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A step back is not a step backward

Not going to lie, I completely forgot to prep today’s post. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out the healthiest balance of responsibilities, personal activities, and time to just… not do anything. I’m not great with the last one in particular, but then I end up putting too much on my plate and/or too much pressure on myself, and other things start slipping through the cracks.

I love the phase of life that I’m in right now, and it has brought so many wonderful things. But it’s also been really challenging. Sometimes it’s little thing after little thing, or sometimes one big thing comes out of the blue and knocks me back. I’m doing my best to try to find the balance between acknowledging that some things suck but that they don’t have to be a catastrophe.

Last weekend was the first time I cleaned my apartment in probably a month. It’s not my personality to do that, and I could have felt disappointed or frustrated that I wasn’t more diligent. I very briefly was. But 1) it’s done now and I did clean it, and 2) feeling like that was doing me exactly zero good. So I’m trying to change that habit.

Unfortunately, I know it’s one that a lot of emerging adults struggle with. We often feel pressured to be doing all the right things or living a particular sort of life. We look around and it can feel like we’re the only one who doesn’t have it all together. But that’s not true. This is the time of life where you really are going at your own pace and figuring out who you are apart from school and often away from family. You’re determining what matters most to you and forging the path for the rest of your life. It’s a hugely important time, but there’s no one way to do it.

Still, setbacks or things going wrong — whether we could have done anything about them or not — can feel like we’re at risk of being derailed. And that can be a scary feeling. But as the title says, a step back isn’t necessarily a step backward. And a step backward isn’t a final sentence. For better or worse, it’s just life. And our job is to keep moving forward.

To help ease the stress of the pressure I put on myself to try to avoid steps backward, I’m trying to take a few steps back:

I’ve decided to try to be both more intentional and more limited in my technology and media consumption. I’m not doing anything drastic, but I will be scaling back on how often I scroll through social media, and not wasting my time with news that doesn’t serve a purpose (whether that purpose is educating me about current events or occasionally positive stories just to make me smile). I’ll still be watching TV and movies, but I’ll also be trying to read more.

I’m not going to stick to crazy rules about cleaning the apartment and doing my laundry, which will hopefully lead to a balance between cleaning it almost too often and definitely not often enough.

I’ve already been minimizing commitments that I don’t enjoy, and making extra effort to invest in relationships. This one has made a huge improvement, especially as I’ve started to view building relationships as not just something in my schedule but something that can be both enjoyable and productive.

I have too much stuff, and not a ton of space to put it in. So I’m going to be making a serious effort to whittle down unnecessary junk and live a little more minimalist. More on that coming later.

I’m trying to accept the fact that life has unknowns, and there is simply no way I can prepare for everything. So the new goal is trying to be prepared, without being overly stressed.

Only you know quite what your life looks like right now, but my guess is that one of these things might have resonated with you. If it did, maybe think about whether a step back might be helpful, and remember that doing so might even be a step forward.

What has helped you when you need to take a step back? 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: Pulled pork

Welcome to another installment of “Wow, I love my crock pot.” Rather than making a whole meal in the crock pot, this time I just made the meat. Having tried to slow roast things in the oven before with slightly underwhelming results, I was so excited when this turned out as pull-apart tender as I was hoping for. The best part is it was insanely easy.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lb. pork loin roast, thawed
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbsp. minced ginger
  • salt & pepper
  • Goya adobo seasoning (or any other you like)
  • about 1 cup grapefruit juice (any citrus will work, use at least 1/2 cup)
  • 1 can root beerIMG_6329

Instructions:

  1. Put the roast in the center of the crock pot, fatty side up.img_6328.jpg
  2. Puncture the roast with holes a few inches deep and 1-2 inches apart.
  3. Cut onion into large chunks (I cut it into eighths), then peel layers apart and place around roast in crock pot.
  4. Season with garlic, ginger, salt and pepper, and Goya adobo. NOTE: I seasoned with the intention of using the meat mostly for Caribbean food, hence the brighter flavors and adobo seasoning. If you’re using it for a different cultural food, feel free to adjust the seasonings accordingly.
  5. Pour citrus juice and root beer over roast. These are super important because the acidity breaks down the toughness in the meat and brings in extra flavor.img_6331.jpg
  6. Cook on high for 4-4.5 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
  7. Use two forks to remove roast from crock pot, and then to shred the meat. (Pro tip: Pour some of the juices in the crock pot back over the meat to keep it moist.)img_6335.jpg
  8. Serve however you’d like! I fried mine with lime juice and more seasoning for tacos, but later this week I’ll be using leftovers for pulled pork sandwiches, and to eat over rice. As one of the most versatile meats, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

Cost about $16, makes about 6 servings

When making this recipe again, I might like to marinate the meat head of time for the flavor to seep in better (which I really should have remembered from my last crock pot recipe). Reminder to be safe about handling raw meat, and if you aren’t sure that it’s cooked through you can check it with a meat thermometer — any temp above 160ºF you’re good to go.

What’s your favorite way to cook pork? 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’s all a big backyard

I love traveling. I’ve been to six countries outside the U.S. on three continents, plus 25 states and Puerto Rico — and I’ve hardly made a dent in all the places I want to go. However, despite the dozens of flights I’ve taken by myself those trips were all with a group of some sort, whether family, church, or school. They’ve all been places I wanted to go, but as an emerging adult I’m finally getting the opportunity to take larger trips on my own initiative.

I’m fortunate to have a family who supported traveling and adventuring, and who taught me how to do it well. I have friends who have never been outside the U.S., and friends who have been to more countries than they can list off the top of their head. And while big trips sometimes aren’t feasible based on work or finances, I can’t stress how important it is to explore the world beyond your own experience — especially as a young adult.

Think of it this way: Few of us are married, fewer have kids, and fewer than that own a home. We are likely as untethered as we ever will be again. Money can be tight, but we decide what to do with it. New things and places can be intimidating, but it’s always better to learn how to handle them early on. I haven’t gone 6 months without getting on a plane since early high school. That may sound like a lot to some of you, and not a big deal to others. And I know that affordability is a big obstacle for people wanting to travel. The good news is travel also doesn’t have to mean going across the globe.

My absolute favorite places in the world are only a few hours from where I grew up. And they’re familiar now, but weren’t the first time I went there. I’ve gotten to talk with people from far more places than I’ve ever visited, and listen to amazing stories. I’ve eaten homemade, amazing food from countries that I’ve never been to, and those are some of my favorite meals.

So in an escalating order of how far you’d have to go from home, here are some of my favorite ways to make the big, wide world feel more like something I can see and experience a lot of:

Without leaving home

  • Books – There is no better way to build empathy and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Pick up a novel or nonfiction book that explores a neighborhood, culture, or country different from yours. You might connect to it more than you expect. My favorite: I Am Malala (there are a ton of others on my to-be-read list)
  • Documentaries – I don’t watch a ton of documentaries, but they’re an amazing way to learn stories you otherwise might never see. Plus there are often a bunch on streaming sites like Netflix, and are usually in stock at the local library. My favorite: The White Helmets (less than an hour and on Netflix!)

Without leaving town

  • Food festivals – A lot of towns and regions have cultural or food festivals. See if yours or a nearby town will be hosting any, and go explore without having to get on a plane
  • Mom-and-pop restaurants – Last month I had amazing Colombian food at a little restaurant run by three generations of women that I happened to stop into because I was hungry and it was close. Even if it’s small or out of your comfort zone, you can find some amazing flavors

Without leaving the country

  • Road trips – These are one of my favorite ways to see a lot of a new place, because 1) your car has windows, and 2) you can stop whenever you want. It’s how I’ve explored 20 of the 25 states I’ve been to, and how I plan on visiting more
  • National parks – Nature is beautiful. Visit it. Love it. Protect it. Plus, it’s insight into the history and culture of an area, and you might meet some cool people from other places who are also visiting the park
  • Double up – Lots of cool sights can be seen in one trip if you’re willing to zig-zig or travel just a little further. Before you make plans to go somewhere, see if another place you’d like to visit is nearby. By making your trip just a little longer, you’ll be able to see more while only traveling once. Especially recommended for the East Coast!

Without leaving the atmosphere

  • Sharing is caring – Hostels, Airbnbs, and friend of a friend’s couches all make international travel way more affordable. If there’s a place you really want to visit, see if you can find a non-hotel option for accommodations
  • Budget airlines – They can be bumpy rides, and you usually don’t get to bring a lot of luggage. But places like Wow Airlines and Ryanair can cut way down on what’s often the most expensive part of international travel
  • Travel sites – Ask around and see if friends who have traveled a lot have favorite places to book through. One that was recommended to me is Tripmasters, a site that bundles flights and hotels, but lets you customize the package as much as you want, and offers a huge number of locations

Traveling is hugely valuable, even if it’s done in small steps. Ultimately, all it takes is being open to a world beyond what we know, and letting it teach us and shape us.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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To cook or not to cook

I love cooking. But sometimes I don’t have time, sometimes I don’t want to, and sometimes making the kind of meal I want when it’s only for one person is a challenge. So as much as I love cooking and eating fresh whenever possible, I do eat frozen meals, especially for lunch.

However, being an adult means we get to choose what we eat, and that should never mean we consistently subject ourselves to underwhelming frozen meals. I spent most of college without a kitchen, which started my quest for affordable, enjoyable frozen meals. Relative health is also a factor, so while they are frozen meals I try to only rarely eat ones that are especially unhealthy. And of course, if you’re able, you can always prep meals and freeze them for a more healthful, often even cheaper approach to the same idea.

If you’re in search of store-bought options, I’ve listed some of my favorites below. The best news is that all of them (except the ones with asterisks) are $4 or less, and several can make multiple meals. I’ve also ranked each section in terms of my favorites. Check them out below:

  • Pizza
    • Trader Joe’s tomato and arugula pizza – This is probably my favorite frozen meal. It feels like a treat but isn’t way unhealthy, and I can usually make two smaller meals of it
    • DiGiorno garlic bread crust pepperoni pizza* – Good for 2-3 meals. Less healthy but a good treat if you can find it at Walmart, Target, or a local grocery store
    • Amy’s spinach pizza* – Pricier but fairly healthy. Good for multiple meals and available at most grocery stores
    • NOTE: All of these need to be cooked it an oven based on size
  • Single serving
    • Trader Joe’s chicken tikka masala – This is so good. Simple, not super spicy and filling
    • Evol cilantro lime chicken burrito – Could use some lime or guac, but a healthy, well-portioned frozen meal option that can be found at Target and most grocery stores
    • Trader Joe’s organic pesto tortellini – This needs a little something, so I usually top with fresh parmesan, but with the addition is a treat that feels healthy, and is filling without being a large portion
    • Trader Joe’s yellow jackfruit curry with rice – A delicious and flavorful vegan frozen meal. I didn’t even miss the meat, and genuinely enjoyed vegetables I usually don’t like
    • Trader Joe’s chicken and cheese tamales – Homemade tamales still win, but these are a quality substitute. You can always top them with some cheese and/or guacamole to boost the flavor
    • Trader Joe’s chicken and vegetable wonton soup – The only frozen soup that’s been worth it for me. It isn’t restaurant quality, but it’s good on a cold day
  • Mac and cheese
    • Evol truffle mac and cheese – I love these. They are amazing. They are comfort food after a long day. Please go to your nearest Target or grocery store and treat yourself
    • Trader Joe’s gorgonzola gnocchi – not technically mac and cheese, but honestly delicious. Makes two small or 1.5 normal meals
    • Lean Cuisine Vermont white cheddar mac and cheese – I am not usually a Lean Cuisine person, but these are pretty yummy while also being easy and light on calories
  • Not standalone meals
    • Frozen green beans or broccoli – No brand here, though I usually get Trader Joe’s, C&W, or Target’s generic one, but it’s a great way to get veggies in small servings without them going bad before you can use it all
    • Trader Joe’s gyoza potstickers – These are a tiny bit tricky too cook, and definitely need soy sauce, but are great with a side of veggies
    • Trader Joe’s chicken spring rolls – I didn’t love the vegetable spring rolls (too much mushroom for me), but these were a good alternative. A very mild flavor, but good when dipped in sweet chili sauce. NOTE: These guys have to be baked in an oven or toaster oven

General reminders that it’s important to have a balanced diet — which means eating foods besides frozen meals — and that despite my obvious love of Trader Joe’s I’m not compensated in any way for mentioning brands or products. Just trying to save emerging adults the disappointment of buying and trying underwhelming frozen meals.

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

(Photo is a free stock photo because my freezer doesn’t have the aesthetic.)

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Remembrance and responsibility

Today is the Fourth of July. Almost 250 years ago, what’s now my country declared its independence from the nation ruling over them. The holiday is often celebrated with barbecues and fireworks, and in my case watching Independence Day and Armageddon because it’s family tradition.

The United States has come a long way in almost 250 years. Countless men and women fought, and many died, to bring us to where we are today. When our founding documents were written, “We the people, by the people, for the people” didn’t include all people. I’m proud to say that we’ve recognized how many more are included in that ideal.

But I’ll be honest. We still have a long way to go. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my country. But refusing to acknowledge its faults isn’t love; it’s blind nationalism. There are still a lot of people who don’t get treated like equal citizens. There are those who demean and harm immigrants, when immigration and opportunity is what our country was built on. Far too many of us forget not just the legacy, but the lives of the nations that called this land home before we took it over, and those who still do. There are those who have fought for our freedoms and rights in the armed services, only to be pushed to the outskirts of society without proper thank or care.

We overpay executives and underpay teachers. We can be arrogant and selfish. We overbuy, under-give, and let the waste pile up. We forget the lessons of our elders and dismiss the young out of hand. We create problems and then act like it’s not our responsibility to help fix them. We ignore the hard truths in favor of sound bites and sensationalism. We are quick to idolize, and quick to tear down. We let our citizens and our fellow humans suffer, sometimes at our own hand. We excuse and enable abuses of power. We feed on anger and pointing fingers until we’ve slung so much mud we don’t recognize ourselves. We forget where we came from, and we forget our neighbor.

But we also have good. We band together when tragedy strikes. We speak out until change is realized. We dig our heels in when the work gets tough. We defend our ideals with every ounce of strength we have. We learn from the generations before us. We labor to give our children the life we wanted. We create, innovate, and explore out of wholehearted curiosity and opportunity. We speak dozens of languages, represent scores of cultures, and still remain individuals. We uphold free speech, free press, and democratic values. We value education and grit, not just pedigree. We root for the underdog. We are a country made of histories, a people made up of infinitely more peoples. We do not have one definition. And that’s what I’m proud of.

So happy Fourth of July to all 50 states, as well as all the U.S. citizens who inhabit Puerto Rico, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus U.S. nationals in American Samoa. This holiday, let’s honor our veterans, learn from our history, and care for our neighbor. That sounds a lot like freedom to me.

How do you celebrate Independence Day? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Fourth!

P.S. If you’re looking for specific ways to help make a difference, you can:

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So you got into a spat

It happens. We’re all humans. I’ve gotten into more than my fair share lately. I’m not going to tell you how to avoid them, because that should be fairly obvious — even if difficult to do all the time. I really, really wish that this was one of the things we all had to learn in school — along with personal finances, ethics, and media literacy — but we’re definitely better off learning it in emerging adulthood than later on in life.

I’ve gotten into my fair share of spats, and as much as they aren’t fun they’re a normal part of imperfect people interacting and trying to relate to each other. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned how to better recover from them, and how to prioritize the person and the relationship over being right or just trying to get the outcome I want. These are the best tips I’ve learned to do that:

  • Apologize for what you did. Chances are you contributed to the disagreement, and/or hurt the other person’s feelings. Own it. A big part of this can be what you’ll work to do better in the future, because then it’s not just “I’m sorry,” but builds on it to work toward a better situation next time the issue comes up.
  • Don’t apologize for what you didn’t do. I’ve talked before about having a tendency to say sorry too much. Own up to what you did, but don’t over-apologize and make yourself feel unnecessarily guilty.
  • Explain how the disagreement made you feel. This is where you say your piece, which (important note!) is different than asking the other person to apologize. This is where I language comes in key.
  • Ask if they’re good. Or okay, or whatever word floats your boat. The point is to touch base, to check that they’re starting to feel better, and to give them a chance to share how they’re feeling. Make sure that if and when they choose to share, you’re really listening.
  • Make sure you’re good. If something’s still bothering you, now’s the time to bring it up. If something outside of the spat is bothering you, ask yourself whether it might have contributed. If it did, talk it through with the other person.
  • Ask if you (plural) are good. This one, for me, often feels like the most crucial before I can begin to emotionally move on from the disagreement. Beyond knowing that the other person is doing okay, and being honest about whether I am, it’s important to me know that whatever the spat was about hasn’t done some irreparable damage, or even just had a bigger impact than I realized.
  • End on a good note. My boyfriend is really good about this, and I’m exceptionally grateful that he’s taught me to be as well. If we were upset about anything, we try not to end the conversation on that note. Even if that means staying on the phone longer, staying up later, whatever. Talk about silly, insignificant stuff or what you’ll be up to the next day or tell a joke or bring up a fond memory. No matter what it is, finding something positive to transition to will help clean the slate and make it easier to let go of residual negative emotion.

What have you found most helpful when recovering from a disagreement with someone? 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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In each other we trust (maybe)

Trust is a weird thing. A lot of us aren’t good at it. I’ll be honest enough to say that though I try to be open-minded and think the best of people, the list of folks I trust implicitly is pretty small. In a simultaneously polarized and crowded age, we’re wary of our trust being betrayed. It’s happened at some point or another to most of us, and it’s a horrible feeling. But if we don’t trust we miss out on opportunities, relationships, and even feelings of fulfillment or happy moments.

I’ll go out on a bit of a limb here and say that trust is one of the most important things we still have to learn as an adult. We have to learn to find the balance of trusting while still being reasonably cautious, and it’s not something we just learn once. We have to learn it over again with every person we interact with. When we get it wrong, it can be incredibly painful. But when we get it right, it’s beautiful.

The people I trust most are not only there when I need them, but know that I’m here when they need someone. We may fight now and then, but making up is easier because we know how much we care about one another. We can be our genuine selves with each other, and don’t have to put up fronts. We can rely on each other to keep our word, and we value each other’s opinions even more because of that trust.

Only by trusting each other will we be able to collectively learn and grow. Mind you, I’m not saying you should just go out and put your wholehearted trust in any rando you come across. That’s definitely not safe. It’s also worth saying that having levels of trust is a very, very good thing. How much you trust a stranger on the sidewalk should be different from how much you trust an acquaintance, which should be different from how much you trust a close friend or family member. Having boundaries doesn’t make the trust itself any less valuable. Small extensions of trust — small risks — can help us not only forge new relationships but improve existing ones.

Maybe being more trusting means being open with someone close to you, even when you’d rather not. Maybe it means letting your friend pick the restaurant this time. Maybe it means trusting that putting up a boundary is the healthiest thing, because sometimes trust has to be earned. Maybe it means delegating tasks at work, or asking for input. Maybe it means trusting yourself.

So on this fine Wednesday morning, let’s appreciate trust among the people we’re close to, and even start extending it a little at a time. In what ways has trust helped you? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!