Setting goals you won’t hate yourself for

Happy New Year’s Eve! As much as I enjoy the holiday, and am grateful that I get to spend it with family and friends, there’s one part about it I really don’t care for: New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think I’ve made one in years, because for me (and quite a lot of other people) it’s just a nice little goal that never gets fulfilled.

For me, that meant I simply stopped making resolutions. Instead, if there’s something in my life that I want to change, I change it as soon as I’m able. And then if I mess it up and stop following through, the easy excuse isn’t to wait until the next New Year. Amidst all the other changes this year, I didn’t have a ton of goals that I worked on, but starting to exercise consistently was one that I am really glad I’ve stuck with. At some point last year, I decided I wanted to go to more concerts, and I ended up going to seven in less than a year.

If you’re into New Year’s resolutions, more power to you. There’s no reason to knock them if you can keep them. But there are also other ways to approach goal-setting. So if you’re iffy on making a resolution this year, but have something you want to change, these are some of the tips I’ve found most useful:

  • Have multiple reasons to motivate you. When I started exercising consistently, the main motivation was to reduce my asthma symptoms. But the additional benefits are getting in shape and building strength; so when one of those reasons doesn’t feel like enough, the other gets me to put my shoes on and get going.
  • If you slip up, that isn’t the end. I haven’t exercised the last two weeks (oops), but the first week I was traveling, and last week I was both working long hours and sick. This week, I’m going to pick it back up and keep going. As much as it’s a bit of a bummer, breaking a streak doesn’t mean your goal is out the window.
  • Goals that stretch you are good, but don’t set ones you can’t reach. Because goals are centered on change, they should push you a bit outside your comfort zone. But if you set goals that are too lofty, you won’t reach them, and then it will be harder to stick with a new goal.
  • If a goal isn’t working, adjust it. If you set a goal and find that it was too much or something doesn’t fit well with your schedule or needs, don’t feel bad changing the goal. It needs to be something that can reasonably work for you. (Note: This should not become an excuse to adjust because you haven’t kept up; make changes for circumstances, not laziness.)
  • On that note, you can always move the finish line. If you set a goal and reach it, or are making progress more quickly than you had anticipated, don’t be afraid to adjust your goal to something bigger. Maybe it takes you longer to reach your new goal, but earning a new goal is an accomplishment to be proud of.
  • Set rewards for reaching (or even sticking with) a goal. If your goal is to eat healthier, maybe set up a small treat for the end of every week or two that you keep with it. The treat also doesn’t have to be relief from the goal — if you’re eating healthier, your treat can be dessert or it can be taking yourself to a movie.

Because I’ve got so many changes coming up, I’m not sure I’ll be setting new goals for a little while, but I’m excited to keep pushing toward progress on the goals I have set. How do you keep up with goals? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and have a happy New Year!

Lasts

As mentioned in my post last week, I’ve got some pretty big changes coming up. And as much as I am looking forward to all the new things, moving on is not something I’m great at. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a deeply sentimental person, and the last stretch of anything — but especially a significant phase in life — always sneaks up on me.

Despite getting me every time, it’s a familiar feeling. It was the same feeling when I moved out of the house I’d spend the first 10 years of my life in, when I graduated high school and college, at the end of stretches of time spent with loved ones or traveling in new places. There’s a pre-separation missing that sets in, along with a nostalgia-like film over every sight, sound, and action.

For better or worse, emerging adulthood is a stage that’s full of changes. Moving out, going to college, getting a job, becoming financially independent, developing a serious relationship or starting a family. I have several friends who are living, at least for a while, in other countries. Several friends will be getting married in the near future. And as exciting as all of those changes can be, they’re also weird and often intimidating. They’re things we can never be fully prepared for (although being at least slightly prepared is advisable).

So even though change is a constant, I never quite get used to it. Two weeks from now my whole setting and day-to-day routine will be different. Though I will still care for and talk with all the same people, some will be closer and some will be further. And I’m trying to take in the last bit of this life stage with not just open eyes, but open hands, so that I don’t hold too tightly.

I’m realizing that I just spent my last Christmas living at home, and this is the last week of my current job and soon it will be the last time for at least a while that I live less than 20 minutes from my best friend. A little over a week from now will be the last time I get to walk my brother to school for a while. I’m on the last few pages of a journal I’ve spent the last 5 years filling up. I’m busy trying to squeeze in last visits with friends and family and last trips to favorite local places.

On the flipside, there are a lot of firsts coming up that I remain excited for. And in the midst of all the bittersweetness, there are things to be done like packing up all my junk. Life really doesn’t stop for anybody. But I am hoping that as bummed as I am to be leaving some things behind, the path ahead feels like the right adventure. And I hope that, if you’re reading this, your path feels like the right adventure for you.

Leaving behind the lasts for a moment, I would love to hear what your favorite first has been in your journey so far. If you’re willing to share, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and happy adventuring!

Thanks, Mom (tips I never would have known)

Because it’s Christmas Eve and I am both jet-lagged and sick, today’s post is a little late and a little shorter than usual. But tomorrow is my mom’s birthday, and over the years I have been compiling an odds and ends list of random tips she’s given that you don’t know you need until you need it*. I’ve put them in loose stage-in-life order, and hopefully it proves useful:

  • With your first apartment, buy a small toolbox — you should be able to hang pictures and build Ikea or Target furniture on your own
  • If you’re ever driving really late, don’t be in the fast lane; it puts you at more risk of getting hit by flip-over accidents or wrong-way drivers
  • Baking soda in your fridge will help keep it from smelling
  • For kitchen dishtowels, bar mops and flour sack cloths work best — plus they’re cheap and don’t go out of style in 5 minutes
  • If you wipe a counter, dry it. It makes it look cleaner and then people won’t accidentally put stuff on a wet counter
  • Zout. Aka the best stain remover to as of yet be created by man
  • If you sprinkle baby powder on stains (especially oily ones), they’ll also come out better in the wash
  • In a pinch, salt and dish soap will also combat stains right after you spill something
  • Lemon juice will get rid of armpit marks on clothes
  • Don’t cook without clothes on. It might seem cute, but burns from grease/oil/other are not
  • If the smoke alarm goes off in your home and there’s no danger, stick it in the freezer to shut it up faster
  • Every girl needs a good tote for work — for you lunch, extra shoes, files, whatever
  • If you’re going to get your hair done before a big event (as in cut or dyed more than styled), leave enough time between the appointment and event to fix it in case you hate it
  • Put a Pyrex 9×13 with a lid and insulated carrying bag on your wedding registry
  • Around the time your kids go to kindergarten, buy or ask for a cupcake carrier if you don’t already have one

What are some of the best random tips other people have given you? Feel free to share in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and have a happy Christmas and holiday season!

*For the record, my other three parents also give really good tips, this list was just ready first. But I appreciate all of them dealing with my questions and the many times I need help.

Ghosting is not professional

As a heads up, this one is a bit of a rant, but also a really important lesson. For anyone who doesn’t know what ghosting is, it’s when someone cuts off communication and/or avoids you for unspecified reasons. It leaves the person on the receiving end with a lot of questions and no closure, and is usually seen in the dating world. But, unfortunately, it’s also far too common in the professional world.

Like most people getting started in the workforce, I applied for a lot of jobs. Of the 61 I applied to, I never heard back from 46 of them. To be fair, a small portion of those sent automated emails that said they would only reach out if they were interested, which in a busy world I consider perfectly acceptable. But the majority of those just never responded at all, and frankly it’s a huge pet peeve.

I once got denied in less than 30 minutes for an application I submitted at midnight on a Friday. As much as getting shut down quite so promptly kind of sucked, it felt nice to at least have an answer.

A few of the companies I interviewed with simply never got back to me after I came in for an interview. I was able to follow up with some of them, and at least received an answer that way. One company offered me a position and then fell off the map, despite me calling and emailing (the good news is I wasn’t eager about that job anyway).

To be fair, this isn’t a one-way issue. I have seen and heard about candidates never getting back to potential employers, and it is not a good look. Don’t be that guy.

Of course, this isn’t just an emerging adult issue. People of all ages are both guilty of it and harmed by it. So here’s the moral of the story: If you’re applying for jobs, or dealing with any kind of meeting/appointment/interview, RESPOND. If someone calls or emails you, get back to them at the earliest reasonable opportunity. If you’re waiting on something, even let them know that so you’re at least maintaining communication. If you’re on the hiring end of this type of situation, REACH OUT. A polite copy-paste email telling someone “thanks, but no thanks” takes so little time, and leaves the person on the other end with a much better impression.

If you’ve been communication with someone from either end of this and it’s been a while since they responded to you, follow up. My usual policy is at least two emails and a phone call before I give up, though circumstances differ.

It takes effort but is so much more kind and professional to let someone know that you want to pass on an opportunity or cancel a meeting, rather than have them wondering what went wrong. I also usually end my emails with “I look forward to hearing from you!” as a hint that I’ll be waiting on a response.

What small things have you experienced that convey professionalism? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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.)

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
  • 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!

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.)