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Raining and pouring and such

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents/finances

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

Home Ec

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

Fix-it

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

Get *cultured*

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

Misc.

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

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

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The mirror is a double-edged sword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yeah I’m afraid. So what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Advice isn’t one size fits all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Exercise, for real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gifting season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Killing the interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recipes: Crepes

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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Instructions:

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

Filling/topping:

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

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

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

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

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

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‘So what are you doing with your life?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recipes: Pico de gallo

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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NaNoWriMo

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

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

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

Step 1: Prep

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

Step 2: Tell someone

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

Step 3: Start

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

Step 4: Give yourself some grace

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

Step 5: Push through the lows

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

Step 6: Be proud of yourself

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

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

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Take a day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘It bothers me when…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DIY darnedest

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

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

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

Materials:

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

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DIY supplies:

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

What I did:

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

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

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

 

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Homesick at home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Traveling on an actual budget

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

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

Weekend 1: The Day Trip

Length of trip: 6-8 hours

Total spent: ~$50*

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

Weekend 2: The Big Trip

Length of trip: 4.5 days

Total spent: $111.38*

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

Weekend 3: The Road Trip

Length of trip: 3 days

Total spent: $125.42

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

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

Here is my advice, condensed as much as possible:

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

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

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

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More than useless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Old stomping grounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weak is a four-letter word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ask for what you want

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recipes: Mini apple pies

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

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

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

Crust

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

Ingredients:

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

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Instructions:

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

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Filling

Ingredients:

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

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Instructions:

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

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Crumb Topping

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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

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The Whole Deal

Instructions:

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

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

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

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

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

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Give a little

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s okay to like the cool thing

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

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

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

And then flip it around.

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

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

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

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When motivation is MIA

When I was little, it was not uncommon to see me sitting at the family computer, legs dangling from the office chair, nearly or actually crying in front of a blank Word document. Even for someone who loved words, writer’s block was real — and it sucked. I had an assignment, and I could feel the deadline approaching like a specter, but I was still stuck.

By high school and college, those tears had mostly turned into quiet frustration, procrastinating by flitting between projects. I hated that I did it, but everything somehow managed to get done in the end. The closest I ever cut it was my junior year of college — I wrote a 3,000 word paper worth 45% of my grade in 8 hours the day before it was due. Oh, and I had to teach myself a new citation style for it and had chosen the topic the day before.

Sometimes I need the deadline to force me to finish a project. And sometimes even that isn’t enough (see: my best friend’s 6-month-late 16th birthday present). The point is that motivation and inspiration are hard to find and harder to hold onto. It would be awesome if we could wait for them to fall into our laps like autumn leaves, but we are rarely afforded such luxuries.

So how can we be productive when we are wholly and completely unmotivated? It’s a little different for everyone, but these are the tips I’ve found most helpful:

  • Procrastinate with other productive things. If you really can’t do the one thing you’re supposed to be doing, do something else that needs to get done for a while first. Then your to-do list is still getting smaller and you’ll feel less bothered by being stuck on that one task.
  • Breaking the big item up into smaller items. I know it’s silly and you’ve probably heard it a million times, but it really does make it feel less intimidating, and small achievements are the best way to get big things done.
  • Make lists. I am one of those people who derives great satisfaction from checking things off on a to-do list. So if I put necessary tasks on the list, I’m at least mildly motivated to want to check them off.
  • Set rewards for reaching certain points. Maybe when you get items A and B done, you let yourself watch TV or go outside before getting back to work and doing C.
  • If you have writer’s block, write through it. This looks different for everyone, but I will literally write stream-of-consciousness nonsense just to get my brain working, and often brainstorm ideas and plans for things I write on whiteboards because somehow they are my magical cure for writer’s block.
  • If you’re getting overwhelmed, take a small break. Breaks are okay. Four-hour naps after 6-hour Netflix binges are not. Take time to reset, and then get back to work.

What tools do you find most helpful when you’re feeling unmotivated? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Millennial trends reviewed (by Millennials)

Hey all! Today is a super special treat that’s been in the works for a while but is finally ready. My best friend Megan runs a killer blog called The Chronicles of Megan, and now that I’ve started my own we’re doing our first joint post! Her blog covers Millennial lifestyle topics, specializing in beauty content, and I’m on here trying to tackle the many-fold challenges of adulting.

So for our joint venture, we decided to take a fun and still sincere look at Millennial trends. Of course, we in no way want to suggest that this is the experience or perspective of all Millennials (for more on that, see my intro blog post), and while we definitely identify with some of these trends we don’t necessarily endorse all of them.

We wanted to cover the broad categories of lifestyle trends, some of which are general, and some of which are specific to this generation. We ended up with seven topics: Fashion & Design; Food; Visual Culture; Technology; Finances; Unattachment; and Destigmatizing Taboos. Four of them are covered below, and the other three are on Megan’s blog. With all that said, let’s dive in!

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Food

Megan: I’m just gonna say it: Food is almost sacred to Millennials.

Rachal: It is. I don’t think there’s even an almost about it.

M: You’re right. Beyond basic nutrition, it fulfills other needs like social dimensions and gives us access to a small amount of luxury, since we often can’t afford many.

R: Definitely. Not only is it a communal experience, both in cooking and eating, but provides us the opportunity to imbue further meaning into what could otherwise be a boring necessity. For example, I was visiting a friend in San Francisco recently, and we spent the entire day making homemade soup and dumplings just because that was how we wanted to spend our time with each other. And that’s what matters.

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M: Hipster food has more purpose than being Instagram-worthy. Food has evolved into this whole other outlet for creativity and avenue of defining who we are. I mean, just look at avocados — you know that if someone posts their avocado toast on their IG feed they’re either hella basic or from California.

R: Or maybe that’s how they’re choosing to invest the money for their down payment.

M: Okay, Dr. House. *insert eye roll emoji*

R: Seriously, though. It doesn’t feel like anybody used to be so obsessed with specific ingredients. Now it’s like, “Rosé!” Before, nobody was like, “Merlot!”

M: Hipster food trends do need to calm down though.

R: I swear if I see one more “deconstructed” menu item, I’m gonna lose it. Just give me my freaking burger (please).

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Technology

R: The exponential growth of technology tracked so closely with our own growing up that the timelines of the two are permanently intertwined for us.

M: Yeah. Thinking about the first iPod makes me think of middle school. The release of smartphones marks the beginning of high school.

R: And that’s our exact experience, while for older Millennials elementary school dial-up may be followed by the installment of school computer labs.

M: Because we grew up with ever-advancing technology, we have more than a strong connection to our old devices. We have a fondness for the nostalgia itself. These things had such an impact on our childhood, so throwbacks are very tangible. That’s why reboots of not only television shows, but things like arcades and video games (i.e. beercades and Pokémon Go) are popular.

R: And that even extends to tech that we can’t really claim, like vinyl and typewriters — I own both. We’ve also passed that on to the next generation, a lot of whom feel a nostalgic connection to tapes even though we’re the ones who grew up with them.

M: It’s almost like since our lives have been so saturated with technology, that we reject it at times because we need to unplug since we’ve become more and more connected, starting from childhood.

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R: Yeah. Now we’re constantly connected through social media, email, texting, and so on. It’s even shaped how we consume entertainment primarily through streaming services, rather than traditional methods like cable. Because our primary consumption of entertainment is so technology-based, our next instinct is to go back to nostalgias like Nintendo and vinyl. The good news is living our lives online provides more avenues to be connected with people, especially ones that are far away. But it’s also inescapable.

M: Right. Because technology is so ingrained in our culture and ever-advancing, it’s almost necessary that we self-teach. For example, in my Web Design class we didn’t even have a textbook — by the time one could be written, edited, and published, the technology had already changed. It’s a very normal thing to learn from just “googling” it or watching a YouTube tutorial.

Finances

R: Speaking of textbooks, we’re all broke [LINK]. And as much as it sucks, staggering amounts of student debt are a trademark Millennial trend.

M: As a collective whole, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs until the next few decades.

R: Even for those of us that are fortunate enough not to individually have debt, we’re still financially unstable. Of course, some of that is due to the fact that many of us are just starting out in our careers and independent lives, but it goes beyond that. After the “Great Recession,” our reality shifted, and that shaped how we approach money and spending.

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M: Even though Millennials love to embody “treat yo self,” they also question if they can buy that one slice of pizza before pay day. This is also why we love free stuff.

R: Yeah, I mean I went into an art show the other weekend because I was walking by and someone said they had free snacks and drinks.

M: We like to take those opportunities, especially since we can get stuck in the catch-22 of needing the degree to get the job, and then when you have the degree being told you need experience you don’t have because you spent your time getting the degree. It just makes finding a job that much harder, and it feels like our hard work doesn’t get us as far as it did for our parents.

R: The patterns and practices that previous generations relied on to secure their slice of the American Dream were often no longer possible for us. As much as it’s funny to joke about not being able to afford to buy a house because we eat avocado toast, we really have no idea how we’ll be able to afford the quintessential white picket fence lifestyle — or if we even still want it.

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Unattachment

M: Millennials are so transitory, and there are a lot of uncertainties in our lives. Because of financial instability and rapidly changing job markets, we tend to see a lot of our situations as temporary and so we try not to get attached to things that don’t seem realistic any longer. We question the white picket fence lifestyle and some of us have almost rejected it as the norm. For example, I can’t picture myself raising a family or being attached to a place to permanently call home, at least for the foreseen future.

R: I think you’re right. It’s as if we’ve let go of the fractured American Dream we watched older generations chasing. Instead, we’ve developed a Kerouac-esque affection for lostness and sewn it into the word “wanderlust.” That wanderlust is romanticized in our Instagram feeds, and entire professions have emerged from it. Because we can’t have what we were told that we should want when we were growing up, and have seen the unhappiness of people who have everything, the last thing we want to do is settle. We want to go out and experience different cultures and sceneries and histories.

M: It’s even a thing now to gift people on Airbnb an experience instead of an actual object. We still like our stuff, but we’re willing to have less of it for more experiences. As our values have shifted, we have felt more free to simply live our lives without societal pressures to perform or present a certain way.

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I really hope you enjoyed today’s post, and be sure to check out the other half of our take on Millennial trends on Megan’s blog. (Also shameless plug, you should totally follow her on Instagram @chroniclesofmegan and Twitter @meganchronicles.) It was a ton of fun to put together, but was also an important chance to highlight some of the benefits and challenges within popular Millennial culture.

What aspects of Millennial culture stand out most to you? I’d love to hear in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

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Recipes: Stir fry

Hey all! I have another recipe for you today. Stir fry is awesome because it’s versatile, can be meal prep or serve a lot, and isn’t particularly expensive (Plus it can all be cooked on the stovetop for my friends without ovens.)

Disclaimer: It was my first time making it this way, so I’ll include notes of things I would have changed. I’ll also list ingredient substitutes to accommodate food restrictions and/or preferences.

Ingredients:

  • rice (about 1/3 cup per person you’ll be serving, or substitute for noodles)
  • about 1 lb. chicken breasts (protein substitutes: beef, pork, tofu)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 head broccoli
  • 2 carrots (veggie substitutes: fresh green beans, most in-pod peas, mushrooms, yellow onion)
  • 5 cloves peeled garlic, crushed or minced
  • about 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • about 1/4 cup honey
  • salt & pepper to taste

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Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, honey, garlic, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you desire (I added a tangy brown sauce I found in my best friend’s fridge that I’m pretty sure was oyster sauce)
  2. Cover chicken breasts in sauce and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes (the longer the better, though) Note: Make sure to put the chicken back in the fridge to marinate, and observe general food safety when handling raw meats!
  3. Chop all veggies into reasonable bite sizes, set aside
  4. Prepare rice as indicated on package (it varies depending on what kind of rice you use, but for white jasmine rice use 2 cups water for every 1 cup of rice, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes)
  5. While rice is cooking, warm a wok pan (or the biggest pan you can find) and add in the chicken and marinade
  6. Cook the chicken until no longer pink in the middle — covering it and cooking it on a low or medium heat will help it cook through evenly (if you’re using onions, you can cook them with the meat to make sure they soften enough)
  7. While rice and chicken are cooking, pre-steam any particularly tough veggies (broccoli, carrots, etc.)
  8. When chicken is almost done, break or slice it into bite-size pieces, then return to pan
  9. Add all veggies into wok pan and stir until warm and well-mixed
  10. Serve over rice and enjoy!

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Cost about $10, makes about 5 servings

Hopefully this didn’t feel too complicated, but it can be kept to just a few pans and makes a healthy and enjoyable meal for a low cost. (I realize I didn’t include cost and servings in the roasted tomatoes recipe, so I’ll add that in asap.)

For the version I made, I used brown rice which I’m not used to and therefore it cooked a little funny. The carrots also didn’t jive as well with the rest of the flavors as I hoped they would, but the chicken and broccoli in particular were phenomenal. So in the future I would probably use rice I’m used to and substitute the carrots for peas. After having the leftovers for today’s dinner, I also realized I would have liked a higher sauce/marinade ratio. Finally, a huge thanks to my best friend’s family for letting me use their kitchen and a few of their ingredients.

I’d love to hear your favorite versions of stir fry, or any suggestions for this recipe! Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and happy eating!

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Broke-ish

Money, money, money. The root of all evil. Necessary. Nice to have. Time is. There’s a lot to be said about money. Like religion, politics, and sex, it can be a strange or touchy thing to talk about. But today we get to talk about it. I’ve waited to do any posts on finances because it’s one of the areas in which it feels like I have the least help to offer, but today that’s the point.

For most emerging adults, the trick is saving enough for the future while still being able to afford necessities and maybe a few niceties. I’ve read a few books (several of which are listed on my Resources page), a lot of articles, and even helped host an event on tips and advice for saving, spending, and investing. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered the same problem with these sources. Most of them offer great advice for people with a full-time (often career-track) job, who have money to invest and places to cut extra spending.

But frankly, that doesn’t apply to a lot of emerging adults. Many of us are already spending close to our minimum, only working part-time or not making enough to invest, or are trying so hard to save for things like an apartment that regular financial advice feels five steps ahead and completely unhelpful for the moment.

Right now I’m trying really, really hard to save so that one day in the hopefully-not-too-distant future I can actually afford to pay rent. No less than 75% of my weekly paycheck goes directly into my savings account, and the more I made that week, the more gets saved. Of course, there’s necessary spending: gas, some food, toiletries, and the like. I also count gifts as a necessary expenditure, even if I may set a stricter budget for purchasing them. Luckily my parents are being incredibly awesome and letting me live with them for free, which means I don’t currently have to pay for rent, utilities, or most of my food.

However, I can be prone to taking the strict budget too far and sacrificing having a life. While that can be effective, it’s not good for my mood or mental health, so I’m trying not to cut out all unnecessary spending, but rather limit it to affordable things with friends. (Note: This means a pizza and a $3 movie at Walmart, not big trips or buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need.)

These are the best tips I’ve learned so far:

  • Carefully track how much you’re earning, spending, and saving. For me, that means at the end of each day I input all of my financial changes into a Google spreadsheet*, and at the end of the month I total how much I’ve earned, spent, saved, net changes, as well as if I owe anyone or they owe me. To top that off, I have an Excel graph that tracks how much I’ve earned, spent, used for gas, and my gross total from month to month. This is what I’ve found most useful, but it can be a pain, and there are apps and programs that can help if you don’t want to do it all manually.
  • Have a goal for how much you want to save. Ideally, you’d know the exact amount you want to have, but I only have a rough guess so instead I set a goal for how much I want to save per month.
  • If your parents are still paying any of your expenses, find out how much they cost. I sat down several months ago and had a conversation with my mom asking about how much I cost in insurances, phone bill, and food so that when I’m on my own I’m not as caught off guard by the additional expenses.
  • Treat yo self — but not too often. The other day, I splurged and bought a sweater. It wasn’t a necessity, but I absolutely loved it, and I used the money I had been planning on spending on eating out that day to pay for it. It’s alright to go for small splurges, but don’t let them get out of control or your saving will get siderailed.
  • Credit cards are helpful for building a credit score but BE CAREFUL. I have a credit card so that I can build my credit history and score (since it’s often a checkpoint when renting), but only use it to pay for gas. Don’t spend money you don’t have, and pay that thing off in full every month.
  • It’s okay to say no because you can’t afford something. If something you don’t need doesn’t fit in your budget or the spending rules you want to keep, it’s okay to say no. If other people don’t understand that, they might not have your best interest in mind. I’ve had to say no to multiple trips I really wanted to take because I just couldn’t afford them, and it sucks, but it means further down the road I’ll have more freedom.

I realize this was long, and it’s in no way totally comprehensive. But I hope that it was helpful, especially for those of us that are semi-independent and used to questioning whether we can afford pizza. Down the road I’d love to offer more advice and resources for setting up a good financial situation, so keep an eye out for that. If you have questions or tips on what helps you manage money best, I’d love to hear them — comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

*If any of y’all want to see the Google sheet I use (with all of my personal data removed of course, there are just some example numbers), swing over to my Contact page and I’d be happy to share the doc.

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You matter.

It will be another serious post today, but it’s one that is incredibly important to me. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I imagine that each of us can think of someone we know who has been affected by suicide, depression, and/or self-harm. Some of the people I am closest to have been deeply impacted, and dark times have pushed me further down that path than I would like to admit.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and it is the number one cause of death for those ages 15-29. Suicidal thoughts and attempts among adults are most common for those ages 18 to 25, according to statistics from Emory University. The suicide rate is higher among males, though the attempt rate is higher among females.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are dealing with depression; it is more prevalent among women than men, and has high rates among adolescents and the elderly. Approximately two-thirds of those who die by suicide were dealing with depression.

Unfortunately, there is no easy response to such profound pain. But there is always something we can do. I may not know your story or what you’ve been through, but I do know you matter. Your life and light and laughter are important, and you are capable of more good than you know. Pain isn’t trivial — it doesn’t go away overnight and honestly it might not ever fully disappear.

Maybe you don’t know anyone right now who is dealing with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. But someday you will encounter someone who is facing them. Maybe you do know someone who is in the depths of those challenges. They’re worth your help and your time. Maybe you’re the one who feels stuck and hopeless, or are questioning whether the fight is worth it.

You are worth it. You matter. Even when it feels like it, you are never alone. There are people who care about you more than you know. And if you can’t reach out to them for some reason, I’m here, always.

The bottom line is even when those thoughts creep in you have the power to choose kindness toward yourself. You have to power to reach out or look within (or both) and find the strength to treat yourself with compassion. You are made of stardust and hope and worth every new beginning and second chance that might ever come along, so allow yourself the time and freedom to take them. You’re worth putting the razor blade down. You’re worth stepping outside to feel the sunshine. You’re worth asking a friend to hang out. You’re worth another day.

In addition to those above, here are links to some resources below that offer information and/or help for those dealing with depression, self-harm, and suicide.

I know this was somber, but I hope that it makes the light in the darkness a little easier to see, and that it encourages all of us to keep our eyes, hearts, and arms open to people who might be hurting — including ourselves. Thank you for reading, and you can always reach me through a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, and Instagram @oh.grow.up, or through my Contact page if you’d rather not post publicly.

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For heaven’s sake, the people around you are human

Today’s post is going to be a little different than the usual, but I think the message is too relevant to ignore. Hopefully everyone can take something from it, no matter one’s age, beliefs, or background.

The world is complicated, and bad things happen. Neither of those facts are new. People all over the world are hurting and lost, for more reasons than I at least will ever understand. For people living in the U.S., some of that chaos has seemed relentless recently. From natural disasters to displays of prejudice and hatred, so many people are feeling unsafe.

It is worth noting that life never promised us safety, and to live only in fear is to cease living at all. But I believe with absolutely everything I have in me that each of us is responsible to work toward the safety and well-being of our fellow humans. I might dislike you, disagree with you, or even distrust you, but as a human being you deserve my compassion and basic respect.

This idea has been summed up a lot of different ways, but the one I come back to most is “Love your neighbor.” Of course, the key is to realize that my neighbor is not just someone near me or similar to me, but rather includes anyone whom I am able to help. That’s a big task — we, alone, are not able to help everyone. But we do have a responsibility to help. We have a responsibility to help not just when asked, but when we recognize a need; not just when we want to but probably more importantly when we don’t want to; not just when it is convenient but when it costs us something.

I will be the first one to admit that I mess this up all the time. Sometimes I do not pay enough attention to the needs of others, or move past them in hopes that someone else will step up, or only help reluctantly and sparingly. It happens, and it’s a very human thing to do. However, only taking the risk will help make our world a better place to live in. Only suffering the cost will help make humanity better. Only reaching out when it would be easier to not will help spread hope to the people who need it most.

In the span of only a few weeks, North America is facing up to three hurricanes, a number of wildfires, and a continuing pattern of social turmoil. Recent flooding in South Asia and Sierra Leone has led to thousands of deaths. Syria is still in the middle of a civil war, and innocent people are constantly caught in the crosshairs.

I don’t say all of these things to tell you the world is ending or to suggest that we should all drop everything and focus all our energy on these crises. There is still a need to fulfill our pre-existing responsibilities, and to remember that it is okay and even good for joy to be found despite pain. But I am saying we each ought to find a way to help, with one of these issues or another. Donate to a relief organization, volunteer at a local homeless shelter, be kind to the person who was a jerk to you.

No action truly done for another person’s well-being will be without positive impact. You may not see it immediately or ever, but it’s worth it nonetheless. I’ve linked above to some helpful information, but it is my hope that we also take it upon ourselves to learn more about the people around us, to keep our eyes and hearts open to the fact that they are human, and all the significance that holds.

I know this was a heavy post, but part of being an adult is acknowledging and acting in the face of difficult things. Feel free to share thoughts or comments below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up, and let’s love our fellow humans this week.

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You have every right to be tired (and an obligation to keep going)

When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually respond honestly: “Pretty good, but definitely tired.” There is of course a scale of responses people offer, from the kind and thoughtful, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s got you tired?” to the awkward (but probably accurate) “Yeah, you look it.” However, my absolute least favorite is laughter followed by “Why would you be tired?”

Thankfully, I haven’t gotten this response in a little while. But last time I did was a week that I spent juggling my one steady part-time job, one freelance design job, two housesitting jobs, three babysitting jobs, plus a dentist appointment and the usual errands. It is no longer normal that an employed person — whether they have one full-time or multiple part-time positions — works the standard 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, these days people are often working far more than that. Need proof?

  • The week I just described, I did some rough math and I spent a little over 85 hours working. Now, this is skewed some by the fact that I was housesitting, but I did not count hours between 11 p.m. and 7 or 8 a.m. when I was asleep. I also did not count commute time and did not count overlapping hours when I was doing multiple jobs (such as designing while housesitting).
  • A friend who is training at a current job is encouraged not to do overtime yet — but in order to finish projects, still averaged 9-hour workdays this week.
  • My mom is a teacher, and is usually at her school for 8 to 9 hours a day, plus whatever work she brings home — usually several hours’ worth.
  • During my senior year of college, one of my friends was trying to balance an 18-unit course load and six other jobs. Some of them were only a few hours a week, but at least one was never less than 20, and this was on top of being a full-time student.
  • Gallup published the results of a study in 2014 showing that adults employed full-time in the U.S. are averaging 47 hours per week, with half of respondents saying they work more than 40 hours.

I’m not going to delve into the health and quality of life side effects, but it is absolutely impossible to deny that a lot of us are working our butts off. And what that looks like is different for each of us, but this is why it bothers me so much when people question why someone my age would be tired. There is no shame in being busy; most of us are, and sometimes it’s necessary. But there is also no shame in being exhausted, and there is no age limit on that.

That said, I’m not sure any of us enjoys being tired. There are lots of ways to help: intentional time to relax, light exercise, sleep, or even scale back if you need to. Make sure that whatever schedule you set up isn’t going to burn you out or make life completely miserable. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be long days or weeks or seasons. In the midst of those, the important thing is to keep going, and to remember you’re not alone.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope this helped. Feel free to add a comment below, or follow on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Now go kick your to-do list’s butt.

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Recipes: Roasted tomatoes

Welcome to the first in a series of genuinely simple recipes I’ll be posting to help move a little closer to the balance of eating good food that isn’t complicated and also won’t break the bank. The recipes will also be catalogued on my Resources page.

This is one of my favorite things to cook and eat because it feels special, while still being practical and versatile.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart grape tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves (4 if they’re small), mostly peeled
  • about 1/3 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to tase
  • fresh rosemary & oregano to taste (Italian seasoning also works well in a pinch)

(Note: Normally I make double this because we serve it at barbecues and get-togethers with friends, but if you’re just trying it out or prefer smaller servings, this is great.)

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Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF
  2. Pour tomatoes into glass baking dish so that they are roughly one even layer (one or two on top is no big deal, but not many should be stacked)
  3. Add olive oil, enough so that tomatoes are about half-covered
  4. Use a garlic press to crush cloves into mixture (if you don’t have a garlic press, you can crush them on a cutting board and then mince it)
  5. Mix well
  6. Bake for 20ish minutes — my oven runs hot so they only needed 20, but a slower oven or a larger batch may need more time
  7. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes
  8. Add rosemary and oregano, stir, and allow to finish cooling
  9. Enjoy over pasta or served on baguette slices with cheese (creamy gouda is best)

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Cost about $6, makes about 4 servings

Shoutout to my boyfriend for introducing me to this recipe and being better at making it than I am. What are some of your go-to recipes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Happy eating!

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Comparison is a losing game

One of the most distinctly negative personal realizations I’ve come to in the last year or so has been that I am far more capable of and prone to jealousy than I thought. I’ve never really been that type of person, and prided myself on that.

Until. Until living circumstances shifted and I found myself feeling like a little kid after their parents bring home the new baby. Until friends had full-time jobs right out of school and my plan still, well, didn’t feel like much of a plan. Until friends were moving forward in their personal lives and there wasn’t anything I could do about mine.

As much as I really am happy for all the people in these examples, I was surprised at how bitterly I wished I was in the same position. All the negativity I was feeling wasn’t directed at the people around me; rather, it’s a discontentment with my own circumstances because I got way too caught up in comparing my life to theirs. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on the whole “comparing yourself to others isn’t good for anyone” message, but there is truth to it. You’re you. They’re them. You will have different issues and different successes. Over time, comparison will hurt your self-happiness and can make it more difficult to connect with and care unselfishly about those people.

The decade after graduating high school is no longer just one fork in the road we’ve all been on up to now. Now the paths forks, twists, and turns, moving us at different paces and in different directions. It can feel strange, but it’s how we grow.

Of course, knowing that isn’t enough to stop bad thought patterns in their tracks. Maybe if I had done X, Y, and/or Z differently I’d be happier with my situation. While there are definitely things I could have done better, most of them were thankfully very minor. What helps the most is knowing I wouldn’t change the major life decisions I’ve made, which means for the most part I chose where I am now, and that I’m more or less where I’m meant to be.

Each of our paths is different, and they will continue to diverge and converge. Hopefully that means we run into some great friends along the way, and that friends whose paths differ from us will be able to teach us more than we would have known on our own.

What challenges and happy moments have you found on your path? Feel free to let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope each step feels a little more like the right path.

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Qualifications: Over, under, and out of left field

I’m going to be very blunt about this: Job searching sucks. Cat’s out of the bag, in case everyone didn’t already know anyway. Maybe there aren’t very many positions open in the field you’re looking for, or maybe not in your area. Maybe you’re willing to move but can’t do so until you, you know, get the job. Or maybe you found the right position opening and the location is manageable, but the list of qualifications they’re looking for sounds something like this:

  • 5-8+ years experience (we know the position is entry-level, but we want to see that you’ve been committed to this career since before you were allowed to vote)
  • Skills A through Z (bonus points for inventing new letters!)
  • College degree in the field
  • Ability to work well under deadline pressure and adapt to needs of position (aka learn quickly or drown)
  • Cutting-edge knowledge of emerging news and trends in the field (be so cool you make us feel outdated but not insecure)
  • Oh, and of course, proficiency in Microsoft Office

Obviously that was a very sarcastic rendition, but that can be what it feels like. One friend I know — who also has a stellar blog of her own that you should check out — commented that she applied to nearly 100 jobs, finally resulting in exactly 3 offers. Three. I have another friend who applied to 23, and got 1 offer. Another friend went through seven rounds of interviewing before being offered his current job.

This kind of stuff makes hearing things like, “Oh, don’t worry about it! I’m sure you’ll get it!” and “You know, the job market’s actually improving” feel pretty empty. Because instead of feeling like there are other fish in the sea, you are just one fish and it seems like all the other fish have more experience than you.

I say all of this knowing that I have more than four years of experience in my ideal job, having applied to 32 jobs (for a variety of positions), and actively working on 5 other applications. It’s daunting. But eventually hard work pays off.

If you’re feeling like you don’t even know what type of job you want, research. If the job you want doesn’t seem to be hiring, find people to call or talk to in person — it garners a much better response rate. If you keep on applying and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, switch up your search, or figure out what else you can do to show that you’re an impressive candidate.

Of course, all of those things are much easier said than done, which is why I’m adding a few more links to the Resources page and will try to grow it as much as possible. Check those out, or see if so-and-so’s dad knows somebody, or set a goal for how many applications you want to send in per week.

If you have any questions, or want to vent about the job hunt, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. It’s a big endeavor, but with enough time and commitment, we’ll prove that we’ve got this.

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Honesty and terror are roommates

At least in my head. Honesty and communication are two of the most important values/skills to me, and when it matters most there is a 99.97% chance I will suck at them. And that realization in itself feels awful — especially considering I have a degree in the latter. (It only adds irony to remember that I graduated at the top of my major.) Most of it boils down to bad past experiences and moderate anxiety.

I don’t say all of this for sympathy or a pity party, because honestly I hate admitting it. I’m saying this so that hopefully it helps someone else.

Anxiety, or feeling like you’re doing terribly at the things you’re supposed to be good at, is really intimidating. And it’s a thing that in reality most people deal with, but often we try to compensate for it and almost never talk to other people about it. I really want to change that; it would be naïve to think it’s easy, but I have to believe it’s worth it.

So here’s the honest truth:

I feel incredibly insecure when thinking about/talking about/encroaching upon the subject of job searching. I get nervous and clammy and defensive and I usually avoid all of that by talking about it as infrequently as possible. I often feel like I’m poor at articulating myself in a normal conversation, and think most clearly when writing, which makes phone calls and important conversations more difficult than it feels like they should be.

So when it comes to having conversations about this in-between phase so many of us are at in life, particularly with people who aren’t in that phase, it can be difficult to feel like the conversation is worth the anxiety and potential misunderstandings. I’m not the expert, but I also have to remember that other people don’t always know where I’m at and talking about it is the only way to shrink that gap.

I don’t know what things make you feel anxious or intimidated, but I do know that talking about it with someone who cares about you can help a lot, and that fears start to get smaller when you face them. What fears do you feel like you’re starting to conquer? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and I hope the week feels like a mountain you’re capable of climbing.

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Do dumb stuff

You read that right. To clarify, I am not suggesting doing anything that would endanger the wellbeing of yourself or others, physically or psychologically. Don’t be mean and don’t get anybody hurt. But I am saying that sometimes it is better for us, as weird and complex human beings, to make the dumb choice in order to save ourselves a little sanity.

I don’t know about you, but the last month or so hasn’t been the easiest stretch I’ve gone through. Hasn’t been the hardest, either. But I stay up late a lot of nights because I don’t like to go to bed feeling, well, unhappy.

I was having a particularly rough day a couple of weeks ago and talking to a good friend about it, which was starting to help. But then said friend decided to show up at my door at 11:30 at night, and told me to come outside. I grabbed my house key and a pair of shoes and hopped in the car, and we got junk food I hadn’t eaten in years and hung out at a favorite spot just to talk until I was feeling better.

Now mind you, I had not one, but two job interviews the next morning. I had to be up early. I had chores to do, and no guarantee of much rest time the following day. By a lot of accounts, choosing to go on that late-night adventure was dumb. But it was also exactly what I needed.

Emerging adulthood is a strange time of life because a lot of us feel in-between everything and as if we don’t quite belong anywhere. And that can suck. Maybe all your friends are far away or your living situation isn’t what you had hoped. Maybe jobs aren’t working out or you’re mired in schoolwork. Maybe personal stuff is just off and you feel like too many things are going wrong, like you can’t catch a break. Make one instead.

Free time can be difficult to find, and I don’t want to trivialize what some people have on their plates. But when I’m considering making a decision that feels a little risky, I usually go back to one question: Years down the road, what story do I want to be telling my grandkids? Do I want to tell them I took the risk and found adventure, that I took my time and made a difference for someone? Or do I want to tell them I played it safe and didn’t laugh as much as I should have, that I didn’t make the sorts of memories I wanted?

I don’t know what you’re going through, but I do know that Slurpees taste better after midnight, adventures are best when they feel straight out of ’80s movies, and a day trip to a place called unusual can be just what you needed. The things that are weighing on you will still be there, but it’s okay to sometimes give yourself the grace to step away from them and do something dumb, just for a little while.

What dumb stuff makes you feel a little better about life? Feel free to let me know in a comment below, or reach out on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck growing up.

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Every morning is square one

This conversation really happened yesterday:

12-year-old: What did you study in college?

Me: I majored in Communication.

12-year-old: For babysitting?

Okay, ouch. But admittedly that’s how it feels sometimes. I’ve been applying for full-time jobs, but in the meantime I’ve got a steady part-time job and I do a lot of babysitting and housesitting. For the record, this was not the purpose of my degree. And I hate that. Especially given how hard-won my college experience felt, it can feel super anticlimactic to just be doing odd jobs.

To be fair, I have a plan and am doing all of this right now to save up so that when I land that full-time job in my field (notice: didn’t say dream job) then I can actually afford to, you know, pay rent.

When everyone’s paths are diverging and moving at such different paces, this setup can feel a lot like I busted my butt for years only to be launched back to square one. I imagine anyone reading this can probably think of a time they felt similarly. Here’s the thing: We all go through it. It may look different for some than others, but the fact is we all feel like forward motion is easier said than done.

The thing that has probably helped me most — besides a good laugh, which is the best short-term solution to any problem ever — is to remember that every morning is square one. Today I have the chance to start over and make the day better than the one before it. It’s not a do-over, but it is a new page. And maybe in enough time, the residue from all the days I’ve spent will add up to enough that instead of starting at square one every morning, I’ll be starting at square three. The catch is then that will feel like square one.

See, progress is a perspective game. You can go further than you ever imagined, but it takes a lot of awareness and effort to both be proud of how far you’ve come and motivated by how far you still have to go. I’m looking forward to working on that, even if some days I have to start my progress all over.

As usual, if you want a heads up on new posts, follow on WordPress, Twitter @ohgrowup, and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Either way, take a deep breath, throw some tunes on, and good luck growing up.

P.S. If you want a song for this kind of a mood, I highly recommend “Forward Motion” by Relient K.

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Intro: I am not the expert, and I’m betting neither are you

Hey. My name is Rachal, and I’m a Millennial fresh out of college and trying to tread water as a “real adult.” If any of the phrases in that last sentence made you roll your eyes, you’re probably in the right place. Disclaimer: Everything I said is true. But that doesn’t mean terms like “Millennial,” “fresh out of college,” and “real adult” shouldn’t bother you. They bother the heck out of me.

“Millennial” can be used to describe the generation born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s or even 2000. So at its broadest, a Millennial could be born anytime between 1980 and 2000, which would make the group members range from 17 to 38. Even setting aside what a massive age range that is, the time between ages 17 and 38 holds an insane number of major life changes for most people living in the U.S.* A 17-year-old might be finishing up high school, while many people in their late 30s are married with kids and a mortgage. But very few people talk about Millennials that way. Most often, we are talked about (including sometimes by ourselves) as young adults in college and/or starting out in the workforce otherwise trying our hand at adulting. The fancy academic term for this phase of life is “emerging adulthood.” Though not a perfect term, it’s more specific than Millennial and will still apply to this interesting life phase even after Millennials become retirees. For those reasons, I’ll use the term emerging adults rather than Millennials unless I really do mean the generation — it provides some distance from harmful stereotypes anyways.

“Fresh out of college” tends to feel like the “WTF?” stage of life for a lot of emerging adults. For those that attend college, just after is often the first time all of one’s peers are reaching major milestones at wildly different paces. So-and-so just got married. So-and-so scored a high-paying job in their field. Oh yeah, and I live with my parents and can’t even get hired at the local grocery store. Every path presents its own challenges advantages, but nearly all of them come with thoughts and feelings along the lines of “Welp, this is actually happening.”

“Real adult” implies that any years spent from 18 to now (or before then for some folks’ circumstances) are invalid. And that sucks. If you are 17 and living independently, 21 and in college, or 24 and working part-time, you are every bit the adult that the married person with 3 kids, a 90k salary, and a mortgage is. You’re just newer at it. That does mean those of us who are still trying to level up have a fair amount to learn, but we’re still players in the same game. Wherever you’re at is valid — even though there’s progress to be made, even when you don’t feel like a grownup or a “real adult.” (Confession: Most days I don’t. Which is reason number one why I started this blog.)

So let’s rewrite that earlier sentence. My name is Rachal, and I’m an emerging adult who recently finished college and is learning to navigate this phase of adult life. Bulky, but a much kinder and more accurate representation of where I’m at, and where a lot of people are at or near.

If you’re feeling half as lost as I am, or are just really bored, read on. I’ll be adding new content all the time, including:

  • lessons I’ve learned so you don’t have to do it the hard way
  • accumulated tips and tricks for adulting
  • recipes and other practical resources
  • pep talks
  • (useful) observations about emerging adulthood
  • and more?

For a heads up on new content, follow on WordPress, Twitter @ohgrowup, and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for scrolling this far, and good luck growing up.

*I by no means want to overlook those who don’t live in the U.S., but that is the limit of my long-term experience, and overgeneralizing would be even worse.