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Raining and pouring and such

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documents/finances

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

Home Ec

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

Fix-it

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

Get *cultured*

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

Misc.

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

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

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The mirror is a double-edged sword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yeah I’m afraid. So what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Advice isn’t one size fits all

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Exercise, for real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gifting season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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