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A year at work

This week (yesterday, to be more precise) was my 1-year anniversary at my job. This isn’t my first legit job, or the first one to take up full-time hours, but it is my first legit and full-time job.

I consider myself pretty fortunate. I didn’t have to work in high school other than odd jobs like tutoring and babysitting. I worked in college, but usually only part-time with hours that worked around my classes — and I was compensated in scholarship funds, which made school a lot more affordable (because scholarships aren’t taxed, every penny you earn actually goes toward tuition). After college, I nannied for a wonderful family part-time while I saved up and then hunted for a full-time gig. My first real adulting job is actually in my field. A lot of other folks can only say a couple of those things, if any.

No matter where you’re at on the job/career spectrum, you’ve probably got quite a bit left to learn (I definitely do). And you’ve probably learned quite a bit already (I definitely have).

So in honor of a year at my job, here are some of the things I’ve learned that I’d like to bring with me in my future career path and share with anyone else who might find it helpful:

  • Don’t sell yourself short. Is this my first proper, adult job? Yup. Was I underqualified when I was hired? Absolutely not. I actually exceeded all the requirements (i.e. 7 years of experience instead of the 2 years asked for). A lot of the experience was in an academic setting or not for pay, but it meant I could do the job. I had never officially worked in marketing before, but had still done the tasks in a variety of other contexts. Own your skills, experience, and qualities, and ask for what you deserve.
  • “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer. You want to stand out from the crowd? Admit when you don’t know something, and follow it up with steps you could take to learn whatever it is you don’t know. I spent too much time believing people when they told me “I don’t know” isn’t a real answer, and it messed me up. Be humble, and then grow knowledge where you can.
  • Tact is good. Hedging is not. This is especially prominent among women in the workforce, but happens with men as well. Please, please be thoughtful and intentional about how you interact with coworkers or clients — whether that’s  raising an idea, disagreeing, etc. But don’t undercut your input by over-cushioning anything you say. I talk more about it in this post, and this article has some more advice on that front.
  • Make friends. I have a whole separate post on this, but the gist is that — especially if you moved to a new area for work — your coworkers are going to be your de facto social nexus purely based on the hours you spend working. If you’re willing, strike up conversations at appropriate times or join in on activities outside the workplace. For example, I regularly ask coworkers about things they’ve mentioned in their personal lives, and joined the office softball team for a social opportunity even though it is not my sport.
  • Ask for feedback. In the past year, there have been times I felt like I was totally underperforming, but my colleagues actually thought I was doing great. There have also been times when I thought I had an assignment handled and made big mistakes. The best way to gauge how you’re doing is to literally ask. If you don’t feel comfortable asking your manager/boss right now, ask a coworker who sees the actual work you do.
  • Identify where you want to grow. You don’t have to know where you’ll be in 5 years or 10 years or what your dream job is. But you should know how you want to improve, what you want to learn, and what loose trajectory you want to aim toward. Achievable goals should be able to be measured in some form, and have a method of accountability (that could be a timeline, someone to check up on you, or something else entirely).
  • Remember the basics. Be nice, work hard, listen well, pay attention. General good employee stuff.
  • Your job is not your life. If you live in the U.S. (or another high-productivity focused nation like Japan or the U.K.), we tend to lose sight of this one. If your job is also your passion, that’s awesome. It still shouldn’t be your whole life. I limit this by not having my work email on my phone (I do have Slack), and trying really hard to set clear boundaries between my work life and the rest of my life. Unplug when you get home if you can. Take a vacation when you can. Set time limits for doing or talking about work if you need to. This doesn’t mean not to work hard, but simply a reminder to live outside of work.

I really enjoy my job, but know I likely won’t be doing it forever (as of 2016, Millennials were reported to change career-type jobs an average of 4 times in their first decade after college). But it’s a good fit for now, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn in my second year.

What has your first big job taught you? 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 the camera angles at my desk are not prime.)

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So long 2018

2018 ended fairly similar to how it started: not the way I had envisioned. Of course, this time it was alone on my couch instead of asleep too early on a friend’s bedroom floor, but you get the picture. Actually, not what I’d envisioned sums up the whole year pretty well.

The last year has included some of my most treasured memories and proudest achievements — getting engaged to the person I love more than anything, moving out and starting my first full-time job, surprising my little sister for her 10th birthday and my family for Christmas, my first tattoo, a phenomenal trip to Europe, getting my writing accepted for publication, and so many wonderful moments with loved ones.

But I have to be honest. Between those gems, the rest of the year has felt like a slog and sometimes worse. Not that I ever expect life to be easy, but this year was the most difficult one I’ve been through, period. It both dragged on and raced past, and was always ready to dole out another hit as soon as I got back up (sometimes before). The stuff that happened a year or even 6 months ago feels as blurry as things that happened several years ago.

Some of it I don’t care to remember. Some of it will never leave. Some of it is far from over. It has been a constant struggle to stay tender-hearted enough to avoid apathy or resignation, and to stay strong enough that every new thing life sends my way isn’t completely overwhelming.

Still, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I’ve learned and grown and have been incredibly fortunate in a lot of regards. But if all the things that have happened in the last year — good and bad — have one collective lesson to offer, it’s this: There will always be pain and there will always be beauty, and all you can control is how you respond to them. The world is a wonderful, meaningful, screwed up place. People are capable of unfathomable good and unimaginable malice. Life doesn’t stop or slow down, no matter how much to want it to — whether it’s to savor the moment or catch a break.

Very little is constant. Love, hope, and faith are — but you have to nurture them. I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions, and there’s no way to know what a new year will bring. But whatever does come, I’m hoping to respond to the good things more readily and not let the challenges drag me down. I changed a lot in the last year, and it’s hard to say how much of it was growth. This year I’m hoping to grow more instead of just reacting.

What lesson do you want to bring into the new year? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and here’s to adulting in the new year!

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Power to the purchaser

Having finally gotten back from running way too many errands, at the tail end of a season of rampant consumerism, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the way we buy things. If you’re reading this, chances are you live in a mostly capitalism-driven economy. That reality, of course, come with pros and cons. One of the cons is that companies and corporations sometimes prioritize profit over integrity and ethical practices. One of the pros is that you, as a consumer, get to choose what companies you give money to.

This means that any practice or belief you hold to strongly can, in theory, be supported further through what you do or don’t buy (and who you do or don’t buy from). This might mean buying organic produce and free-range chicken products, not buying products that were tested on animals, or ensuring that something you buy is local or fair trade.

Sometimes, of course, convenience or cost may make sticking to any buying preferences difficult if not impossible. For many emerging adults who are on stricter budgets than more established adults, sometimes purchasing power is a lot more limited than we’d like.

Here are some quick numbers:

  • Despite Millennials earning only 62.6% of the pre-tax income that Gen-Xers do, housing for Millennials costs an average of 75% of housing costs for Gen-Xers.1
  • Millennials spend two-thirds the amount spent by Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers on entertainment.1
  • 60% of Millennials prefer to purchase generic brands over name brands.2
  • Nearly 50% of Millennials would be more willing to make a purchase from a company if that specific purchase supports a cause.2
  • 81% of Millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to charitable causes and corporate citizenship.3

In other words, a lot of us care how we’re spending our money — even though we have less buying power than older generations do now, and in many cases less than they did at our age. (Caused by things like the fact that in the U.S., college tuition and fees have increased approximately 225% over the last 30 years4, while the average wage index has only increased 26.6%.5)

I care about putting my money where my mouth is as much as is reasonably possible. I’ll buy less from — or cut out completely — brands whose ethics, environmental, and/or labor practices I don’t agree with. But sometimes it’s hard. I love to shop local and support small businesses, but having to buy a bunch of last-minute Christmas gifts meant that Amazon was infinitely more practical.

So how do we balance the two? I don’t have the perfect answer, but these are a few practices I’m going to be trying to implement more in 2019:

  • Read the labels. This is literally the easiest one. Look for labels (in-stores or online) that proclaim practices you want to support. And know when it’s just a marketing ploy: organic and fair trade can be certified, but words like “natural” don’t require any proof of standards
  • Source it. Find out where your stuff is coming from. Usually, the closer to home the more sustainably and/or ethically it’s been made. Not always, of course, but buying local also means a smaller carbon footprint!
  • Look into the company. I’m of the mindset that the bigger the company is, the more cautious I need to be about blindly purchasing from them, as large corporations too often hurt the little guy to stuff the pockets of higher-ups. I buy from a lot of chains and big retailers anyways, but I do try to buy less and at least be aware of their practices as a consumer.
  • Know the real cost difference. Keep in mind that sometimes cheap, mass-produced stuff won’t last as long or will be worse for you in the long run than spending a little more for practices and quality you can get behind.
  • Find other ways to support. If you find a brand whose practices you really like and want to support, say so. That can mean telling friends, following them on social media, buying more of their product, whatever.
  • Be honest about what you can afford. I’ll be honest: I don’t buy all fair-trade, sustainable, organic stuff. I can’t afford it all the time, and I know a lot of other folks can’t either. At that point, you have to determine which purchases are worth it to you, and which ones are areas where you’re okay sticking to the status quo.

This is something I definitely don’t do as well as I’d like, but I hope it’s one that we as a society can continuously improve at. As much as I appreciate low costs and convenience, I want to take care of all the people, creatures, and resources that inhabit our world — and that often means saying so with my wallet.

What do you do for more ethical purchasing? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018.

2 Millennial Marketing, 2018.

3 Horizon Media Finger on the Pulse Study, via Forbes, 2014.

4 CollegeBoard, 2018.

5 Social Security Administration, 2017.

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So you blew your budget

Despite meticulous, careful planning, I seriously blew my Christmas shopping budget this year. The biggest reason is that family grew on a few sides — like, last year I bought 12 or 13 gifts total and this year I bought 26 just for family. Plus some gifts cost more than expected, and being busy meant I didn’t make as many presents this year as I usually do.

None of those things are bad, but as someone who is very careful and intentional about finances, it does create a bit of a dilemma. Luckily I’ve found a few things that help bridge the gap.

First, the standard disclaimer that I knew everyone’s financial situation is different, which can make well-intentioned gift giving even trickier than finding the right idea. We all want to give something the person will enjoy and feels nice, but don’t want to break the bank or go too extravagant.

For emerging adults in particular, we’re usually considered grown-up enough to be expected to choose/buy gifts for people on our own, but often non financially established enough to be able to comfortably afford that. Which proves a sticky situation this time of year.

Also, I have some issues with the materialism and the contractualism that have seeped into the holiday season for so many of us, but at the end of the day, I still like giving loved ones gift that hopefully make them happy in some way. So we’ll start off with some ways to save when holiday shopping:

  • Gifts in bulk. I hate giving duplicate gifts, but I also have a crap ton of family. My way around this is usually to choose a category of gift and then try to individualize them for each person. For example, personalized ornaments or a batch of sweets with a note about why I’m grateful for them.
  • DIY when wise. Sometimes, DIY can prove more expensive and more time-consuming than just buying, but if you can do it cost-effectively, it can mean a lot to people that you made something for them rather than just going to the store and buying it.
  • Memories over stuff. Connecting a small gift to a memory or meaningful moment can be a lot more special for a loved one than stuff at all. Experiences, photographs, or even their favorite candy bar with a note show that you care about and know them, not just that you can buy stuff for them.

Sometimes, of course, it’s too late to save. Or just plain hard. I could have gone less overboard with Christmas shopping this year, but I’m not sure I could have stayed in budget, and the closer I got the more I’d be unsure if I was getting each person enough (again, the contractualism thing). So what about after the budget has already been blown?

Here are the most useful methods I’ve found for recovering from going over budget:

  • Cut back in other flexible areas (aka fun stuff). I went over budget on Christmas shopping, so I won’t get to eat out for, like, a couple months. I still have to eat and I’m not going to avoid all fun activities, but I am cutting back quite a bit on what was already a small budget (fun spending makes up about 10% of my monthly budget).
  • See if there are areas you can redistribute. I overspent on Christmas this month but needed way less gas than usual. So I moved some funds around in my budget and brought the deficit down a little.
  • If it’s worth it, it’s okay to pull a little from savings once in a while. Savings isn’t meant to be hoarded forever — but it is meant to be used with careful discretion. I try to save 30% of my income every month (and fully realize that isn’t possible for everyone, though saving some is), and try to only dip into it for large expenses like a vacation — still, of course, setting limits on how much. But I put a little less into savings this month so I know that it’s covered, and because I’ve already saved carefully and doing so doesn’t threaten my emergency fund.
  • Don’t compromise what you shouldn’t. Your bills still have to get paid. For me, how much I donate to charity or people in need every month is also non-negotiable, and not something that consumerism (no matter how holiday-themed) gets to threaten. Those things come first, period.
  • Adjust your budget so you don’t do it again. Few categories of purchase are truly one-time things. So if something ends up costing more than you realized, adjust your budget accordingly so that next time you’re ready. In my case, I’ll be cutting back slightly on fun spending throughout the year as well as lowering the budget for each gift to make sure I’m in a better spot next year.

How do you avoid going over budget, and how do you handle it when you do? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and have a warm and happy holiday season!

(Photo is a free stock photo because I am definitely not done wrapping gifts.)

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Recipes: Homemade chicken soup

Hi all! Sorry posts have been a little extra intermittent lately — trying to stay on top of everything amidst work, travel, wedding planning, and the holidays has proved a challenge. The weather is (finally) chilly here so, especially on a busy schedule, soup is a go-to meal for me.

Once again, let me sing the praises of using a crock pot. This is a super easy recipe, and as long as you’re careful of the sodium content, really healthy. Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • about 1.5 lbs. potatoes (I used baby golden potatoes, but any work)
  • 1 full stalks celery
  • about 2/3 lb. carrots
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (you can use any, but this is the easiest to deal with)
  • about 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • a hearty amount of garlic powder and Italian seasoning
  • salt & pepper to tasteIMG_8302

Instructions:

  1. Halve onion, peel outer layer off, and cut off ends. If you like onion, you can chop a little into small pieces for the actual soup, but mostly it’s here for flavor during the cooking process.
  2. Wash and chop all remaining veggies into whatever size you’re comfortable being in a bite.
  3. Layer veggies into crock pot in this order (so the things that need to cooke more are on the bottom): onion, potatoes, carrots, celery. Then top with seasoning.IMG_8301.jpg
  4. Add chicken breasts on top, and season again.
  5. Pour broth and water around chicken.
  6. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.IMG_8307.jpg
  7. Remove chicken from bowl and shred (can just use two forks), then return to crock pot and allow to warm.
  8. Serve and enjoy!IMG_8308.jpg

Cost about $17, makes about 8 servings

For my first time making soup, this was definitely a success. It had plenty of flavor and was really hearty, but next time I make it I’d like to try adding more seasoning, as both the chicken and potatoes were a tad bland for my taste. You can also substitute some of the veggies if there are ones you like better, or use egg noodles instead of potatoes (add them for the last hour of cooking instead of at the beginning).

Also note that technically I spent more on ingredients, but only used 1/2 or 2/3 of each thing on this batch, as the cost above reflects. This also makes so much soup. Unless you really, really love soup, it might not be a dish to make for just yourself. If you aren’t already cooking for more people, you can give some to a friend or potentially freeze some for later in the season. Just make sure to be careful that the baggie doesn’t break!

What’s your favorite comfort soup? 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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Perfection and other myths

Hey all! I know posts have been a little sparser lately; in addition to life being generally busy, it’s been a tougher season personally than I’d anticipated. Unsurprisingly, challenges cropping up means not everything works quite the way I want — including me. Being okay with mistakes and imperfection is the lesson I’ve been trying to get through my head the last 6 months.

In fact, I’ve actually been waiting to talk about it here because I wanted to feel like I had made significant progress first. Mistakes, or simply not being able to do and be everything you want, are realities we all have to come to terms with eventually. It’s not a strong suit of mine. If I make a mistake out of ignorance or some other factor I can’t control, that might be fine. But if I make a mistake out of an oversight, or anything for which I might have “known better,” it’s really hard to get over.

And frankly, it’s super unhealthy. It means I tend to be too rigid, am easily and often stressed, and have a hard time moving on and rolling with the punches. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that becomes even more painful and pointed for emerging adults. Many of us are feeling ridiculous pressure to perform perfectly in so many areas: work, school, family, social life, romantic relationships, even general adulting. The weight we often put on ourselves to be essentially perfect in all these areas can be crippling. It usually means we’re overworked and stressed, but can also lead to initiating or exacerbating mental health issues, physical illness, and strained relationships.

I’d love to offer some epiphany or magic formula for learning to not hold ourselves to such debilitating, difficult standards, but the truth is it’s a long often personal process. You’ve got to figure out what drives that feeling, and then how to combat it.

That being said, I have found a couple of things that help:

Talk yourself through it. I’m not a huge fan of the “what’s the worst that could happen?” trick because I can always imagine incredibly horrible things resulting from tiny mistakes. Instead, try asking “what’s likely to happen?” It brings a reality-check back into the thought process, and makes it easier to not feel like any tiny shortcoming will bring the whole castle down.

Reframe it. Instead of looking at the less-than-ideal thing and panicking that it went wrong, or focusing on what you should have done better, honestly assess whether there is a need to fix/address the thing or if it’s better to move on. If you can do something about it, do that. If not, tell yourself it’s just a small thing, that you’re allowed to make mistakes, that you don’t have to be perfect, and (try to) let it go.

Search your feelings. When you start to feel any of the negative emotions that can come with not meeting personal expectations of perfection (frustration, disappointment, stress, anxiety, etc.), acknowledge what you’re feeling. Name it, and analyze what’s making you feel that way. Think about how your body is expressing that emotion, through tension, cortisol, or some other thing, and instead of being in all those feelings, try to look at them from the outside. This perspective shift can work wonders.

Don’t project. I can’t stress this one enough. You feeling a need to be perfect is a you thing. Projecting that expectation onto other people and expecting them to live up to every mental standard you set is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy. It’s not good for you because you’ll be constantly disappointed, it’s not fair to the other person, and it can easily damage relationships.

No one cares. Being quite this blunt isn’t always helpful, but it is important to keep in mind that it’s very likely you care about this far more than anyone else. Things go wrong. People aren’t perfect. For the most part, other people won’t expect you to be. Remembering that can help make it easier to not expect yourself to be perfect either.

Find ways to relax. This looks different for everybody, so you’ve got to find what work best for you. Some of my favorite options that I can do often are spending time outside, cooking or baking, doing yoga, and meditation. Sometimes you might need a stronger emotional release like hard exercise or crying, and that’s okay too.

Use the buddy system. Have one or two people who you can talk to when you’re feeling this way, and who will remind you that it’s okay to not be perfect and to make mistakes. You’re still learning and growing and it’s a journey that none of us will ever fully reach the end of. And that’s completely okay.

Progress isn’t linear. You will have days or stretches where you’ll be doing a lot better, and days or months where you feel like you’ve backslid. That’s normal. Give yourself the grace to make progress at your own pace.

I hope that helps! If you have any ideas to add, feel free to comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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Not another notification

Sometimes social media is way too much. Let me preface this with the fact that I am (hopefully obviously) in no way against social media outright. I think it’s useful, I appreciate the benefits, and overall for me the pros outweigh the cons. But some days, the cons loom really, really large.

As emerging adults — and specifically Millennials/Gen Z — we’re young enough to be native to the latest technology, and old enough to be responsible for the ways we engage with them and allow them to affect us. That’s no small ask.

If I’m being completely honest, there are few things that get under my skin more than older generations bagging on younger generations for being plugged in to technology. I’m on my phone a lot. But most of the time I’m using it to stay in touch with people whom I otherwise wouldn’t be able to, whether it’s messaging a friend about a joke I heard or Facetiming my family across the country. Following that, I’m likely using it as a tool; my navigation, calculator, news, to-do list, and more are all contained in that one handy device. And sometimes, it’s pure entertainment. I’m looking at cute animal videos or playing the one game I have and am completely okay with that.

Of course, there are times to put the phone, or other tech, away. It’s never cool to be disruptive or impolite at a show or event. When you’re having more than the most casual of conversations with someone, they deserve your attention. Sometimes it’s just time to go to bed or go outside or read a book. But I want to be clear that the issues arise in when and how technology like phones and social media get used, not the fact that it’s used at all.

Including the ones for this blog, I consistently use six social media accounts on four platforms. I have limits set for all of them to keep any from becoming too much of a rabbit hole — or at least, from letting myself go too far down it. Some of them have time limits or a number of posts I’m allowed to scroll through before moving on, some of them I try to check a limited number of times per day. A couple of them are more of a self-contained “honor system” where I’m honest with myself about when it’s no longer serving a good purpose and I put it away.

But sometimes those don’t work. This morning I opened up my phone and within a few minutes just felt inundated and bogged down by the quantity and content of posts and ads and opinions and so on. I’m pretty introverted, and sometimes forget that even social media takes energy and a mental/emotional toll to engage with. When it starts to feel overwhelming like that, I walk away. Usually I’ll stay off of certain platforms for a while or set stricter limits on the time I do spend. There are no set rules to it, just an acknowledgment and response to knowing that the dopamine we get from scrolling isn’t worth the rest of what it’s costing me right now.

The lesson here is simple, but not always easy. It’s entirely up to us to know when it’s worthwhile to engage with such complicated beasts as social media. To know when it’s too much, when it benefits us or helps build relationships, when more important things are in front of us, and when we could just use a break.

It’s something most of us are still working on, and will hopefully strike a better balance of as time goes on. What are your favorite tips for not letting social media become overwhelming? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. If you’re looking for a song in this vein, I highly recommend “Look On Up” by Relient K.

(Photo is a free stock photo again because of the whole camera phone conundrum.)