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(Being good at) solo travel

Last weekend I was up in the Portland area for a dear friend’s wedding, and got the chance to spend the better part of two days exploring a city I’d never been to before. The more that I saw and did, the more I thought about how grateful I am that I know how to travel alone.

There are, of course, some caveats. Being female, I have to be more careful and conscientious of potential safety risks than men often need to be, and that does tamper some of the brazenly adventurous spirit that I sometimes slip into. I’ve also done almost all of my solo travel in cities for the simple reason that there is lots to see in a small radius, and it’s easier to get around by oneself with fewer resources. My hometown necessitates a car; my favorite cities do not. Lastly, as much as I love traveling alone I don’t always prefer it — nothing can replace the joy of sharing new experiences with other people.

However, I am super glad that I’ve learned how to enjoy independent travel. Some of it is inherent to my personality. I’m pretty introverted, and actually like being anonymous in a big crowd. I am sometimes fiercely independent, and it gives me a joyous opportunity to report to no one and do, basically, whatever I want. Sometimes I’ve traveled alone for the simple reason of not letting other people stop me from seeing things I wanted to see. My parents also did a phenomenal job setting me up to travel well, from teaching me the right balance of enjoying being a tourist to paying attention to the locals, showing me how to make good use of public transportation, and reminding me that there’s always more to explore.

But not everyone has had the same opportunities. I started flying alone at 16, and started exploring cities on my own at 18. But I’ve only recently realized that it’s a skill not as many emerging adults have as I’d previously thought.

So here are some of the things that have helped me the most when traveling solo. (Note that I’m going to skip most general safety measures because most of us have had it drilled into our heads and that’s not where the adventure lies, but of course, prioritize your safety at all times.)

Figure out your tech. When I was in Portland this weekend, Google Maps was my best friend. But I didn’t want to use the data when I was in London, so I had a super handy pocket map of the city that I used to navigate me basically anywhere I needed to go. In Washington, DC, it was a mix of both. I always keep a portable charger (and often my phone charger) with me if I’m going to be out for a whole day. Your tech can be next-gen or analog, just make sure whatever you have will serve your purposes.

Find your ride. This becomes pretty city-specific, but look into what the transportation options are in any city you go to. My best friend gave me a heads up that Portland’s bus system is really convenient, and it cut my transportation costs within the city to $10.50 over 2 days (yes, you read that right). I’m really used to subways and trains, and you can always grab a cab or Lyft if needed.

That being said, you will see more if you walk. I love my mom. She’s great. But she also made me walk miles of San Francisco hills at a young age. Like I didn’t even know you could get a cab easily amount of walking. Now, if I’m exploring a place by myself I have no problem walking 5 to 7 miles in a day. Maybe that means building up your stamina before you go, maybe it means knowing when to walk and when to catch a ride. Most of the time, my rule of thumb is to walk if it’s less than a mile between destinations unless I’m on a time crunch.

Ask for recs. You will be by yourself, and yes the internet is helpful, but ask some friends or family for some of their favorite things to do/see/eat in the place you’ll be going to. I only found out about one of my favorite stops in Athens because I’d asked an old friend for stuff she loved in the city (the Benaki Museum, in case you were wondering). My friends who got married this weekend put a ton of cool stuff on their website that I was able to use to guide my trip planning. People know good stuff — pick their brains for it.

Pick out some must-sees. I tend to center solo trips on one or two things that I can’t miss. In LA, it was a killer Cuban restaurant and Griffith Observatory, both of which I’d been meaning to go to for ages. DC was the National Archives and Air & Space Museum. Portland was Powell’s Books and Washington Park. This provides a few benefits. One, you get to actually make time for the things you’re most excited about. Two, it provides geographical touchpoints that you can plan the rest of your travel around. Knowing that I wanted to see those two things in Portland meant that I not only planned out transportation between them, but that I focused my research on other experiences (mostly food, if we’re being honest) to close by those high-priority items.

Do your research. Things I always research ahead of time: transportation (and where I’m staying if that isn’t already handled), must-sees, some good restaurants, and often a short list of other items of interest. I might not use all of it, but then I have the info and I don’t get overwhelmed by the newness of everything at once. I also tend to save info either as emails to myself or notes on my phone, but do whatever system works best for you.

And know when to not have a plan. This is one of my favorite things about traveling, because while in most of life I hate not having a plan, when traveling it can add to the adventure. Of course the broad strokes are planned, but I make sure to leave room for detours, and lately have started building in time — often toward the end of a trip — that is quite literally meant for whatever I didn’t already get to do. If I actually did everything I wanted, I allow myself to visit a place again or even take a nap. The point is giving yourself the freedom to take your time and not be stuck in a strict schedule.

Bonus tips:

  • Ride public transportation like a local. Stay on the quieter side, bring a book, know your stop, and for goodness sake hold on. And of course, feel free to ask if you do need directions.
  • Have cash and card. A lot of cool, hole-in-the-wall places only take or prefer cash, and some places are now moving to card-only. Be prepared.
  • Tell someone you trust where you are. This is the one safety tip I will give, because it probably gives me the most reassurance. When traveling alone, I make sure someone knows my plan for the day, and periodically check in with where I am. Usually that just means sending a picture of something cool, but it’s also for safety.
  • Store your bag. I just found out about this one during my last trip, but if you’re not staying in a hotel you can store your bag for a while through services like Bagbnb (the one I used) or Vertoe for like $6 a day. If you’re staying at a hotel, they’ll usually hold your bag before and after you check out if you ask (it is best to leave a tip). If you’re really in a pickle and not staying at a hotel, you can always ask if they’ll store your bag, and offer a really good tip.
  • Balance paid with free, or at least inexpensive. I am not made of money. Most emerging adults aren’t. And the thing about solo travel is you can’t split the cost with friends. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid paid stuff — and you’ll have to pay to eat — but for every paid thing you do, have a couple options of free things as well. Last Sunday I spent half a day checking out tons of stuff in Washington Park, and only spent money on one entrance fee (to the Japanese Garden, which is absolutely worth it). Plus a lot of the best places to eat aren’t expensive!

What are your favorite solo travel tips? Hidden gems in cities you’ve been to? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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How to keep your dang house clean

[First, a quick announcement. I am officially moving post days to Thursdays because apparently that is now what works better for my schedule. Ta da, Thursdays!]

We’re all adults here. I’m going to assume you know how to use a vacuum and do your laundry. I’ll be gracious enough to assume you know how to complete most household cleaning. My parents made sure that I did before I left for college, and for the new or more specific things I’ve encountered, Google or a quick call home have served me well.

The thing I really had no way of knowing until I moved into my own apartment, though, was how often each type of cleaning needed to be done. I know how often my mom asked me to do stuff back home, but different living spaces get dirty differently. So, if you’ll forgive the pun, here’s the quick and dirty on how to keep your living space clean.

The “gotta start somewhere” clean

Also known as this is so overwhelming or I am exhausted but must get one responsible adult thing done before digging into the ice cream.

  • Make your bed
  • Put away any clean laundry, and toss what’s dirty in the hamper
  • Clean off tabletops and countertops, or at least put the junk in organized piles
  • Do the dishes
  • Take out the trash
  • Open and window and/or light a candle

The key here is creating a clean visual palette. Even though you didn’t physically clean very much, this dramatically reduces visual (and olfactory!) clutter, and is the fastest way to feel like you’ve got a freshened space.

The “mother-in-law” clean

My actual mother coined this one, but basically it’s how clean your place should be to have guests over.

  • All of the above, plus:
  • Sweep and/or vacuum all floors. (Pro tip: Move your furniture at least every other time you do this so you’re actually getting all the dust, hair, and other gunk chilling on your floor.)
  • Wipe down all tables and countertops. For wood, use a wet cloth and then immediately dry the surface. For tile or laminate, 409 is my favorite because it cleans and disinfects without being too harsh or toxic. For granite, use 409 and then a granite cleaner.
  • I’ve tried some different options, but a microfiber or otherwise fuzzy, dry cloth gently wiped over basically any horizontal surface is the most effective method.
  • Thoroughly wipe down the stove with 409 or soap and water, until it is sparkling clean and entirely residue-free. (Pro tip: For dark/stainless steel stovetops or other kitchen appliances, finish up with a little glass cleaner to avoid streaks.)
  • After you do the dishes, scrub the sink. Your dishes will not be clean if you do not wash the sink fairly often.
  • Wipe down cabinets, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces. 409 or Clorox wipes are usually my preference.
  • Clean the bathroom properly. Scrub the inside of the toilet (pour in some toilet cleaner, let it soak for 10ish minutes, then scrub) and wipe down the outside — including under the seat, because ew. Scrub and rinse the shower with 409 or Scrubbing Bubbles. Do the countertops if you haven’t already. Clean the mirror with paper towels and a good glass cleaner (this one’s my favorite).

The “how did dirt even get there” clean

Also known as the deep clean, the spring clean, the once in a while but very necessary clean.

  • All of the above (yes, both lists), plus:
  • Mop. I hate mopping. It might be my least favorite chore. But we scrub everything else, we gotta do the floors too. (And tools like the Swiffer wet jet make it easier.)
  • Wash the windows. You don’t have to be intense about this if it doesn’t deeply matter to you, but at least be intentional with some glass cleaner and paper towels.
  • Clean under and around your stove. If you can get in between it and the counters, do that. Many electric stovetops actually lift up, so be sure to clean under there as well.
  • Polish any wood furniture by rubbing it down with Old English, followed by a soft cloth and plenty of time to dry.
  • Scrub the walls. Yes, I am serious. Yes, I do this every few months. You don’t have to get every square inch, but dude they get gross. Especially important in bathrooms, kitchens, and dining areas, take a Clorox wipe or cloth with a little soap and water and wipe down as much as you can in the 2-to-5-foot height zone — lower if you have pets or kids. Get realllllllly close to the walls. See the gunk. Clean the gunk. (This also means wiping down baseboards!)
  • Get in around your shower (or any other place in the bathroom that isn’t the same color it used to be), and scrub aggressively with a toothbrush, a little Soft Scrub, and a splash of water. At my old apartment mold built up kind of quickly in the shower, and this took care of it better than anything. Also works great for the kitchen sink!
  • If you can, clean any vents or filters (including those under and behind your fridge). This helps increase electricity efficiency as well as heating and cooling effectiveness, plus keeps your air quality from getting gross.
  • Clean your trash cans. Bet you forgot about that one. Think of all the stuff that thing touches. It should really get cleaned now and again.
  • Wash your comforters, mattress covers, and pillows. Admittedly, I’m not the best about this one, but it is important!
  • Purge your stuff. This is not traditional cleaning, but it makes a big difference in giving your space a fresh start.

I love having a clean space, but I do not love cleaning. But if I can see dirt I can’t go very long without doing something about it. You may not notice it, or the place you’re living may hide it well (for example, the tan speckled countertops at my new apartment hide dirt way better than the white tile at my old place). But it is still there, and sadly still needs to be cleaned.

Don’t feel bad if spot cleanings have to get you by until you’re able to do a more thorough cleaning, but also don’t do the gnarly college student thing and just let grossness pile up. This is your home, and you are an adult. Even though it’s a chore, you should get to enjoy that.

What did I miss? What are your favorite cleaning tips? Let me know in a comment below or in Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(P.S. Usual disclaimer that I don’t get anything for mentioning or linking to specific products, I just mention them because I’ve used them for years and actually stand by how much I like them.)

(Photo is a free stock photo because taking a picture of me cleaning seems weird?)

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Stories in all shapes and sizes

Recently, I’ve been making a really concerted effort to consume media created by people who are different from me. It’s not about diversity points, though this has made the media I’ve consumed more diverse. The point is to learn and to build compassion.

I don’t throw a whole lot about the details of my personal beliefs up on this blog for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that a one-sided “conversation” over the internet is just about the worst place to have constructive, life-giving interactions about subjects so closely tied to identity and other hot-button issues.

I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. Sure, I share advice and recommendations on this blog, but you’re free to take them or leave them. I’m sure years down the road I will have changed my mind about some of them. The point of this blog is to be a resource for emerging adults, because as an emerging adult, I felt frustrated by the lack of information and guidance in my sphere of existence.

But that’s just it. Over the course of my life (and the last couple of years in particular), my sphere of existence has grown immensely. I don’t mean how many friends I have — that number, in all reality, has gone down as relationship-building is no longer aided by the convenience of being in school together. I mean how I understand the world. How I see it, think about it, interact with it. And of course, how I see, think about, and interact with the people in it.

I’ve written before about how grateful I am that I grew up loving books, and how important reading is to building empathy and expanding one’s worldview. And it goes beyond books. TV shows, movies, podcasts, music, art or creative works of any kind are coming from a person (or group of people) with a history and a perspective.

And in theory, everyone’s perspective is different from my own. But there’s a lot of room for nuance in there. Someone who grew up in the same town as me and went to the same high school still has a different perspective on the world, but not in the same way as someone who grew up in a drastically different environment on the other side of the country or another continent. Innumerable factors play into this, but if I only listen to the voices that sound like me, think like me, look like me, and are treated like me, I would be drastically stunting the opportunity to learn about what’s beyond my own experience.

Particularly as someone who has had a great deal more opportunities and good fortune in life than, frankly, the majority of the world’s population, it is my privilege to push the boundaries of my understanding and create room in my life for voices that I haven’t heard from as often.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t consume or enjoy media and creative works from people who are very similar to me. If it’s enjoyable and benefits me without harming others, great. It’s simply about learning to find the balance between enjoying what I’m interested in, and noticing when what I’ve been taking in reflects too narrow a portion of the stories that are unfolding on this planet.

This goal, of course, is meant to be tempered by sensibility. I am not responsible to seek out voices that spend more time on vitriol than on empathy, or voices that cause or perpetuate harm — especially toward those who are especially vulnerable to such harm. I’m nobody’s keeper, but it is far more worthwhile for me to use what power I have to learn and grow — and when appropriate, to invite others to do the same.

A few of the ways I’ve been looking for media from different perspectives:

  • Asking for recommendations from others who have the same goal, or who are different from me. I’m in a book club right now that’s been great for that, but I also keep an eye out for social media posts, listen to podcasts, and get a few emails weekly that recommend new content to me.
  • Notice when media I’m consuming (visual art, music, TV, etc.) feels a little too much like what I’m used to. I was making a playlist a while back and realized that there wasn’t a lot of demographic diversity in the artists I was choosing — and that the musical diversity was suffering as a cause. I searched out some folks of different backgrounds that had a similar vibe to the original tracks, and found some new music I really enjoy in the process, while also supporting artists that likely get less airtime.
  • Enjoy it. As important as I think multiple perspectives are, there are also particular stories or creators that I go back to simply because their work connects with me, and that’s okay. My goal is never to exclude what I want to enjoy, simply to expand the horizons of what I perceive as available to enjoy.

Finally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED Talk a few years back called “The Danger of a Single Story” that has really stuck with me, and encapsulates the importance of my point here far more poignantly than I’ve managed to. If you have 20 minutes, I would highly, highly recommend checking it out.

What are your favorite ways to find media recommendations outside your norm? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I am still locked out of my Instagram account, and am afraid I may need to start over on that front. Please continue to bear with me for the time being (and also hit me up if you have any solutions, as support hasn’t been able to help)!

(Photo is a free stock photo because the title is both a metaphor and quite literal.)

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Recipes: Mostly healthy breakfast cookies

I’m nothing if not honest, and honestly if it’s the kind of day where I have to be somewhere before 10 a.m. I do not want to put a lot of effort into my breakfast. I need breakfast desperately — unfortunately I am prone to both low blood sugar and being hangry when I don’t eat within about 7 minutes of realizing I’m hungry.

It’s also worth noting that for whatever reason, my body needs carb-heavy breakfasts. Eggs and bacon don’t do the trick for me unless I have toast as well. At my old job, we had a really convenient kitchen in the office, so when I got in, I would just make a quick breakfast. At first it was a bagel and cream cheese, then when I got on this health kick (somehow still mostly going), it switched to a grainy toast and almond butter.

But, umm, the kitchen at my new job is far from my desk and the appliances are used by a lot more people. So my old plan didn’t really work anymore. I tried breakfast before I left, and that didn’t go so well. While I reluctantly admit that I’m a morning person, I’m also task-oriented and constantly maneuvering plans and possible action paths. Which means I know that if my bed is cozy or I spend an extra couple minutes picking out clothes, I won’t have time to make breakfast and will end up eating a protein bar. Which, in a pinch, is fine. But is not good for a day-to-day routine.

A month or two back, for part of meatless Monday, my best friend made breakfast cookies. They were delicious, and more filling than I expected. So I decided to try out my own recipe. Please take the disclaimer that it is a work in progress, but it’s close enough that I’m ready to share it. Final disclaimer: I know this is a lot of ingredients, but the labor is so simple that it’s definitely worth it in my mind.

Ingredients:

  • about 2 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1-2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. flour (if you’re gluten-free, substitute with protein powder or another flour)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips*
  • 1/4 cup craisins*
  • 2-3 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 small container applesauce (4 oz.)
  • 1 egg (can use mashed banana for vegan option)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (I use almond, but pick whatever you like)

* Substitute with mix-ins of your choice (seeds and dried fruit are especially great)IMG_8944

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (aka everything listed before the applesauce).img_8945.jpg
  3. In a small/medium bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients.IMG_8946
  4. Once thoroughly mixed, blend the wet mixture into the bowl with dry ingredients.
  5. Use two spoons to form rounds on cookie sheet (you may need to use the spoons to encourage them to be, y’know, round).
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Enjoy! (They don’t need to be refrigerated, but do seal in an airtight container and consume within 1 week.)

IMG_8949

Cost about $5**, makes about 20 cookies (6-7 servings).

Easy enough, right? Right. Now, these cookies are still a little more crumbly than I’d like — I haven’t figured out the right trick to get them to stick together better after they bake. But they’re hearty, a little sweet, and remarkably low on sugar while still sneaking in some protein and other nutrients.

What I love most about these cookies is how easy they are. Breakfast can be an issue for a lot of emerging adults and adults in general. If you’re busy, you may not have time to make things or have the resources for popular healthy options. I make these about once a week, and then my breakfasts are handled. Plus I feel like I’m getting a little sweetness while also giving my body the energy it needs in the morning.

What are your favorite breakfast recipes? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

**Please bear with me on the price estimate, it’s super rough. I buy most of it in bulk and already had a lot around the house. The most expensive part is probably the seeds or nut butter, but each amount of ingredient is pretty small so things last a while.

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Deserve is not a dirty word

Ooh, this can be a touchy one. I don’t know what your thoughts (or perhaps more importantly, feelings) about the word “deserve” are, but mine are… complicated. Thankfully, my parents made sure I wasn’t allowed to grow up entitled, and they placed a lot more emphasis on ideas like “earn” than deserve. But I naturally have a strong sense of duty and an unhealthy bend toward perfectionism, which means sometimes I take that too far.

When I say perfectionism I don’t mean the annoying job interview thing where you say, “Oh, I just can’t stop until I’ve gotten things just right.” I mean the nagging, overthinking sort of perfectionism that sparks worry and thought spirals of everything that could go wrong if I don’t do literally everything perfectly. (If you’ve ever seen The Good Place, Chidi is a prime example.)

Add all that in to the negative messages society and companies are throwing at us all day long that we’re not good enough on our own, that we always need something, and it’s a bit of a mess. As a result, I let myself spend a lot of years thinking that if I said I “deserved” anything I was being selfish or arrogant.

But that’s simply not true. I deserve quite a lot of good things.

Of course, I don’t deserve every good thing under the sun. I can’t have anything I want period, let alone just because I want it. But there’s a lot of room between that level of entitlement and doubting I even deserve the space I take up or the love friends and family give. And it takes a developed sense of discernment to know where the line is, but it’s a really important part of being not just an adult, but an emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy person.

I am just as prone to flaws and bad decisions as everyone else, even if they’re different ones. But I’m also just as capable of goodness and light and compassion. I’m just as worthy of love and respect. I deserve my space in this world. I deserve to matter, and to not feel guilty about that. I deserve to extend myself the same forgiveness and grace that I (try to) offer other people. I deserve to feel happy. I deserve to feel. I deserve to pay attention to what I need, and to take time to refill or reset. I deserve the effort it takes to live a good life. I deserve life.

I deserve good things.

Just saying that still feels awfully uncomfortable, but as part of a concerted effort to emphasize positive thinking and weaken negative thought patterns, it’s important.

This seems to be something younger generations are getting a bit better at, but especially as emerging adults life can sometimes get so chaotic that it starts to slip away. Hopefully for each of us, that can begin to be less.

One last thing to add: As important as it is to allow and embrace the good, honest, human things we deserve, it’s just as important to turn that outward. Every person you interact with, every life you encounter, also deserves their chance. It really just comes down to the Golden Rule, and the reminder that it goes both directions.

What message have you been trying to remind yourself of lately? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. Normally I like these topics to be more focused on you who are reading it, but the whole point of the exercise is that it’s okay to turn positive attention inward; so both to demonstrate and to practice, it seemed best to keep the post as-is, with its many uses of “I” and all.

P.P.S. Though by no means the first people to emphasize this, the guys from Queer Eye (which I’ve been watching lately along with everyone else) provided the reminder I needed recently, and I wanted to credit that.

(Photo is a free stock photo because I haven’t been up early enough to catch this in a while.)

 

 

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A little change (or a lot)

Some exciting news — I started a new job this week! The last month has been full of some quite bad and lots of very good things, and there will be more updates coming, but I’m excited to finally be able to share the news.

And, of course, to share the lesson I learned: Sometimes change is the most needed when you least expect it. I really enjoyed my previous job, and many of the people there. But my new coworkers are also amazing, and I’m stoked about the opportunities to grow and learn in my new role.

While I like to think I’m good at handling change, I’m not always the most comfortable with it (there’s a reason my adult apartment has the same couch my parents wanted to get rid of when I was 7). I’m deeply sentimental, like things to be organized and predictable, and am a real big fan of my comfort zone. But that’s not usually where progress happens.

Enter, change. My gut instinct is usually a little better at signing on board for adventures and quality changes than my worry-prone brain. The trick is listening to both, and deciding who deserves a stronger say in the situation at hand. And that right there is one of the great balances we’re all trying to learn as emerging adults: when to trust our gut or our head, when to take a chance or play it safe.

There’s no perfect rule of thumb, and making a flowchart would be impossible. Your guess is as good as mine. As long as it’s an educated guess, and you’ve done your research and prep, you’ll probably land on your feet. I’ve shared some things that help me when it comes to assessing change and making big decisions.

Today I just want to offer some encouragement. A year ago or even 2 months ago, I didn’t know I’d be where I’m at now. And it’s a time that is exceptionally busy and full of challenges. But it’s also full of some of the most genuine happiness I can imagine, and the opportunity for so many wonderful things to come.

I don’t know where you’re at, or what big life moments you’re facing (or will be soon). But I know you can handle them. After all, you’ve made it this far.

I’d love to hear any encouraging words you guys have to offer in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this is how I imagine new opportunities.)

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Fixing up flesh wounds

Being the brilliant athlete that I am, I completely trashed my knee playing softball yesterday. Got a base hit, ran, and right at first I fell for exactly zero reason. Impact. Slide. Roll. My knee is not a pretty sight right now.

Which made me realize that, on the off chance you haven’t learned by now, proper first aid and handling of injuries is a vital emerging adult skill.

I’m going to organize this by symptoms, but it’s really important to note that a lot of these can go hand-in-hand, even if you wouldn’t expect them to. (For example, after I fell yesterday, I was pretty queasy for a few minutes and had to address that well as my banged-up knee.) Your body is a system made up of systems, and everything is connected.

Also, though none of these descriptions will be graphic, if you’re especially sensitive to this kind of stuff, might be best to stop reading here. Last disclaimer (I promise): I’m obviously not an expert in all this, but I am remarkably injury-prone, so I do speak from ample experience.

Bruises:

  • Take a minute to assess for all the other symptoms below. If any are present, attend to those first.
  • Gently check your range of motion, particularly if you bruised a joint. I spent a lot of last night carefully stretching and bending my knee to ensure it didn’t end up too stiff and to encourage blood flow to the area (it might make the bruise look worse, but will help it heal better). Just be sure to stop when it hurts — you don’t want to make it worse.
  • Reduce the swelling. The top three tips for this are always ice it, elevate it, and take some ibuprofen.
  • IF YOU HIT YOUR HEAD, be very, very careful. Concussions are serious and can’t always be spotted immediately. If you are having trouble with balance for more than a minute or two, get sick, or are having trouble remembering/forming sentences, go see a doctor. Have a friend drive you or call a ride, and do not go to sleep. This is not an option, this is not a time to prove that you’re tough. Your brain is really delicate, and you’ve only got one.
    • If you don’t show any signs of a concussion, follow the steps below for nausea and lightheadedness and have a friend keep an eye on you for at least an hour or two. If any of those signs show up, see above. If not, take it easy the next couple days anyway.

Cuts and scrapes:

  • Assess the bleeding. If it’s just a tiny bit, pat it and move on to the other steps. If it’s bleeding quite a bit, apply pressure and change the cloth/bandage when it gets soaked.
  • Clean it. This is so important. Remember when people used to die all the time from simple infections? Yeah, me neither — because we realized they were easy to avoid. Wash the wound with water (tepid or warm is best, just nothing too hot or too cold) and if it’s got much dirt or debris in it, be sure to gently clean that out with a cloth or tweezers.
  • Protect it. Add some Neosporin or your antibiotic ointment of choice to avoid anything funky happening to it down the road.
  • Cover it. Find the appropriate bandage for the size of the injury, or even improvise one if necessary (facial tissue, or even toilet paper, and Scotch tape will always do in a pinch).
    • Bonus “Should I change my bandage?” cheat sheet:
      • If it’s soaked (with water or anything else) → Yes
      • If it’s otherwise super dirty or gross → Yes
      • If it was a deep cut → Change every 24ish hours for the first few days, then at your discretion.
      • If it was a teeny tiny cut → You can remove after 24 hours.
      • If it’s scabbed over, or been more than a week → You’re probably safe to remove it and go about your business.
      • Of course, every time you do change it, clean it again and add some antibiotic ointment.

Upset stomach and/or lightheadedness:

  • Sit down. You’re body’s clearly processing quite a bit, and making it stand or walk (or heaven forbid, run) will only make this worse very, very quickly.
  • Tell someone. Particularly if you’re lightheaded or lightheaded and feeling sick, get someone to keep an eye on you and provide any help you need.
  • Sip water slowly. Notice I said slowly. If you guzzle it, it will likely have the opposite effect.
  • Go to the bathroom. I know it’s weird, but it helps. Just trust me on this one.
  • Close your eyes. Having your eyes open opens you up to a lot of extra stimuli that your body doesn’t need right this second.
  • Lay your head back if you can. It’s a little odd, but helps the same way closing your eyes does.
  • Splash some cool or cold water. This is especially helpful for your face, neck, hands, and wrists (ankles too if possible). Those are areas where bodies really like to release heat, and cool water touching your skin, then evaporating, will help you feel better while your body deals with what it’s got going on.

Sprains and “I can’t tell if it’s broken”:

  • First, take it easy. Very gently, very carefully, explore your range of motion and see if it gets better over 15ish minutes (more if you feel comfortable).
  • If it doesn’t get better or gets worse, go see a doctor. No joking, no delays. I fractured my wrist in 8th grade and made the injury worse by not going to the doctor for 5 days because I thought it was only a sprain. Not smart. Get that ish checked out.
  • If it does get better decently quickly, still be gentle. You can wrap it or get a brace/support for it, and be sure to rest it often and use it in small increments to avoid stiffness.
  • Either way, ice it, elevate it, take some ibuprofen to help the swelling, and compress the area (the brace or support mentioned above).

Pulled or otherwise tweaked muscles:

  • Rest it. Muscle stuff is weird because it mostly has to fix itself — your job is just to give it the time and space to do that.
  • Ice, elevate, and ibuprofen. Just like a bruise or sprain.
  • A heating pack or some IcyHot can work wonders, as the heat gets the muscle to relax and loosen. (Same thing with soaking it in water.)
  • Massage it gently. You can gently rub with the muscle direction (might need to Google that) or in small, circular motions, but if you don’t know what you’re doing in this area, set up an appointment at a massage place that specializes in physical therapy and muscle problems.
  • Stretch it out. As always, when stretching or exploring range of motion with an injury, stop when it hurts. Don’t be mean to your body. But gentle stretching and using a muscle can help it recover when mixed with the other aids above.

For all of these, be sure to give your body plenty of time to rest. Our bodies are weirdly, impressively good at healing, but they need time and rest to do it.

If you are ever in doubt about the extent of an injury, please see a medical professional. Note that urgent care is usually less expensive (and occasionally faster) than the emergency room. Many hospitals and medical providers also have a 24-hour nurse hotline for advice on non-emergency injuries or questions.

If the cost is really prohibitive, there may be free or cost-reduced options in your area. Take some time to look them up before you really need them. Even if you aren’t insured, most places will let you pay cash for treatment and an emergency room will not deny you care.

Slightly different request for the end of this post — if you have any links for the resources I mentioned in the last two paragraphs above that aren’t region-specific (so national or international), I’d love to add them in! 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 y’all don’t want to see my knee.)