a lot of folks, it’s a time of cleansing or focus on renewal. Often, people will give up a thing or number of things — or incorporate new items into their daily routine — the honor the season and better themselves or their spiritual practice.

I’ve wanted to participate in Lent for a while but quite honestly kept forgetting about it until partway through. And though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, the thing I like a about Lent is, quite frankly, that it ends. It’s about implementing a change for a season, and choosing something that matters to you.

This year I finally remembered, and because I am already working on adding in some personal goals, decided to give up shopping on Amazon and beef. Though I’m not cutting it completely, I’ve also set stricter limits on my use of social media. These are already things I’ve been trying to consume less of, but for me they are conveniences that I enjoy, but which (for the first two) contribute harmfully to the environment and rarely make me better in any way. For social media, though it does have positive elements, it can negatively affect my mood and becomes a place where I waste time instead of doing other things I enjoy that offer greater reward.

When I think about these things over the next six weeks or so, it becomes a reminder to pivot my attention to things that do make me better, whether that’s reaching out to a friend, taking some time to meditate, or just thinking of something I’m grateful for.

I’m really looking forward to how this goes, and hoping that this season also provides opportunities to learn and room to grow by emptying out some of the time I used to fill with stuff that doesn’t really benefit me.

This sort of self-reflective initiative is one of the things that I’ve been discovering is both incredibly important and incredibly difficult to follow through on as an emerging adult, but it’s one I really believe in, and I hope that others also see the value in.

Do you participate in Lent or similar seasons of change? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am very much ready for spring.)

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Hi again

So, um, I didn’t mean to take a month-long hiatus. (My overachieving self actually feels very guilty about letting that happen.) But life has really knocked my legs out from under me lately. My job has been grueling and chaotic, time for rest has been limited, and preserving that has further limited time for other things I enjoy. Last week I intended to write a post and then got horribly sick instead. (Apparently after too long of pushing my body beyond reasonable levels it revolts.)

I don’t have a grand lesson out of all of this. I’m still just trying to make it through to tomorrow, and then the next day. I’m trying to take care of my body the way it takes care of me. I’m trying not to measure my worth by how much I achieve or whether it’s A+ work. I’m trying to be honest without drowning in negativity. I’m trying to notice my fears and worries, and to hold them with an open hand. I’m trying to find peace in whatever brief moments I can.

It’s important to me that this blog not just die out because I got busy (I’m always busy). But it’s also important for me that there be some flexibility and room to take breaks as needed. So posts might continue to be a bit inconsistent, and that’s okay. I’m still grateful for all of you that read them, and love being able to write them.

I would also love to hear any topics that y’all would like to hear more about — on my own, especially when tired/busy, I tend to run repetitive. Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m not getting up quite early enough for these views anymore.)

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24

This week is my birthday, so per tradition I have made an annual playlist.

Same rules as always: these are the songs that have meant the most to me over the last year, one song for every year I’ve been around, in listening order and not order of significance. The link to the playlist on Spotify is below if you feel like giving it a listen.

This year had a ton of really high highs and really low lows, so I built the playlist to reflect that journey to some extent. It’s become increasingly important to me to be honest about when life is difficult and painful, but also to hold fast to hope in whatever form I can find it.

  1. Dreamer – Sea In The Sky
  2. Almost (Sweet Music) – Hozier
  3. Vagabonds – Grizfolk
  4. Heavy – Birdtalker
  5. Star Maps – Aly & AJ
  6. No Plan [Explicit] – Hozier
  7. Preach – John Legend
  8. Rainbow – Kacey Musgraves
  9. lovely (with Khalid) – Billie Eilish, Khalid
  10. Call Off Your Ghost – Dessa
  11. Welcome to the Family [Explicit] – Watsky
  12. Human Touch – Armors
  13. I Melt With You – Sugarcult
  14. Polarize – Twenty One Pilots
  15. I Need You – Relient K
  16. </c0de> – Motionless In White
  17. Those Nights – Skillet
  18. World Away – Tonight Alive
  19. Anchor – Skillet
  20. You’ll Be In My Heart – Phil Collins
  21. I Will Spend My Whole Life Loving You – Kina Grannis
  22. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service
  23. Chin Up – Copeland
  24. One More Light – Linkin Park

I hope you enjoy this playlist. What songs have you had on repeat lately? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

P.S. Honorable mention to “Land Of The Free” by The Killers. I’ve listened to it a lot this year, but there were a couple of other songs included that caught the same feeling this song gives me and were more personally representative, though I think this song really encapsulates a lot of what our country and world are like right now.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because I’ve been really enjoying purple lately and finding some peace in small moments outdoors.)

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The unicorn skill

Work has been absolutely grueling recently. A short staff and big upcoming deadlines have meant that I’ve been getting into the office at 6 a.m., working weekends, and falling asleep on the couch right after dinner. That has also been the primary reason that blog posts haven’t been regular (sorry!).

Because my job has been a trial by fire, I’ve also had a crash course in imposter syndrome and a chance to hone my skill of being able to quickly make up for resources I don’t have.

Enter the unicorn skill. I now act as the team lead for a small number of colleagues, and am part of the interview process to fill more positions. If there is one thing that I dearly want to improve myself and see fellow emerging adults improve at, it is the ability to figure sh*t out.

I have long since given up counting how many problems or questions I face per day that I don’t know the answer to. Sometimes it’s helping a coworker with a task, sometimes it’s diving into an assignment with minimal training, sometimes it’s digging up resources on topics that aren’t clear.

The trick is that there is no way to ever completely master this skill, but it is crucial to succeeding both in many professional roles and when figuring out this whole adulting thing.

Know what you don’t know. There is no such thing as being overprepared; however, you will much more often find yourself accidentally underprepared. If that underpreparedness is your fault, figure out how to fix it for next time, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid it. If you can identify the key elements of the problem that you don’t know/have, then you’ll know exactly what to look for.

Own what you do know. What do you already know about the topic or task? Is it similar to something you’ve encountered before? Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to experience. For example, I just wrapped up a project at work updating a big product catalog. It wasn’t something I had done before in this capacity, but having spent most of high school and college doing yearbook and then student journalism, I knew the bones of the process were the same. I knew how to work backwards from a deadline, brushed off some InDesign skills, and made it happen. Anything you’ve done in the past that you think could help probably will.

Dig first, and dig well. Google is your friend, as are any other resources at your disposal. When I’m asked a question I don’t have the answer for at work, I go digging — through our files and management systems, through emails, through our website, and then through some thoughtful keyword Google searches. Often, I find the answer within a few minutes. Even if I don’t, I usually get more information or a clearer picture of what’s missing.

I cannot tell you how many times someone has messaged me a question, and then figured it out on their own before I’m able to respond a couple minutes later (of course, I’ve done the same too many times). The moral: don’t. Learn how to use what’s at your disposal to help you when the answer isn’t obvious.

On the other hand, know when it’s time to ask for help. There comes a time when you’re wasting your time by continuing to search alone if someone else could either 1) provide the answer, or 2) assist you in the search. Once you’ve done the legwork to make asking for help as useful and easy as possible for the person you’re asking, being able to ask is important. It’s not an admission of failure or incompetence to ask someone with more expertise or resources for support.

We’re all in the same boat. Figuring things out on the fly is a skill that I think we all need, and which most of us are forced to develop at some point. Remember that it’s always someone’s first rodeo, and it’s likely that anyone you’re working with also wants a good outcome from the task. Imposter syndrome has a habit of making you feel like you’re the only one who is underprepared, and everyone else has it all figured out, when that is a bold-faced lie. None of the rest of us know what we’re doing either — we’re just working on knowing a little more some of the time.

What’s your favorite tool when you feel underprepared? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I’m busy, y’all.)

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So you made a mistake

My apologies, I honestly totally spaced on last week’s blog post until Friday, at which point I was well into spending time with family and settling into some delightful time off. Spending time with friends and family (including a lot of driving across Northern California) was actually why I forgot. And though I feel bad about the gap, it created a perfect opportunity for today’s topic: dealing with mistakes.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days.* Of course we all hope that they’re few and far between, and relatively minor when we do happen — and that probably goes double if you’re as much of a perfectionist as I am.

But mistakes in some form are inevitable. The question then becomes how to deal with a mistake when we make one.

Unfortunately, I (and I imagine all of us) are all too familiar with people who don’t exhibit the best patterns of admitting and responding to their own mistakes. Ideally this is something we’d all learn well in much younger years, but is crucial that we prioritize as emerging adults before we become more set in our ways.

Even if not always easy, the steps are pretty simple:

Acknowledge that it was a mistake, in whatever capacity necessary. The exact form this takes will vary depending on the nature and magnitude of the mistake, but it just comes down to admitting you made a mistake, plain and simple.

Pro tip: It can be helpful to explain why or how the mistake happened, but spending time justifying it isn’t going to win points or help you out in the future. Being defensive is natural and understandable, but rarely productive (something I remind myself of frequently). For example, a coworker asked if I’d intended to do something for a document we were jointly working on, and when I went back and looked it was a total mistake on my part. I mentioned that I hadn’t been paying close enough attention and thought the element in question was part of something else, and thanked her for pointing it out. No big.

Apologize. Usually a general apology with acknowledgment of the mistake is adequate, but mistakes that really harmed a particular person or group might warrant an apology directly to that party.

Reminder that it’s not the end of the world. Probably. But seriously, if it’s not a mistake that did or could bring serious physical or lasting emotional harm to someone**, don’t spend copious amounts of time beating yourself up over it. Make amends, move on.

Don’t stop there. Okay, you made a mistake. Probably not the end of the world (see above), but it is important to articulate what you’re going to do to either fix the mistake if it is indeed fixable, or to ensure that it doesn’t happen moving forward. This might mean saying that to other parties affected by the mistake or simply to yourself, ideally paired with actionable steps to safeguard future efforts.

Be humble, and then give yourself a little grace. A mistake is often a setback, and can be an indicator that priorities or methods need to be adjusted. Let any mistakes you make offer you a lesson, but then allow yourself enough room to grow beyond both the mistake and the limited scope of the lesson it taught you.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

* If you got that reference, thank you and I’m only a tiny bit sorry.

** If whatever mistake you make did or could cause that kind of harm, of course do whatever you can to remedy the mistake, but then it’s likely a good idea to find a mental health professional who can help you process through that.

(Photo is a free stock photo, please pardon the loose connection as this is a rather difficult concept to visualize in a non-cheesy way.)

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Why I don’t believe in diets

Shoot, I said it. Anyone who knows me well has heard me rant (likely on multiple occasions) about frustrations with societal beauty standards and the modern, largely Western, insistence that one’s attractiveness or even worth increase the lower the numbers on the scale go.

In some respects, things have been improving lately thanks to increasing numbers of people speaking out regarding body positivity and size inclusivity. For a lot of folks, curves are cool again.* But there’s still fine print there. Curves might be in, but only around a woman’s chest and butt, and waists should be artificially tiny. Stretch marks should be seen nowhere, and acne must never be allowed. Hair has to be glossy and voluminous, with copious time devoted to the “no makeup” makeup look, and effortless-looking but pricey attire.

And that simply doesn’t reflect the wide spectrum of normal, beautiful bodies.

I’ve been so impressed by how many of my friends have made it a point to push back against all these supposed standards and set a wonderful example of shining exactly as they are.

But… the holidays are approaching.

We’re still a full week out from Thanksgiving, and I have already heard far too many conversations about holiday diets (either prior to, planned for after, or both). And I’m already tired of it.

Admittedly, I have a low tolerance for that type of talk. I don’t diet. It’s a personal decision because of certain health predispositions in my family history, and an awareness that if I did, I would be likely to unhealthily fixate on wherever I placed the “goal.” I step on a scale maybe once every few months, and I’d prefer to do so less. While wedding planning, I kept a slightly closer eye on my weight with the sole purpose of staying around where I was and not letting stress do too much of a number on my body. If I overeat at one meal, I might have more conservative portions at the next. I stop eating when I’m full, and eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat as many vegetables as I’d like to, and should exercise more, but I make sure to listen when my body is telling me that it needs more of those things.

This isn’t to say I’ve mastered body positivity or that I always like the way my clothes fit. Far from it. But I’m working on it, and hope that together, more of us can.

Let’s be clear: I’m not trying to say that all dieting by anyone ever is bad. It’s important to take care of your body, and a holistic diet — with adequate portions, a variety of nutrients, combined with exercise — can be an excellent way to improve one’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. But when diets become all about the number on the scale, or certain measurements, or what other people think of you, or plain and simple control, that’s no longer promoting your health.

One of the most important, under-discussed aspects of adulting is identifying the messages we were told growing up, how they impacted us, and whether our reactions to them have benefited us or harmed us.

I’ve been on my no-diet soapbox since elementary school because I was taught that health was about way more than a number and people are beautiful no matter what they look like. But over the years, I also internalized a lot of negative messages about how I ought to look and they’ve taken a toll on my self-confidence. And that’s for someone who by and large fits a lot of those “standards.” Folks with especially small or large frames, who have disabilities, whose hair has a mind of its own, or who are considered too short or too whatever, get handed even more negative messages about the way they ought to look. And after a while, the boundary starts to blur between taking care of one’s body out of self-love and restricting ourselves because of others’ opinions.

If you are from or currently in an environment where people tend to place a high priority on needing to look a certain way, check in and see how you might have internalized unhealthy messages. If necessary, make adjustments to take care of yourself better. That can mean a more balanced meal and some exercise, or having a treat for dinner and giving yourself distance from people who aren’t building you up. And please, please don’t be afraid to talk to loved ones or a doctor if weight or food are interfering with your quality of life.

If most of the compliments you give people are focused on their appearance — especially things like “you look great!” to mean “you’ve lost weight” — it might be time to re-examine what sorts of messages you’re sending to other people. Appearance-based compliments aren’t bad, but they should be balanced by compliments about who a person is, or how happy they seem that day, and other positive elements that don’t reinforce false, constricting standards of what a person should look like.

And for goodness’ sake, it’s the holidays. Eat as much dessert as you want to.

Got something to add? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

 

* It is necessary to note here that people of color, especially Black women, have been at the forefront of this movement and that the dominant culture has historically profited by widely popularizing and capitalizing upon trends, traditions, and innovations within marginalized communities. We should be learning from other communities, not stealing from them.

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The timeline is relative

Based on our current understandings of the universe and physics, time is relative. It does not pass exactly the same at different elevations, speeds, or levels of gravity. And that’s super cool if you’re a physicist. For the rest of us, it can seem like that has little impact on our everyday lives (fun fact: it’s actually a necessary element in GPS satellite calculations, but you get my point).

However, colloquial relativity is all around us. Kids grow and learn at different rates after all. Still, up until we graduate high school a lot of big steps tend to happen to us at about the same time as our peers: moving up grades, learning to drive, and so on.

Recently I was chatting with a friend about how we try so hard to remind ourselves that everyone does — and should — do things at their own pace.

Because after high school, all the structured timelines kind of go out the window. Some people don’t go to college, some people take longer for a bachelor’s, some people do graduate degrees. Some people climb the ladder quickly and some spend more time bouncing between jobs or careers. Some people settle into long-term relationships quickly, and every relationship moves at its own speed. Some people have kids, and those who do might have them soon or wait until they’re well-established adults.

There might be a timeline that’s best for you or for someone else, but there’s no guarantee that those will align. Nor is there any need for them to.

It’s easy to feel like you’re behind or you’re missing out if it seems like peers (or just people you see on social media) are doing all the things you haven’t done yet. But chances are you’ve reached milestones they haven’t yet. There’s no one right path, and there’s no rulebook. And as much as that can feel really intimidating when we’re new to the whole grown-up thing and would just like a little guidance, I’m coming to realize that it’s one of the most freeing things about being an adult.

So here’s to us, living life and learning, each in our own time.

Chime in below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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It only takes a word

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how soft skills, especially in terms of communication, are underappreciated and under-emphasized by so many people. Of course, this is coming from someone who majored in communication, but I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed from folks in fields from business to STEM.

Some people espouse that to get ahead — particularly in one’s career — you can’t be kind or agreeable, or at least not too agreeable. And of course there is an element of balance; if you only ever say positive things, it will be hard to make your own ideas known and to point out risks or issues in the ideas of others.

Especially when I’m busy, my default is to be fairly stressed and fairly serious. I’ve had to learn how to make time to build good professional relationships, even if it means a task takes a little longer. But on the flipside, it’s also hugely important to me that everyone be as content with a given situation as possible and that I take regularly opportunities to boost morale. Often that means bringing in treats for coworkers or saying “thank you” more times than perhaps necessary. And these are great, but they’re also a little shallow.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some absolutely phenomenal bosses and mentors as I’ve gained work experience. I’ve also had the chance to be a boss or mentor to other folks, and to experiment with what comprises a successful leadership style.

Some of the elements are fairly standard: clear training and instruction, open communication channels, well-rounded feedback that includes praise for elements done well and actionable critiques on ways to improve.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned from my mentors, though, is how incredibly important it is to empower those who are learning from you — whether the setting be professional, familial, or otherwise. While “empower” has become a bit of a buzzword and lost some of the meaning it ought to possess, it captures exactly how we should be made to feel by those we’re learning from (and how we should be making those we’re teaching feel).

As an example, a brief anecdote: Yesterday was not a great day for me. I’m behind on a lot of at-home tasks (*ahem* cleaning) and my at work my number of tasks and the stakes are increasing. It was just one of those days I felt ill-equipped for all I was facing. During the course of separate conversations, both my boss and a former boss/mentor offered unsolicited, generous compliments on my competency and the impact of my work. They both absolutely made my day.

The comments meant so much because both of them conveyed that they actually believed in me. Which, for starters, is something we could all stand to hear a little more often. But it also made me want to prove them right, instead of trying to prove negative thoughts or voices wrong.

I’ve long held to the belief that small kindnesses can have radical impacts in people’s lives. For emerging adults in particular, it’s crucial that we not only embrace that idea in our personal lives, but also our professional ones. As we do so, we can foster and eventually create environments that encourage people’s growth through support or cooperation rather than relying on competition.

In the future, I’ll be looking for and taking more opportunities in which I can offer a word or gesture to help other folks feel as valued and full of potential as comments like the ones yesterday made me feel. I just hope we all do.

As always, comments, questions, and miscellaneous input welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. I know it’s yet another sunset ocean pic, but this place was home for a long time and not only taught me a lot of what I covered in this post, but could use any extra love available as the community continues to heal from tragedy.

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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Hey, ya’ll! This week’s post is from my best friend and blogger-on-hiatus, Megan. You may remember her from our collaboration post  a while back. She’s tackling the topic of emergency preparedness, given the recent wildfires and power outages in California lately, the latter of which we’ve both been affected by. Hope you all enjoy!

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As a millennial, my definition of natural disaster was characterized by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was a defining moment in my childhood, much like 9/11. Looking back, it never occurred to my 10-year-old self that I would grow up and have to prepare for anything like Katrina, especially as a California resident. I am very fortunate enough to have grown up in an area where the threat of natural disasters had never seemed so extreme. While we have always had earthquakes and fires, they occurred few and far between during my childhood. However, as the years have gone by, the effects of climate change have not only accelerated the frequency and intensity of fires in California, but brought on several other natural disasters not only nationally, but abroad.

Just off of the top of my head, I can recall hurricanes Lane in Hawaii (2018), Harvey in Texas (2017), and Maria in Puerto Rico (2017), dangerously cold blizzard conditions on the East Coast & in the Midwest (2018), and countless devastating fires in my very home state including the Camp fire in Paradise (2018) and Woolsey in Malibu (2018) — all within the past 2 years alone. Most recently, the Tick fire in Santa Clarita and the Kincade fire in Sonoma have been brought on by extreme dry and windy conditions that — combined with at-risk power grid infrastructure — have prompted PG&E to cut power to millions of customers, including myself.

Now, I don’t mean to get all doomsday-ey, and I know emergency preparedness isn’t the most glamourous topic, but at the rate that things are progressing, it sure as hell is relevant. And if I’ve learned anything from Gen Z, it’s all about being relevant. Jokes aside, I am a camping aficionado, possess basic safety skills, and have learned a thing or two from experiencing my fourth forced power outage — all of which is to say that while I’m not claiming to be an expert, I am slightly qualified to speak on this topic. I’ve also linked plenty of credible resources. That being said, here are my five main thoughts I’d like to share about preparing and dealing with an emergency:

1.   Do your research

  • Depending on where you live, “disaster” comes in its own unique flavor. Know what to expect and when to expect it, given your own location. For me, I know that my greatest threat is wildfire and wildfire season is at its peak from September to October. If you need some guidance, ready.gov is a comprehensive resource with guides broken down by type of event and is a great place to start.
  • Stay in the loop by signing up for alerts relevant to you. You can also follow respective social media accounts, but they may not always be up to date. Here are a few resources:

California / fire alert systems

Other alert systems

2.  Make a plan

  • If the emergency you’re preparing for may involve an evacuation, be sure to sit down with all the members of your household and get on the same page of where to meet (designate either another family member’s house or a community crisis center), how to get there, and what to bring. The unfortunate nature of emergencies is that they are unpredictable and may not leave much time to gather your belongings or may interfere with communication, so it is best to have a plan beforehand. Depending on circumstances, you may not need a “go bag” lying around, but if you are at risk of being in an evacuation zone, keep an eye on your alerts and start preparing as soon as possible. Also, keep in mind that if evacuation orders are given, traffic may start to pile up, so the sooner you can evacuate, the better. If you need help creating your plan, use the ready.gov planning page as a resource.
  • In an emergency, it’s easy for things to get overlooked, so be sure to take stock of any special circumstances that may cause snafus down the line and make a plan for those as well. Don’t forget about your pets and animals, any special medication that may need to be refrigerated, medical devices, features about your property, etc. For me personally, I know that my water system runs on an electric pump and during power outages I do not have access to running water. Luckily, since the outages are controlled, I’ve been able to prepare beforehand and not only ensure that I have water to drink, but also water for hygiene and cleaning.
  • Designate your emergency contacts and alert them that they hold that role. Be sure to share that information with all relevant people.

3.  Be prepared

  • Build an emergency kit! Start with the basics, then add specific items for your particular emergency over time or as needed. You probably have many of these item lying around, but it is best to round them all up so that you do not have to scramble to find them. Time is valuable during an emergency.

Emergency kit essentials

  • 1 week’s worth food supply (and the tools to prepare it!)
  • 1 gallon of water per person per day for up to 3 days (up to 3 gallons if you lack running water for cooking and hygiene)
  • Flashlights / battery-powered lanterns / candles
  • Extra batteries
  • Lighter / matches
  • First aid kit & basic meds
  • Scissors / knife / multi-tool
  • Cash
  • Mobile phone charging bank & cord
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (preferably able to receive NOAA broadcasts)
  • See the official FEMA checklist
  • See the Build a Kit page on ready.gov

Other emergency preparedness items

  • Backup generator & fuel — for most circumstances, but especially frequent power outages. (Trust me, with all the PG&E stuff, these have been a hot commodity lately.)
  • Ice & ice chests — in case you cannot run or afford a generator to power your refrigerator during a power outage, use these to save your food and/or medication.
  • Temperature-control items such as sleeping bags, blankets, heat sources, or battery-powered fans — for any circumstance, including power outages.
  • N95 respirator masks — for areas prone to wildfires.
  • Be sure to adapt these items to what’s most relevant for your type of emergency

Don’t forget!

(These items are commonly forgotten during an evacuation or relocation to a sheltered space. Keep these in mind when building your kit.)

  • Prescription medication (including for pets!)
  • Backup glasses / contacts & solution
  • Menstrual products
  • Infant formula & bottles
  • Diapers & wipes
  • Pet food
  • Disposable dishes & cutlery

 

  • Not only do you need to build a kit, but you also need to keep it accessible. It doesn’t do any good if it can’t be found or used by everyone so keep in mind those in your household who may have accessible devices such as wheelchairs or the height limitations of older children. Remember that you may not always be there or able to access your kit yourself.
  • Replenish your kit as needed, and be sure to make sure to replace any expired items (including bottled water) when necessary. Also be sure to test batteries and make sure that they work.
  • Set up protection measures as needed. This may include assessing your property and ensuring it can be a safe shelter. For fires, this means keeping a 100-foot radius clear from your home of brush and flammable debris. For flooding, it means being able to safely access high ground. For earthquakes, it means securing large furniture so it does not fall. For tornadoes, it means having a basement or shelter. Know what your needs are, and prepare your property accordingly. Protection also includes storing important documents and irreplaceable family memorabilia in a fireproof safe and/or digitally archiving them somewhere that isn’t subject to natural disaster (such as a backup hard drive in a safe and in the cloud). And as a final measure of protection, be sure that you are properly insured.

4.  Take a moment for yourself

  • In an emergency, it’s easy to get swept up in the adrenaline. Make sure to keep a calm, level head during the emergency — and once it’s safe to do so, take a moment to decompress. Not only do you need to ration your energy in an emergency, but it’s also necessary to show yourself some love and compassion by filling up your cup so that you might give to others. You know, the whole “put your oxygen mask on first” thing.
  • When disaster strikes, it is not always easy to be positive, but giving a moment of gratitude really helps to put things into perspective.

5.  Pay it forward

There isn’t much you can do to prevent a natural disaster from coming; however, it is crucial that we acknowledge their more persistent presence due to climate change. We can make a difference by not only donating to organizations that provide relief in the aftermath of such tragedies, but also to those who do work in order to combat one of the sources of increased disasters. Here is a list of charities you may consider donating to below:

Disaster relief charities

Climate activism charities

Closing remarks

So with all of that said, the three main takeaways are:

  1. There is always more to know. While this is quite a lengthy post, it still does not cover the breadth and complexity of emergency preparedness. If you are interested in knowing more, please use the following resources:
  1. Better to prepare now, rather than later.
  2. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and our planet, not just others.

Thanks to my best friend for allowing me the opportunity to get back into blogging. If you’d like to keep up with my own exploits, and hear more rants about PG&E, find me here:

Blog: thechroniclesofmegan.com

IG: @chroniclesofmegan

Twitter: @meganchronicles

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As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting! Stay safe out there, and let’s do what we can to help others do the same. Comments always welcome below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. See you next week!

P.S. Happy Halloween! Due to the whole just had a wedding/honeymoon and then got our power shut off thing, I’m recycling last year’s costume. Enjoy the holiday!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this sums it up better than I thought a single image could.)

 

 

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Recipes: Spiked apple cider

Hi! I’m alive! Apologies for all the various delays in posting — in addition to the planned time away (the wedding and honeymoon were awesome), work has been super busy and there is never a shortage of other items to fill up free time. I actually had a post for y’all last week but as I was reviewing, realized it was too similar to previous ones and I don’t want to spam anyone’s feed with repetitive content.

But I’m glad to be back! I haven’t done any drink (alcoholic or otherwise) recipes on here yet, and it seemed due time. I made this last fall, and once we got back from the honeymoon I was launched straight from 90-degree beaches into mid-October autumn. In addition to a bit of decorating around the apartment, I made my current favorite fall drink to celebrate my long-favorite season.

Note before we get started: Alcohol consumption is entirely your choice and responsibility. I enjoy a good adult beverage, but am also careful to not indulge too much or too frequently to avoid building a habit that could haunt me. If you’d rather avoid alcohol, you can either skip the bourbon entirely or substitute with some vanilla extract and extra water.

All of that said, I love bourbon. My first introductions to alcohol were from people who had the time and resources to have developed good taste (aka not college students) and I tend to prefer strong, savory flavors in drinks and a lot of my foods. My husband, however, much prefers sweet drinks. This is one we both love.

This isn’t a super cheap recipe if you don’t already have the spices, but does serve a lot and a little of each spice goes a long way. The good news is it’s really easy and your house will smell amazing.img_0439.jpg

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups spiced cider (I get mine from Trader Joe’s — if spiced isn’t available, you can do regular fresh cider and just use more spices/simmer for longer)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup bourbon (it shouldn’t be bad bourbon but it doesn’t have to be pricey — Trader Joe’s offers a bottle that’s fine even served neat for about $15, or Evan Williams Single Barrel is about $25 and really good)
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole allspiceIMG_0436

Instructions:

  1. Dump it all (gently) into a pot or large saucepan, then bring to a low simmer
  2. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stir occasionally
  3. Taste test (seriously, you can always add more of something!)
  4. Serve!img_0441.jpg

Costs about $15*, makes 6-8 servings.

Thankfully I got enough to make another batch, which I’m very much looking forward to as we settle into fall. Now that wedding planning is over, I’m hoping I can be more consistent about posts.

I’d absolutely love to know what you want to hear more about! I’m not an expert, but am figuring out the adulting thing one step at a time. What would be most helpful to read about as an emerging adult? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

*Once again, sorry for the exceptionally rough cost estimate. The spices can be expensive, but everything else is reasonable and you only use a little of each spice.

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Calm the [bleep] down

Okay so we are 9 days out from my wedding (!!!), and while I am enormously excited, it seems like everything in my life decided to get really hecking busy at the exact same time. Literally all of ‘em. Work, wedding, the water leak in my apartment that turned into big holes cut in the drywall.

Luckily I’ve got great people around me and we are making do, making it happen, etc. in all areas. But that doesn’t make it magically not busy, or not stressful. Some of the things are worth getting a little worked up about. Last weekend was crammed with wedding stuff. Tuesday I woke up at about 7:10 and then remembered I had an 8 a.m. meeting at the office. Still, the adulting lesson I’ve been working on lately is that the stakes are lower for most of this than I often feel.

Being a Type A, organized-to-the-T, enneagram 1 person, my default mode is not what most would describe as overly chill. In a lot of ways, it’s really helpful. We’ve got a fairly intense Google Drive folder for the wedding, despite the constant stream of new adventures at work I manage to remain organized and at least decently on top of things, and I can usually find whatever I’m looking for in my apartment. The downside is that it feels like everything is urgent and that if it’s not done as perfectly as humanly possible, that the whole house of cards might come crashing down. Not exactly a recipe for relaxation.

Maybe I’ve finally started listening to my fiancé, or maybe I’m actually starting to grow up in this area, but lately I’ve been able to occasionally pause the stress, mentally lower the stakes, and calm down.

There is a balance that we each have to find of being chill/letting things happen and getting stuff done. But even when getting stuff done, not every single decision has to be fretted over and examined in excruciating detail. My job does not involve any life-or-death situations, so while there are a lot of urgent things going on right now, I do what I can, and then leave it be at the end of the day.

The wedding is very soon, and has involved a lot of big details and important decisions, but when it comes down to it, I’m just excited to celebrate with so many people I care about. The rest is icing.

Reminding myself that none of these situations include saving lives or rocket science — plus a few deep breaths and learning when to take a break — has proved incredibly helpful in the last few weeks, and I’m counting on it for the next 9 days.

Bonus thing that helps remind me to calm down is this scene in a show called Schitt’s Creek (seriously watch it if you haven’t yet) where David, one of the main characters is stressed out over potentially making a mistake and his sister Alexis just keeps telling him that no one cares. At first it seems flippant and dismissive, but he finally realizes that all she means is that it isn’t nearly as big of a deal as he believed it was, and therefore can finally relax and get through it. So on really crazy days you may occasionally hear me muttering, “No one cares, David” under my breath.

What helps you the most when everything starts to pile up? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

P.S. I’m still going to try to get a post out next week, but after that I’ll be stepping away for 2-3 weeks while I’m on my honeymoon and actually relaxing, instead of just squeezing a little calm into the chaos.

(Photo is a free stock photo because just looking at it is like 10 minutes of deep breaths or the bliss of my weighted blanket.)

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Because Internet

This post is a smidge later than I’d hoped because once again the week has gotten away from me, but I’m really excited about it! After months of eager waiting, some pre-order funny business, and several weeks of stealing time to read, I finished Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch.

It is, seriously, my favorite nonfiction book I’ve read in a looooong time.* And I actually read a hearty helping of nonfiction. If you know me in real life and we’ve talked recently, you’ve probably heard me talk about this book. Funny enough, I considered writing a really similar book a couple years back, but am glad that McCulloch did because frankly she’s way more qualified.

Though this book doesn’t directly address adulting or emerging adulthood like when I discussed The Defining Decade, it breaks down a lot of the major topics of internet language. Because the internet has not only proliferated informal writing, but provided avenues to study it that didn’t previously exist, we can better understand — at least linguistically — how we make use of the tools at our digital disposal, and not just how we shape the tools, but how they influence us.

My favorite two themes from the book: 

Internet users, just like normal people, come in generations. However, I loved that McCulloch didn’t try to break it down by how we currently think about generations (Millennials, Gen X, and so on), but rather by when people came to the internet and what it was like when it first became a significant part of their lives.

I’m definitely a Post Internet person (as are most of my peers), but some of the differences that she highlighted in terms of trends between different generations of internet people illuminated behaviors and communication patterns that I’d previously found puzzling.

Written media doesn’t have to lack communication richness. This is my inner communication major coming out, but it used to drive me absolutely nuts when people would insist that text messages or other chat formats lacked media richness. In other words, that when you’re not here to see my gestures and hear my inflection, there’s no way for me to convey tone and other meaning beyond the literal words. I do that in text messages all the time!

There is, of course, room for misinterpretation. And it does require more effort to indicate sarcasm with punctuation or capitalization than it does to simply modulate my voice as I say a phrase, but it’s definitely possible. While I think this opportunity is one of the best offerings of modern technology, the book also points out that some of the communication mishaps (like whether a period at the end of a message indicates the sender is upset) are due to “generational” differences in both actual age and our relationship to the internet.

So if you are interested in linguistics, English, the internet, or even generational studies, I would enthusiastically recommend Because Internet. I am signing off this weekend to spend time with family, but will also be trying to squeeze in some more reading.

Book recommendations? Thoughts on how emerging adults can make use of the opportunities with internet language? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. Please pardon the poor photo quality, my apartment is a bit dim and I didn’t want to wait for daylight haha.

*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 shoutout to Gretchen McCulloch for not only writing the book but dealing with all my excited tweets about it.

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I do not belong in a magazine

Full disclosure: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cried this week, despite two prescriptions acne is a constant companion, I am somehow neither a morning person or a night person, I have a witheringly small social circle, procrastination is melded into my daily life, I can barely stay awake long enough to read the last few pages of a book I’ve been excited about for months, and it feels like the piles of things I should have under control is growing faster than I can scramble to keep up.

Of course, there are lots of good things: I’ve been excelling at work, my wedding is coming up soon, there have been small moments for time with friends, and despite all my worries enough gets done each day that I make it to the next one. At the end of the day I’m still here and the sun still rises.

But it’s still really hard not to fall into the trap of feeling like I’m falling apart while everyone else is killing it. Objectively, that’s a misunderstanding, but it’s still an exceptionally difficult thought patter to get out of. Blame it on social media, celebrities, psychology, whatever you want. It’s been a problem for a lot of people for a long time and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I would love to offer some poignant, timely answers on how I avoid getting stuck thinking that everyone’s got it together and I’m the only one falling behind. I don’t really have them this week.

This week has been more about gathering what energy I’ve got left to do the small things that make me feel more like me, whether that’s reading a bit, a bite of dessert, listening to a song or podcast I really enjoy, or asking for a hug when I feel a bit on my own. It’s also being aware of my mental state, and when it would be better for me to set something down or walk away instead of letting whatever apparently-picture-perfect thing sell me on the idea that I’m the only one who’s missing out.

It’s not an answer, but it has to be enough for now. I’m not sure what your week has handed you, but I hope this offers a little solidarity whenever you find yourself needing it.

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

(Photo is a free stock image, because it’s a small, lovely thing growing in spite of it all.)

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When words are all we have for now

This last week, for me, has covered almost the full spectrum of joy and pain. It would feel disingenuous or disrespectful to focus on only the pain, or only the joy, of recent days. And I firmly believe that the only thing we can count on — the only thing I am sure life offers each of us — is the opportunity to know both, most often mixed together in a way that makes describing how we fully feel beyond the reach of everyday language.

The human condition seems to be that we harbor both love and hate, crave one but are drawn to the other, and that being a wildly social species we are both burdened and blessed to share that with others as well as have it shared with us.

I wish that as a kid, I had been given a better grasp on how shatteringly messy everything is. All the good and bad and kind-of-both are tied together, and that is the invisible, palpable truth we exist in. As an adult, I’m trying to not just acknowledge that, but make peace with it, while simultaneously working toward increasing the proportion of love in anything I share. Sometimes that love looks like joy, and sometimes it exists in pain.

When words fail, I tend to fall back on touch, hoping that it will say what I can’t seem to. But of course the medium of this blog makes a hand on your shoulder impossible, so we’re back to words. When words fail and they are still all I can offer, I fall back to poetry.

This poem* is one of my favorites, and holds the tension between the pain and the joy we’re faced with better than almost anything else I’ve encountered:

 

“On Kindness” by Aracelis Girmay

        after Nazim Hikmet, for & after Rassan

 

At the Detroit Metro Airport

with the turtle-hours to spare

between now & my flight, there is

such a thing as the kindness

of the conveyor belt who lends me

its slow, strange mollusk foot

as I stand quiet, exhausted, having been

alone in my bed for days now, sleeping

in hotels, having spent months, now,

without seeing the faces of my family, somehow

its slow & quiet carrying of the load

reminds me of the kindness of donkeys

& this kindness returns me to myself.

It reminds me of the kindness of other things I love

like the kindness of sisters who send mail,

wherever you are, &, speaking of mail, there is

the special kindness of the mail lady

who says, “Hi, baby” to everyone, at first

I thought it was just me, but now I know

she says “Hi, baby” to everyone. That is kindness.

Too, there is the kindness of windows, & of dogs.

& then there was that extraordinary Sunday

back at the house, I heard a woman screaming

about how she was lonely & so lonely

she didn’t know what she’d do, maybe kill

herself, she said, over & over like a parrot

in a cage, a parrot whose human parent

only taught it that one sentence. I looked out

the window & saw her from behind, the way she flung

her arms like she was desperate & being killed

or eaten by an invisible predator, like a tiger or a lion, in the chest.

& her voice seemed fogged out with methadone, I don’t know,

something, & I walked away from the window

& sat, angry with her for screaming, & sad,

& not long after, I heard her saying,

What’d you say? What’d you say to me?

& a man’s voice, low, I could not tell if it was kind.

& she said, I’ll kill myself, I’m so lonely.

& did I tell you, yet, that it was Mother’s Day?

Flowers & mothers, flowers & mothers all day long.

& the woman saying, I’m so lonely. I could kill myself.

& then quiet. & the man’s voice saying, It’s okay.

It’s okay. I love you, it’s okay.

 

& this made me get up, put my face, again, to the window

to see my landlord’s nephew outside, just hugging her so, as if

it were his mother, I mean, as if he belonged to her,

& then, again, quiet, I left the window but sat

in the silence of the house, hidden by shutters, & was amazed.

When the front door of the brownstone opened up

& let the tall nephew in with his sad & cougar eyes,

handsome & tall in his Carolina-Brooklyn swagger, I heard

him start to climb the stairs above me, & my own hand

opened up my own front door,

& though it was none of my business

I asked him, Do you know that women out there?

& do you know what happened next?

He said, No. The nephew said no, he didn’t know

the woman out there. & he told me Happy Mother’s Day

as he climbed the rest of the stairs. & I can’t stop seeing them

hugging on the street, under trees, it was spring, but cold,

& sometimes in the memory his head is touching hers

& sometimes in the memory his eyes are closed,

& sometimes she is holding him

& singing to him I love you. It’s okay.

I mean to tell you that everywhere I go

I hear us singing to each other. This way. I mean to tell you

that I have witnessed such great kindness as this,

in this, my true life, you must believe me.

I mean, on a Sunday, when nobody was supposed to be

watching. Nobody at all. I saw this happen, the two

of them hugging, when nobody was supposed to be

watching, but not a secret either, public

as the street, not for glory & not for a joke,

the landlord’s nephew ready to stand there for the woman

like a brother or a sister or a husband or son,

or none of these at all, but a stranger,

a stranger, who like her, is an earthling.

Perhaps this thing I am calling kindness

is more simple than kindness, rather, recognition

of the neighbor & the blue, shared earth

& the common circumstance of being here:

what remains living of the last

two million, impossible years…

 

Hopefully today we can help each other be a little more human, and find peace in that. For more thoughts like this or a bunch that aren’t, leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

* Note that this poem is “On Kindness”, from KINGDOM ANIMALIA by Aracelis Girmay, copyright © 2011 by Aracelis Girmay. I don’t own or have any rights to the poem, but first discovered it via The Slowdown.

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(Being good at) solo travel

Last weekend I was up in the Portland area for a dear friend’s wedding, and got the chance to spend the better part of two days exploring a city I’d never been to before. The more that I saw and did, the more I thought about how grateful I am that I know how to travel alone.

There are, of course, some caveats. Being female, I have to be more careful and conscientious of potential safety risks than men often need to be, and that does tamper some of the brazenly adventurous spirit that I sometimes slip into. I’ve also done almost all of my solo travel in cities for the simple reason that there is lots to see in a small radius, and it’s easier to get around by oneself with fewer resources. My hometown necessitates a car; my favorite cities do not. Lastly, as much as I love traveling alone I don’t always prefer it — nothing can replace the joy of sharing new experiences with other people.

However, I am super glad that I’ve learned how to enjoy independent travel. Some of it is inherent to my personality. I’m pretty introverted, and actually like being anonymous in a big crowd. I am sometimes fiercely independent, and it gives me a joyous opportunity to report to no one and do, basically, whatever I want. Sometimes I’ve traveled alone for the simple reason of not letting other people stop me from seeing things I wanted to see. My parents also did a phenomenal job setting me up to travel well, from teaching me the right balance of enjoying being a tourist to paying attention to the locals, showing me how to make good use of public transportation, and reminding me that there’s always more to explore.

But not everyone has had the same opportunities. I started flying alone at 16, and started exploring cities on my own at 18. But I’ve only recently realized that it’s a skill not as many emerging adults have as I’d previously thought.

So here are some of the things that have helped me the most when traveling solo. (Note that I’m going to skip most general safety measures because most of us have had it drilled into our heads and that’s not where the adventure lies, but of course, prioritize your safety at all times.)

Figure out your tech. When I was in Portland this weekend, Google Maps was my best friend. But I didn’t want to use the data when I was in London, so I had a super handy pocket map of the city that I used to navigate me basically anywhere I needed to go. In Washington, DC, it was a mix of both. I always keep a portable charger (and often my phone charger) with me if I’m going to be out for a whole day. Your tech can be next-gen or analog, just make sure whatever you have will serve your purposes.

Find your ride. This becomes pretty city-specific, but look into what the transportation options are in any city you go to. My best friend gave me a heads up that Portland’s bus system is really convenient, and it cut my transportation costs within the city to $10.50 over 2 days (yes, you read that right). I’m really used to subways and trains, and you can always grab a cab or Lyft if needed.

That being said, you will see more if you walk. I love my mom. She’s great. But she also made me walk miles of San Francisco hills at a young age. Like I didn’t even know you could get a cab easily amount of walking. Now, if I’m exploring a place by myself I have no problem walking 5 to 7 miles in a day. Maybe that means building up your stamina before you go, maybe it means knowing when to walk and when to catch a ride. Most of the time, my rule of thumb is to walk if it’s less than a mile between destinations unless I’m on a time crunch.

Ask for recs. You will be by yourself, and yes the internet is helpful, but ask some friends or family for some of their favorite things to do/see/eat in the place you’ll be going to. I only found out about one of my favorite stops in Athens because I’d asked an old friend for stuff she loved in the city (the Benaki Museum, in case you were wondering). My friends who got married this weekend put a ton of cool stuff on their website that I was able to use to guide my trip planning. People know good stuff — pick their brains for it.

Pick out some must-sees. I tend to center solo trips on one or two things that I can’t miss. In LA, it was a killer Cuban restaurant and Griffith Observatory, both of which I’d been meaning to go to for ages. DC was the National Archives and Air & Space Museum. Portland was Powell’s Books and Washington Park. This provides a few benefits. One, you get to actually make time for the things you’re most excited about. Two, it provides geographical touchpoints that you can plan the rest of your travel around. Knowing that I wanted to see those two things in Portland meant that I not only planned out transportation between them, but that I focused my research on other experiences (mostly food, if we’re being honest) to close by those high-priority items.

Do your research. Things I always research ahead of time: transportation (and where I’m staying if that isn’t already handled), must-sees, some good restaurants, and often a short list of other items of interest. I might not use all of it, but then I have the info and I don’t get overwhelmed by the newness of everything at once. I also tend to save info either as emails to myself or notes on my phone, but do whatever system works best for you.

And know when to not have a plan. This is one of my favorite things about traveling, because while in most of life I hate not having a plan, when traveling it can add to the adventure. Of course the broad strokes are planned, but I make sure to leave room for detours, and lately have started building in time — often toward the end of a trip — that is quite literally meant for whatever I didn’t already get to do. If I actually did everything I wanted, I allow myself to visit a place again or even take a nap. The point is giving yourself the freedom to take your time and not be stuck in a strict schedule.

Bonus tips:

  • Ride public transportation like a local. Stay on the quieter side, bring a book, know your stop, and for goodness sake hold on. And of course, feel free to ask if you do need directions.
  • Have cash and card. A lot of cool, hole-in-the-wall places only take or prefer cash, and some places are now moving to card-only. Be prepared.
  • Tell someone you trust where you are. This is the one safety tip I will give, because it probably gives me the most reassurance. When traveling alone, I make sure someone knows my plan for the day, and periodically check in with where I am. Usually that just means sending a picture of something cool, but it’s also for safety.
  • Store your bag. I just found out about this one during my last trip, but if you’re not staying in a hotel you can store your bag for a while through services like Bagbnb (the one I used) or Vertoe for like $6 a day. If you’re staying at a hotel, they’ll usually hold your bag before and after you check out if you ask (it is best to leave a tip). If you’re really in a pickle and not staying at a hotel, you can always ask if they’ll store your bag, and offer a really good tip.
  • Balance paid with free, or at least inexpensive. I am not made of money. Most emerging adults aren’t. And the thing about solo travel is you can’t split the cost with friends. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid paid stuff — and you’ll have to pay to eat — but for every paid thing you do, have a couple options of free things as well. Last Sunday I spent half a day checking out tons of stuff in Washington Park, and only spent money on one entrance fee (to the Japanese Garden, which is absolutely worth it). Plus a lot of the best places to eat aren’t expensive!

What are your favorite solo travel tips? Hidden gems in cities you’ve been to? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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How to train yourself out of a short attention span

I don’t usually go for such clickbaity titles, but it seems like this skill is something we could all use a little more of. I know that both at work and at home, I’ve had noticeable trouble paying attention to just one thing for any significant length of time, and that the problem has gotten worse as I’ve shifted into emerging adulthood.

Not that I had some insanely impressive attention span as a kid, but if it was something that mattered (either directly or indirectly), I could usually gather up the will to focus on it until it was done or I judged it time to move onto something else. (Note that this wasn’t always the case early on in project deadlines, but procrastination is a whole other issue.)

In college, it was a little tougher, in part because there were so many things to be juggling and my schedule was constantly shifting not just between semesters, but from day to day and week to week. So I often brushed off any problems focusing with being tired or lacking routine, and I assumed it would get easier once I had some steadiness post-college. Of course, life circumstances that could be called steady took a while to achieve — like a lot of recent grads, I moved back home and worked part-time. Then I moved to a new area with a new job. Then I changed jobs and moved again. Whew.

I’ve been in my new jobs and new digs for several months now, but I still find myself often struggling to focus for long stretches of time, or even to devote myself entirely to a single task for a shorter amount of time. And frankly, it’s annoying as heck.

So what to do about it?

First things first, I had to stop making excuses. Sometimes I really am tired or the thing I’m working on is just super boring, and that genuinely is the main cause of my inattention. But that’s rarely the whole reason. And that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be taking steps to address it. (Super important note there that while all the stuff I mention below can help, prolonged or increasing issues with focus may be part of another issue like ADD or ADHD. If you think that might be you, definitely talk to a doctor and/or psychriatrist.)

Give yourself breaks, but make sure they’re structured. I have a bad habit of looking at my phone whenever I reach a pause in concentration, and guess what? It literally makes my problem worse. One recommendation is to use the 25-5 approach, where you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break (the times can be adjusted based on personal need, but this number seems to work well for a lot of people). The trick is confining breaks to that time, and then when it’s time for a break fully embracing the distraction.

Get off your phone. I absolutely hate being told to do this, most connective electronics (phones, computers) are quite literally filled with stuff meant to distract us from whatever else we’re doing. The internet is never-ending, and social media and video games offer little dopamine hits every time we use them, which then trains our brains to want more, and it becomes harder to stay away from them when we should be focusing on something else. I often put my phone face down out of arm’s reach (and my line of sight), or even on do not disturb, to make it feel less easily accessible. I also have all notifications that aren’t text, calls, or email turned off.

Stop multitasking. Unless I’m doing something truly mindless, I’ve been trying to avoid multitasking. As much as we like to boast about it, humans actually aren’t that great at multitasking precisely because our divided attention means we often miss crucial elements of one or both tasks. So I might listen to a podcast doing simple edits on a document, or plan the grocery list while I drive home, but once it’s time to pay attention I just go one thing at a time.

Pay attention to your body. If you’re hungry, thirsty, exhausted, or even the wrong temperature, focusing is naturally going to be more of a challenge. Make sure you have snacks and water available, and adjust your temperature surroundings if you can. I find all of these help me feel less tired, but if I’m truly falling asleep at my computer I’ll use my short break mentioned above (I actually do 7-9 minutes in this case) for a power nap.

Find a change of scenery. Often when I’m struggling to focus, moving to a different spot in the office or my house will reset whatever was stuck in my brain, and then I don’t move from that spot (or at least back to my original spot) until the task is done.

On that note, just move around. A couple minutes of walking or a few quick stretches can settle your body enough to focus more readily on a non-physical task. Exercising daily or at least a couple times a week also seems to be linked to better focus long-term.

Alternate the types of tasks you’re doing. I find that I feel bored less readily if the kinds of things I’m doing don’t all feel the same. For example, at home I’ll sit down to do the budget, then get up and clean the kitchen, alternating mental/stationary and more physical chores so it feels kind of like I’m getting a break even when it’s just to do another task.

Read a dang book. Or a long internet article. Or listen to an audiobook. I am fully aware that I have preached the virtues of reading many a time on this blog, and I am not sorry. One of the things that finally motivated me to work on my attention span is the fact I couldn’t get through even a chapter of a book in one sitting, let alone huge chunks like I used to. I’ve been extra intentional about making time to read lately, and I’ve noticed a correlation with my (slightly) improved focus.

Meditate. I am awful at being consistent about this, but meditation has been demonstrated to significantly help concentration. I have an app called Headspace that I like a lot for short meditations, and one of the podcasts I love releases semi-regular meditations as well. But you can also find lots of free options that offer everything from 1-minute to hour-plus meditations.

Sometimes, it’s also okay to just admit that you’re having a tough time focusing, and not be hard on yourself for it. We’ve all got a lot going on, and the world we live in doesn’t make it any easier to slow down and just pay attention to one thing.

What has helped you focus better? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo honestly because that’s all I had time for.)

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It’s the little things

Yesterday was a bad morning. I killed a plant and two more are sick, and that opened a door to a deluge of thoughts biting at my ankles and draining my carefully gathered positivity.

But that night — despite the day’s challenges and the dark corners in my head — I felt the best I had in a little while. Not just enjoying myself, but content with myself as I am. There was no dramatic moment behind the change. My plant is still dead and my to-do list is somehow longer. The shift came in small moments, when I opened myself up to the little things that make me feel connected to the world.

I watched the orange light on the hills as I drove past. I looked up to see planes landing and taking off just over my head. I played the music really loud. I went to my favorite yoga studio with my best friend. I bought dessert afterward at the grocery store. I sat down with a heavy blanket and finished a book, even though I (as always) have lots to do.

This isn’t meant to be some pithy call for “self-care,” at least the way it’s popularly understood. A lot of those those things were previously planned or even outside my control. The different was that I stopped clinging so desperately to my own thought patterns and actually let myself have space to enjoy those moments.

Today is my first day without plans in I actually couldn’t tell you how long. And I finally feel ready to enjoy it.

So enjoy your day. (If you’re from the U.S., have a responsible Fourth.) If you want, share a favorite little thing that makes you feel content in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. And as always, thanks for reading and happy adulting!

(Picture credit goes to my mom, for finding the best in every city.)

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Welcome to wherever you are

Ooh buddy, it has been a time recently. For starters, the disclaimer that this post will be more about sharing some of the challenges that emerging adulthood has thrown my way recently, a lot of which I don’t have a perfect answer or even adequate advice for. But I started this blog because I was frustrated by so few people talking about how difficult it can be, and I’m committed to doing just that.

Despite all the wonderful things going on in my life (like I’m marrying my favorite person in 3 months!), there have been a lot of negative thoughts floating around in my head.

Some of it comes from external situations, most recently the horrors of human rights abuses happening around the world, including at the U.S. southern border. I’m doing what I can to help correct and prevent the suffering of others, but my heart still breaks.

I’m also just plain exhausted, and no amount of sleep seems to fix it (though more sleep does make it less worse, in those exact words). I feel like I’m at the end of my rope once or more each week, and am starting to wonder if that’s the new normal.

Work is steady and I love my new apartment and wedding planning is going well, but I still don’t feel settled. Not that, to be honest, I have felt that way in a long time, if ever. There is always a big turn or change coming, and mental rest has been sparse.

I don’t know when or if things will start to feel settled, or when I will feel rested. Maybe once I finally hang up the last picture in the apartment, or after the wedding, or when it’s been a year at my job. Maybe never.

So I am trying — with mixed success — to find peaceful moments in the present, no matter how tumultuous it feels. I’m rewatching my favorite TV show, making time to visit with friends, reading and listening to podcasts, and also just going through the routine of normal life. When I get overwhelmed I talk to my fiancé or pray or meditate, or if I can’t handle any of those just breath in and out as steadily as possible.

I know I’m in a way better spot than this time last year, and I know that I still have a lot of room to grow. There’s a lot I’ve accomplished, a lot I still want to do, and even more that I have no idea about. And I guess when it comes down to it, that rings true for most of us.

Adulthood — especially emerging adulthood — is messy and challenging and wonderful and difficult. But we’re in it. So hopefully, together, we can figure out how to make the best of it.

Let me know your thoughts in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

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Beat the heat

I live in California, and in case you don’t live here (and haven’t been hearing us complain), it’s been rather warm lately.

I’m not stranger to hot temps — like my high school graduation legit got cancelled halfway through because it was too hot — but that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m also prone to heat stroke, so staying cool has higher stakes than avoiding sweat stains.

On a hot day in my old apartment, we’d just turn on the A/C to a manageable (read: affordable) temperature, and hope for the best. But my new place doesn’t have A/C, so I was a little nervous going into this heat wave. A bit of luck: My place is downstairs and really well-insulated, so it has a few advantages in terms of staying cool.

But emerging adulthood is about learning to take care of ourselves, often without all the resources we had growing up. So just in case you’re stuck in a summer heat wave, here are the things I’ve found most helpful when it comes to avoiding high temps.

Indooooooors (cue SpongeBob meme):

  • Close all your blinds, and keep them that way while the sun’s out. This isn’t my favorite if the weather’s nice because I don’t want to feel like I’m in a cave, but sunlight streaming in through windows is the fastest way to heat up a home, and makes it hard to get it cool again.
  • At night, open up. As soon as the temp outside drops below what it’s at inside, open up windows and shoot for a cross-breeze (if it’s stuffy in your place you can also open up when it’s a couple degrees warmer outside — the fresh air will be more noticeable than those few degrees). If it’s safe, you can leave the windows open overnight and close them as soon as you wake up.
  • Level up your fan. Fans are great, we know this. But if you don’t have A/C and are truly desperate, go to the store and buy a solid block of ice for a few bucks (or make one if your freezer has space). Plop it in a small plastic tub and put it in front of the fan. Hello, homemade A/C.
  • Turn off stuff that heats up the air. Logical, I know. But avoiding hot showers, running the oven, or even too much tech can help keep indoor temps from rising too quickly.

Outdoors:

  • That same fan thing, if you’ve got an outlet. Seriously, don’t knock it. (Misters are also great!)
  • Spend as much time in the shade as you do in the sun. And try to alternate time in shade vs. sun, as well as moving vs. being more still.
  • Wear loose clothes and light colors. They absorb less light, and touch you less. Cool? Cool.
  • Go swimming. But you knew this one.
  • Or you could just, y’know, go inside.

Your body is a heat source:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is seriously the best way to avoid heat stroke and generally overheating. If you can hack it, go for cool water instead of cold because then your body won’t expend energy heating it up (and therefore heating you up).
  • Sit down. Not kidding. Even the energy that your body spends balancing, tensing muscles, etc. when you’re standing up is not helping the situation. And if you’re at all overheated, feeling lightheaded, or sick, sit immediately and tell a friend. More info on that here.
  • Splash water. Note that doing this on your face, neck, wrists, and ankles will be especially cooling as the water evaporates and air moves over your skin.
  • If you can’t minimize clothing, get your clothes wet. Obviously only some circumstances allow for this, but it will help cool you off so quickly, especially since most clothes dry much more slowly than we do.

How do you keep the summer heat at bay? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am not going outside right now to get that pic.)

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How to keep your dang house clean

[First, a quick announcement. I am officially moving post days to Thursdays because apparently that is now what works better for my schedule. Ta da, Thursdays!]

We’re all adults here. I’m going to assume you know how to use a vacuum and do your laundry. I’ll be gracious enough to assume you know how to complete most household cleaning. My parents made sure that I did before I left for college, and for the new or more specific things I’ve encountered, Google or a quick call home have served me well.

The thing I really had no way of knowing until I moved into my own apartment, though, was how often each type of cleaning needed to be done. I know how often my mom asked me to do stuff back home, but different living spaces get dirty differently. So, if you’ll forgive the pun, here’s the quick and dirty on how to keep your living space clean.

The “gotta start somewhere” clean

Also known as this is so overwhelming or I am exhausted but must get one responsible adult thing done before digging into the ice cream.

  • Make your bed
  • Put away any clean laundry, and toss what’s dirty in the hamper
  • Clean off tabletops and countertops, or at least put the junk in organized piles
  • Do the dishes
  • Take out the trash
  • Open and window and/or light a candle

The key here is creating a clean visual palette. Even though you didn’t physically clean very much, this dramatically reduces visual (and olfactory!) clutter, and is the fastest way to feel like you’ve got a freshened space.

The “mother-in-law” clean

My actual mother coined this one, but basically it’s how clean your place should be to have guests over.

  • All of the above, plus:
  • Sweep and/or vacuum all floors. (Pro tip: Move your furniture at least every other time you do this so you’re actually getting all the dust, hair, and other gunk chilling on your floor.)
  • Wipe down all tables and countertops. For wood, use a wet cloth and then immediately dry the surface. For tile or laminate, 409 is my favorite because it cleans and disinfects without being too harsh or toxic. For granite, use 409 and then a granite cleaner.
  • I’ve tried some different options, but a microfiber or otherwise fuzzy, dry cloth gently wiped over basically any horizontal surface is the most effective method.
  • Thoroughly wipe down the stove with 409 or soap and water, until it is sparkling clean and entirely residue-free. (Pro tip: For dark/stainless steel stovetops or other kitchen appliances, finish up with a little glass cleaner to avoid streaks.)
  • After you do the dishes, scrub the sink. Your dishes will not be clean if you do not wash the sink fairly often.
  • Wipe down cabinets, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces. 409 or Clorox wipes are usually my preference.
  • Clean the bathroom properly. Scrub the inside of the toilet (pour in some toilet cleaner, let it soak for 10ish minutes, then scrub) and wipe down the outside — including under the seat, because ew. Scrub and rinse the shower with 409 or Scrubbing Bubbles. Do the countertops if you haven’t already. Clean the mirror with paper towels and a good glass cleaner (this one’s my favorite).

The “how did dirt even get there” clean

Also known as the deep clean, the spring clean, the once in a while but very necessary clean.

  • All of the above (yes, both lists), plus:
  • Mop. I hate mopping. It might be my least favorite chore. But we scrub everything else, we gotta do the floors too. (And tools like the Swiffer wet jet make it easier.)
  • Wash the windows. You don’t have to be intense about this if it doesn’t deeply matter to you, but at least be intentional with some glass cleaner and paper towels.
  • Clean under and around your stove. If you can get in between it and the counters, do that. Many electric stovetops actually lift up, so be sure to clean under there as well.
  • Polish any wood furniture by rubbing it down with Old English, followed by a soft cloth and plenty of time to dry.
  • Scrub the walls. Yes, I am serious. Yes, I do this every few months. You don’t have to get every square inch, but dude they get gross. Especially important in bathrooms, kitchens, and dining areas, take a Clorox wipe or cloth with a little soap and water and wipe down as much as you can in the 2-to-5-foot height zone — lower if you have pets or kids. Get realllllllly close to the walls. See the gunk. Clean the gunk. (This also means wiping down baseboards!)
  • Get in around your shower (or any other place in the bathroom that isn’t the same color it used to be), and scrub aggressively with a toothbrush, a little Soft Scrub, and a splash of water. At my old apartment mold built up kind of quickly in the shower, and this took care of it better than anything. Also works great for the kitchen sink!
  • If you can, clean any vents or filters (including those under and behind your fridge). This helps increase electricity efficiency as well as heating and cooling effectiveness, plus keeps your air quality from getting gross.
  • Clean your trash cans. Bet you forgot about that one. Think of all the stuff that thing touches. It should really get cleaned now and again.
  • Wash your comforters, mattress covers, and pillows. Admittedly, I’m not the best about this one, but it is important!
  • Purge your stuff. This is not traditional cleaning, but it makes a big difference in giving your space a fresh start.

I love having a clean space, but I do not love cleaning. But if I can see dirt I can’t go very long without doing something about it. You may not notice it, or the place you’re living may hide it well (for example, the tan speckled countertops at my new apartment hide dirt way better than the white tile at my old place). But it is still there, and sadly still needs to be cleaned.

Don’t feel bad if spot cleanings have to get you by until you’re able to do a more thorough cleaning, but also don’t do the gnarly college student thing and just let grossness pile up. This is your home, and you are an adult. Even though it’s a chore, you should get to enjoy that.

What did I miss? What are your favorite cleaning tips? Let me know in a comment below or in Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(P.S. Usual disclaimer that I don’t get anything for mentioning or linking to specific products, I just mention them because I’ve used them for years and actually stand by how much I like them.)

(Photo is a free stock photo because taking a picture of me cleaning seems weird?)

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Growing a green thumb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stories in all shapes and sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to survive building IKEA furniture

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Recipes: Mostly healthy breakfast cookies

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

Instructions:

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

IMG_8949

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

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

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

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

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

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Interviewing: The other side of the table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On things that last forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deserve is not a dirty word

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

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

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

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

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

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

I deserve good things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Recipes: Kale & quinoa

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A little change (or a lot)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It all comes down to organizing

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

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

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

For the when and where

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

For the to-do list

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

For dude, you cannot forget this

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

For you need to know where this is

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

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

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Just roll with it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fixing up flesh wounds

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

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

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

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

Bruises:

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

Cuts and scrapes:

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

Upset stomach and/or lightheadedness:

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

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

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

Pulled or otherwise tweaked muscles:

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

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

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

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

Slightly different request for the end of this post — if you have any links for the resources I mentioned in the last two paragraphs above that aren’t region-specific (so national or international), I’d love to add them in! Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because y’all don’t want to see my knee.)

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I accidentally went on a health kick

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

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

Physical

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

Mental and emotional

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

Nutrition

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

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

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

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

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Rejection happens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo is a free stock photo because it’s a weird thing to visualize.)