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!

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!

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. 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!

 

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!

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.

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.

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.