Professional can be relative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go the heck to sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22

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

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

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

Media literacy

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

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

A lack of media literacy leads to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience for the inexperienced

Meeting the qualifications for a job isn’t easy. Being actually prepared for the job is even more difficult. And though I will admit that my experience is limited, I’ve found that the big long list people often cite of things that will prepare you for the working world can really be boiled down to a few major things.

So, particularly if you’re feeling like you’re lacking in experience or are just starting out in the emerging adult world, focus on these things:

Interning. Interning somewhere you love is great, but this is really about base experience. Get your foot in the door somewhere. First, future employers will see that you’ve at least put in some office time, or the equivalent for your field. Second, you get to know if you do or don’t like the type of work before you commit to an actual job. Third, you’ll just become more familiar with the working environment and hopefully feel a little less lost once you step into it permanently.

Of course, a part-time or full-time job is also great experience, but in a lot of fields that’s nearly impossible to get without internships. NOTE: This is not the case everywhere, but in lots of places there are legal requirements regarding compensation, usually meaning that if you aren’t being financially compensated you’re obligated to receive school credit. If whomever you’re interning for isn’t on board with either of those, it might be time to consider other options.

Group projects. I know you hate them. I do too. And there was a time when I was naïve enough to look forward to being done with school so that I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. The truth is the rest of your career will be, in some way or another, filled with group projects. In other words, learn how to handle them well. Also keep track of significant experiences in group projects as examples to give during interviews with potential employers.

I’m really fortunate in that my major in college provided a billion and one opportunities, including multiple classes where we had semester-long, large-scale projects. None of the direct results were groundbreaking (though one project did get published!), but the skills I got to hone in those projects have made me much better-equipped to handle myself now. So yeah, they suck, but they can actually pay off.

Hard skills. I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s great that you know stuff, but employers want to know that you can do stuff. I actually wish this is one that I had been more proactive about, because while I have some hard skills (particularly with Adobe CS), more computer skills (like HTML) would have qualified me for a wider range of positions. I made up for it a bit in this area by having very specific softer skills under my belt, like experience with writing/editing styles, certifications, and work samples — so it can also be worth looking for opportunities like that if they can apply to your field.

The good news is you can always learn hard skills, whereas the window of opportunity on interning and group projects is a bit more limited. But that doesn’t mean you should put it off until post-college or late in the game if you can help it. Find a basic coding class, or take a shop class that relates (even loosely) to what you want to do.

Be nice. This one feels obvious to the point of debating its inclusion, but it’s no joke. Being not only polite, but amiable and gracious, can do just as much to help you land a job as a lot of experience. And guess what? You can gain experience in that literally whenever, and it very well may set you apart from other applicants. Just remember, people hire people who they want to work with.

I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear what you’ve found served as the most valuable experience. Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

Long-distance life

As I mentioned in a previous post, my boyfriend and I did long distance for almost 4.5 years. Starting a couple of weeks ago, we semi-permanently live near each other for the first time since we started dating.

The very brief explanation is we were friends in high school, and got together a couple of weeks before leaving for college. The problem is those colleges happened to be 400 miles apart. We had no idea if it would work, but felt it was worth seeing if it was something we could handle. Lucky for us, we’ve managed to grow a relationship in spite of it. But that doesn’t change the fact that maintaining or growing any sort of relationship long-distance sucks.

I realize not everyone has been in or is in a long-distance romantic relationship, but nearly everyone has friends or family that are much further away than we’d like. So I’m going to do my best to take that into account throughout this post. I also have a special treat! My boyfriend, Parker, was kind enough to co-write this post with me so it isn’t limited to my perspective. Below are some questions, with each of our answers, regarding how we’ve learned to manage long-distance.

Did you think we had a good chance of making a long-distance relationship work when we first started out?

Parker: Yes.

Rachal: Care to elaborate?

Parker: From an objective perspective, we already had a long-standing friendship with good communication habits, we already texted regularly and made an effort to consistently reach out to one another. From a subjective perspective, we cared about each other quite a bit and are both the type of people that typically put in the effort to make difficult things work. And as people we were very similar and compatible, so if one of us was going to try and be committed, there was a good chance both of us would be, and that often lends itself to a successful relationship. So I thought we had a good chance of making it despite the distance.

Rachal: I hoped that we would, but as people who know me are well aware of, I don’t like to make bets on things that are not guarantees — as my boyfriend rolls his eyes and laughs. So I thought it was worth it enough that I wanted to try, and I had a lot of faith in us, particularly given that we had been such good friends for a fair amount of time, but admittedly I was a bit nervous that it might not work.

What have you found beneficial about long-distance?

Parker: [laughs] It forces you to become really good at the habits that often slip for people who aren’t long-distance, like communication and working out a schedule, because all you have is phone calls and Skype and the very occasional visit. If you have bad communication habits in long-distance, your relationship is going to fall apart, so long-distance really teaches you to form a good communication system with your partner, which then helps once long-distance is no longer a factor.

Rachal: I would definitely second that, and emphasize it more if possible. Because distance is difficult to deal with it can be weird to think about upsides, but in addition to that I would also say that it makes the time you do have in person feel way more valuable and special.

Parker: Took the words out of my mouth (again).

Rachal: It definitely makes it easier to not take each other for granted.

What sucked about long-distance that you didn’t expect (or was worse than you expected)?

Parker: Two things mainly. One, that it didn’t really get better over time. You would think that after doing long-distance for a while, you would start to get used to it and it wouldn’t feel as difficult. And there was some element of that, but there were certain things that got more difficult, like as you’re reaching the end of long-distance your patience with it grows shorter and shorter because you know it’s almost done. Second, even though our issues were relatively infrequent, when struggles did come up, it’s hard because you don’t have the ability to give little physical reassurances like holding someone’s hand or giving a hug. So it’s just words and voice, and there aren’t accompanying physical motions or actions that can give that reassurance that everything’s going to be okay even if it’s a rough patch.

Rachal: I think the first one that you mentioned is what stands out to me the most. Not that I ever specifically thought, “Oh, this is going to get easier,” but I definitely didn’t think it would get harder. So it was weird to be caught off guard after we had been together for a few years and, by all objective standards, had a grip on how to handle things, but from an emotional perspective, the distance took more of a toll than it had previously. I also agree with the second point, and would add that it was just really disappointing to not be able to share the little things as often — like pointing something you passed by or just the small things that are easy to share with someone who’s right next to you, but not necessarily significant enough to save for a nightly phone call.

How have you handled long-distance family relationships?

Parker: I called my parents once a week or more, occasionally spoke to grandparents, and tried to go to family gatherings and stuff like that.

Rachal: Since I have a few younger siblings, I try to keep in better touch with them through facetime or sending them cards on occasion, but for most other family it’s occasional phone calls and visiting when possible.

What about friendships?

Parker: I’ve kind of had mixed success handling long-distance friendships. Some people I’ve had a really good experience keeping up with online, and have a few friends that I’ve never met but have developed friendships with online. Some other personal friendships I haven’t had as much success with but try to text to check in and see how things are going and then try to make the effort to see when I’m in town and near them.

Rachal: I’m either really good at this, or really bad. There are some friends who I text or otherwise communicate with very frequently, and other friends who I am just really bad about keeping in touch with. Part of that is a time thing — there’s only time to stay really close with so many people — but part of it is just having not developed as strong of communication habits with some friends as with others.

What tools were the most helpful for dealing with long-distance?

Parker: Phone calls, text messaging, Skype/Google+. That’s pretty much it.

Rachal: I’m going get kind of communication meta here, because it’s me. Technology is obviously a huge thing — I genuinely don’t know how people did this before cell phones and texting.

Parker: Mail, dude.

Rachal: I know people who did it, but that would suck. Worse. But beyond just technology, the sort of shorthands that we developed for things were really helpful.

Parker: What do you mean by the shorthands?

Rachal: So like early on, we had a very specific conversation about what certain things meant if we texted them. If one of us texted “Okay :)” then everything was fine, but “Okay.” meant that we were upset about something. And we could always ask if we were confused about tone or if we needed to talk later, and things like that. Though it was maybe less of a tool, we also made sure to vary how we communicated. So we texted and did phone or video calls a ton, but once in a while I would send a letter, or you would have a particularly funny Snapchat video, or things like that.

How do you think it changed our relationship?

Parker: It’s almost impossible to answer, because we don’t have a frame of reference. In high school we were friends but we weren’t dating, so how it changed our relationship exactly is hard to say, because we don’t know what it would have been like if we hadn’t had to do long-distance. Long-distance made us learn each other very well, because we had to figure out how to sustain a relationship for 4.5 years, where all we would have were brief periods of time together. So we learned a lot about each other because we would talk a ton, and come up with little games to keep our talks fresh or interesting, so it wasn’t the same thing over and over of “How was your day? How was your day?” I do think it made our relationship a lot stronger in the sense of if we can make it through rough patches where we weren’t even near each other, then it made us more confident that we could sustain a relationship when we were actually together.

Rachal: I agree. I think it really forged and strengthened not only our communication, but our commitment. Because if we weren’t sure about this whole thing, then it would not be worth putting in the amount of effort that we did. And like I mentioned before, it made it easier to value our time and each other, because it was not only rare, but something that had to be worked harder for. I have no idea what it would have been like if we had started dating not long-distance, but despite the challenges, I’m very grateful for the way things have turned out.

What did the distance cost us?

Rachal: I’ll go first on this one. The first thing it cost us is time, which is a funny thing to say because we didn’t get to spend as much time together as would have been nice, but it was a lot of time planning or working to set aside specific windows for us to talk, so the combination of time and effort were significant. I think it also cost us a little bit of the spontaneity that’s fun, especially at the beginning of a relationship, because we had to plan, and you couldn’t just swing by my dorm room and say let’s go get pizza.

Parker: I agree. The only other thing that I’d add is that it cost us flexibility. We did have to be a bit flexible with how and when we talked, how long, and things like that — especially given college and the fluctuation in our workloads. But it did cost some inflexibility in our overall lives. We made an effort to have a phone call at minimum every single day, and at least once a week longer talks. So if friends wanted to go out and do something and we had scheduled time to talk, we’d sometimes have to say no because that was important to our relationship. But then also on breaks and holidays, it led to some inflexibility with schedules because we chose to prioritize our time together. We had to balance spending time with each other, and family, and friends we hadn’t seen in a long time, which led to some conflicts and difficulties. Time windows being so limited as far as what we could spend together made it difficult.

How did you go about balancing the priorities of our relationship vs. being independent, and how did distance play into that?

Parker: Not to sound like a broken record, but it does come back to the constant communication. We would talk about what was going on that night, if there was something we knew we wanted to do, and not only making sure the other person was aware, but we had a good system of making sure the other person was okay with it. If needed, we would make up for that time somewhere else. Then there were some set things, like on Friday nights when I would go hang out with friends and play video games and eat pizza, and we would be okay with a short phone call that day — especially if you also made your plans for that day. We were very deliberate in terms of not wanting to limit each other; we want each other to have our own lives and our own friends, but also devote the proper time to our relationships. And we were in near constant communication to try and achieve that balance to the best of our ability — we weren’t always perfect.

Rachal: Yeah, this is the part of our relationship where I feel like we have been really flexible. We both want the other person to have a social life apart from our relationship, so we made sure that we each got take time to spend with friends or even on our own while still maintaining our relationship as a priority.

How did our relationship change when we had stretches where we weren’t far away?

Parker: Scheduling became a lot more stressful because we really wanted to maximize our time together, but also had to balance friends, family, other stuff with spending time with each other. Sometimes life throws a curve ball and it would really eat away at our time, or one of us would have a certain expectation of how much time we would have, and significantly less than what we were anticipating would cause some tension and some stress between us. That’s the negative side of things. But for the positive, obviously we would get to be together. We could try new restaurants and make recipes we really like, and really focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company, laughs, smiles. Again, because the time was so valuable and so limited, we both loved spending every minute we could with each other.

Rachal: Yeah, it really depended on the stretch in my opinion. When we didn’t have a lot of other commitments, it was awesome because we actually got to be near each other and do all the things you mentioned. But when there were a bunch of other things we were also trying to do, or circumstances became challenging, then it could definitely be pretty stressful at times. But like you mentioned earlier, it was also easier to work through those tensions when we were in person.

What are your top three pieces of advice for people managing a long-distance relationship (romantic or otherwise)?

Parker: The biggest one, which feeds into everything else, would be to just work extremely hard on your communication. Don’t be afraid to ask almost oddly direct questions to your partner, because it’s more important to figure out what works and what doesn’t and why than it is to avoid asking a slightly awkward question. It makes everything easier if you’re both very clear and aware on what your position is and what your expectations are. Another, as much as it does have its drawbacks, is scheduling things out in advance. When we knew we were going to have time at home together, we’d plan what days we were going to hang out and what movies we’d watch, because even the planning process was fun for us. Of course, leaving some room for spontaneity can be fun as well. Lastly, just both people making the effort. Obviously, we all have bad days where we’re exhausted or overworked, or generally feeling off or cranky. But making the effort not to let those things seep into your relationship, and trying to do something special over the distance occasionally — whether it’s an extra long goodnight text or sending a letter or when they come to visit making a little surprise care package. Small things that are thoughtful can be really helpful. Even not letting yourself get bitter or going to bed angry with the other person; you and I used to have some pretty late talks to make sure we were okay with where things were at after a rough conversation or a rough night.

Rachal: Number one: COMMUNICATE. Please. Clearly. Ask obvious or weirdly direct questions, because the distance makes picking up on nuance more difficult, and there’s a smaller grace area for not communicating clearly. Second, just talk a lot. Be thoughtful and make the other person feel like a priority, even if that means more effort or time than would necessarily be convenient. It’s always worth it to make someone you care about feel valued. Last, I would say really make sure that effort and contributions feel equitable. Particularly with distance, it can be easy for that to start to feel out of whack, and few things damage a relationship quite the same.

I know that was quite a long post, but I hope that was informative or helpful in some way! Distance is a big hurdle in any type of relationship, and one that emerging adults often deal with to a greater degree than other age groups. A huge thanks to my boyfriend for contributing — and for dealing with me for all these years, even with all the miles often between us. What advice have you found most helpful for surviving long-distance relationships? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up!

(Photo credit goes to the ever-wonderful Megan T.)

So your commute is a prison sentence

As stated in my last post, I just moved. I also started my new job this week! Today is day 3 and I have been reminded in no uncertain terms that areas with lots of jobs and things to do also have lots of traffic.

My commute is honestly not too bad. It takes me about 25 minutes to get to work and about 35 to get back — but it would be 17 with no traffic. Yesterday after getting home I realized I needed to run to the ATM. Except that 3-mile roundtrip venture took 30 minutes. Needless to say, I have not been stoked with the traffic so far, and I’m really wishing my drive looked more like the picture above.

I’ve had commutes before (my last job was a 35-minute drive from my house), but I was lucky enough to be on the road at off-peak times. No longer. So for those who may also be subject to traffic or commutes (I realize many are longer than mine), there are things to help it suck less.

  • Jam out. My standby is to listen to one of the 15+ CDs I keep in my car, and sing along until I am no longer annoyed by all the brake lights in front of me.
  • Listen to something else. My mom really likes listening to audiobooks, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I really enjoy podcasts on longer drives.
  • Call somebody. This one isn’t always feasible, but if you have a friend or family member who you’re able to call while you drive, it will make the time go way faster. Plus then you’ve already caught up with them and there is less on your to-do list when you get home.
  • Think things through. I’m a hardcore planner, so I’m often thinking aloud about the upcoming week or what I need to do, but also sometimes I just play out hypothetical conversations (don’t pretend you never do).
  • Run errands. If you can stop somewhere on the way and let some of the traffic die down, it can be well worth it (as long as you’re not late to wherever you’re headed!).
  • Bring a treat. Having a favorite snack or drink — I tend to go for tea and pretzels — balances the scales a bit in terms of enjoyment and annoyance.
  • Research other routes. If your route has a ton of traffic, see if there are other paths that will let you skip some of it. A 2-minute difference might not be worth it, but a 10-minute one well could be.
  • Road rage doesn’t do anybody good. After living in LA for 4 years I am rather prone to snarky comments while driving, but I promise it’s still better to take it easy.

What is your favorite way to make commutes less bothersome? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! (Seriously, I could use more ideas.) Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!