More than useless

I was going to put up a cool post on travel today (don’t worry, it’s coming later), but honestly I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve felt like a genuinely crappy adult this week.

Monday morning I found a spider in my sock and, being really afraid of spiders, totally freaked. A rock hit my windshield on the way back from work and cracked it, so that had to get replaced. I was looking through job openings and found an entry level position that I would be a pretty good fit for — except they want a minimum 10 years experience. A friend invited me to her wedding and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go. And frankly, getting out of bed has been difficult.

My life isn’t that bad. It isn’t even bad. I have no need to substantially fear for my safety or basic needs, I have a job and people who care about me. Of course there are silver linings. But that doesn’t make the clouds suddenly not grey.

I really, really wish I had a good response to this. In 5 days or 5 months or 5 years I might. But right now I just know that tomorrow is worth it, and that (as much as saying it makes me uncomfortable) I’m worth it. For the record, so are you.

When you feel overwhelmed or like you keep screwing up, or just completely and thoroughly meh, here is my list of things that help:

  • Drink water
  • Have a snack
  • Journal/pray
  • Take a shower
  • Write my way out
  • Tactile hobbies (coloring, cleaning, crocheting, etc.)
  • Tell someone I feel down — this gets it out of my head and out where I can understand it better
  • Go outside (walking is especially helpful)
  • Read a familiar book
  • Listen to music (I have playlists for this, but I highly recommend “More Than Useless” by Relient K)
  • Ask someone to sit close or for a hug
  • Watch a small bit of TV
  • Cook or bake something

Sometimes being an adult — or even being a human — sucks. If you’re stuck in a slump, try making your own list and using it to help make crappy days better. If it’s more than a slump and you’ve been feeling not yourself for several weeks or longer, consider talking to a mental health professional. A very significant thank you to my dear friend Kami for the list this is based on, and for reminding me to adjust it to what works best for me.

What have you found most helpful in getting through difficult stretches? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and remember that you’re probably better at this whole adulting thing than you feel.

Millennial trends reviewed (by Millennials)

Hey all! Today is a super special treat that’s been in the works for a while but is finally ready. My best friend Megan runs a killer blog called The Chronicles of Megan, and now that I’ve started my own we’re doing our first joint post! Her blog covers Millennial lifestyle topics, specializing in beauty content, and I’m on here trying to tackle the many-fold challenges of adulting.

So for our joint venture, we decided to take a fun and still sincere look at Millennial trends. Of course, we in no way want to suggest that this is the experience or perspective of all Millennials (for more on that, see my intro blog post), and while we definitely identify with some of these trends we don’t necessarily endorse all of them.

We wanted to cover the broad categories of lifestyle trends, some of which are general, and some of which are specific to this generation. We ended up with seven topics: Fashion & Design; Food; Visual Culture; Technology; Finances; Unattachment; and Destigmatizing Taboos. Four of them are covered below, and the other three are on Megan’s blog. With all that said, let’s dive in!

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Food

Megan: I’m just gonna say it: Food is almost sacred to Millennials.

Rachal: It is. I don’t think there’s even an almost about it.

M: You’re right. Beyond basic nutrition, it fulfills other needs like social dimensions and gives us access to a small amount of luxury, since we often can’t afford many.

R: Definitely. Not only is it a communal experience, both in cooking and eating, but provides us the opportunity to imbue further meaning into what could otherwise be a boring necessity. For example, I was visiting a friend in San Francisco recently, and we spent the entire day making homemade soup and dumplings just because that was how we wanted to spend our time with each other. And that’s what matters.

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M: Hipster food has more purpose than being Instagram-worthy. Food has evolved into this whole other outlet for creativity and avenue of defining who we are. I mean, just look at avocados — you know that if someone posts their avocado toast on their IG feed they’re either hella basic or from California.

R: Or maybe that’s how they’re choosing to invest the money for their down payment.

M: Okay, Dr. House. *insert eye roll emoji*

R: Seriously, though. It doesn’t feel like anybody used to be so obsessed with specific ingredients. Now it’s like, “Rosé!” Before, nobody was like, “Merlot!”

M: Hipster food trends do need to calm down though.

R: I swear if I see one more “deconstructed” menu item, I’m gonna lose it. Just give me my freaking burger (please).

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Technology

R: The exponential growth of technology tracked so closely with our own growing up that the timelines of the two are permanently intertwined for us.

M: Yeah. Thinking about the first iPod makes me think of middle school. The release of smartphones marks the beginning of high school.

R: And that’s our exact experience, while for older Millennials elementary school dial-up may be followed by the installment of school computer labs.

M: Because we grew up with ever-advancing technology, we have more than a strong connection to our old devices. We have a fondness for the nostalgia itself. These things had such an impact on our childhood, so throwbacks are very tangible. That’s why reboots of not only television shows, but things like arcades and video games (i.e. beercades and Pokémon Go) are popular.

R: And that even extends to tech that we can’t really claim, like vinyl and typewriters — I own both. We’ve also passed that on to the next generation, a lot of whom feel a nostalgic connection to tapes even though we’re the ones who grew up with them.

M: It’s almost like since our lives have been so saturated with technology, that we reject it at times because we need to unplug since we’ve become more and more connected, starting from childhood.

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R: Yeah. Now we’re constantly connected through social media, email, texting, and so on. It’s even shaped how we consume entertainment primarily through streaming services, rather than traditional methods like cable. Because our primary consumption of entertainment is so technology-based, our next instinct is to go back to nostalgias like Nintendo and vinyl. The good news is living our lives online provides more avenues to be connected with people, especially ones that are far away. But it’s also inescapable.

M: Right. Because technology is so ingrained in our culture and ever-advancing, it’s almost necessary that we self-teach. For example, in my Web Design class we didn’t even have a textbook — by the time one could be written, edited, and published, the technology had already changed. It’s a very normal thing to learn from just “googling” it or watching a YouTube tutorial.

Finances

R: Speaking of textbooks, we’re all broke. And as much as it sucks, staggering amounts of student debt are a trademark Millennial trend.

M: As a collective whole, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs until the next few decades.

R: Even for those of us that are fortunate enough not to individually have debt, we’re still financially unstable. Of course, some of that is due to the fact that many of us are just starting out in our careers and independent lives, but it goes beyond that. After the “Great Recession,” our reality shifted, and that shaped how we approach money and spending.

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M: Even though Millennials love to embody “treat yo self,” they also question if they can buy that one slice of pizza before pay day. This is also why we love free stuff.

R: Yeah, I mean I went into an art show the other weekend because I was walking by and someone said they had free snacks and drinks.

M: We like to take those opportunities, especially since we can get stuck in the catch-22 of needing the degree to get the job, and then when you have the degree being told you need experience you don’t have because you spent your time getting the degree. It just makes finding a job that much harder, and it feels like our hard work doesn’t get us as far as it did for our parents.

R: The patterns and practices that previous generations relied on to secure their slice of the American Dream were often no longer possible for us. As much as it’s funny to joke about not being able to afford to buy a house because we eat avocado toast, we really have no idea how we’ll be able to afford the quintessential white picket fence lifestyle — or if we even still want it.

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Unattachment

M: Millennials are so transitory, and there are a lot of uncertainties in our lives. Because of financial instability and rapidly changing job markets, we tend to see a lot of our situations as temporary and so we try not to get attached to things that don’t seem realistic any longer. We question the white picket fence lifestyle and some of us have almost rejected it as the norm. For example, I can’t picture myself raising a family or being attached to a place to permanently call home, at least for the foreseen future.

R: I think you’re right. It’s as if we’ve let go of the fractured American Dream we watched older generations chasing. Instead, we’ve developed a Kerouac-esque affection for lostness and sewn it into the word “wanderlust.” That wanderlust is romanticized in our Instagram feeds, and entire professions have emerged from it. Because we can’t have what we were told that we should want when we were growing up, and have seen the unhappiness of people who have everything, the last thing we want to do is settle. We want to go out and experience different cultures and sceneries and histories.

M: It’s even a thing now to gift people on Airbnb an experience instead of an actual object. We still like our stuff, but we’re willing to have less of it for more experiences. As our values have shifted, we have felt more free to simply live our lives without societal pressures to perform or present a certain way.

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I really hope you enjoyed today’s post, and be sure to check out the other half of our take on Millennial trends on Megan’s blog. (Also shameless plug, you should totally follow her on Instagram @chroniclesofmegan and Twitter @meganchronicles.) It was a ton of fun to put together, but was also an important chance to highlight some of the benefits and challenges within popular Millennial culture.

What aspects of Millennial culture stand out most to you? I’d love to hear in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

Broke-ish

Money, money, money. The root of all evil. Necessary. Nice to have. Time is. There’s a lot to be said about money. Like religion, politics, and sex, it can be a strange or touchy thing to talk about. But today we get to talk about it. I’ve waited to do any posts on finances because it’s one of the areas in which it feels like I have the least help to offer, but today that’s the point.

For most emerging adults, the trick is saving enough for the future while still being able to afford necessities and maybe a few niceties. I’ve read a few books (several of which are listed on my Resources page), a lot of articles, and even helped host an event on tips and advice for saving, spending, and investing. Unfortunately, I’ve encountered the same problem with these sources. Most of them offer great advice for people with a full-time (often career-track) job, who have money to invest and places to cut extra spending.

But frankly, that doesn’t apply to a lot of emerging adults. Many of us are already spending close to our minimum, only working part-time or not making enough to invest, or are trying so hard to save for things like an apartment that regular financial advice feels five steps ahead and completely unhelpful for the moment.

Right now I’m trying really, really hard to save so that one day in the hopefully-not-too-distant future I can actually afford to pay rent. No less than 75% of my weekly paycheck goes directly into my savings account, and the more I made that week, the more gets saved. Of course, there’s necessary spending: gas, some food, toiletries, and the like. I also count gifts as a necessary expenditure, even if I may set a stricter budget for purchasing them. Luckily my parents are being incredibly awesome and letting me live with them for free, which means I don’t currently have to pay for rent, utilities, or most of my food.

However, I can be prone to taking the strict budget too far and sacrificing having a life. While that can be effective, it’s not good for my mood or mental health, so I’m trying not to cut out all unnecessary spending, but rather limit it to affordable things with friends. (Note: This means a pizza and a $3 movie at Walmart, not big trips or buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need.)

These are the best tips I’ve learned so far:

  • Carefully track how much you’re earning, spending, and saving. For me, that means at the end of each day I input all of my financial changes into a Google spreadsheet*, and at the end of the month I total how much I’ve earned, spent, saved, net changes, as well as if I owe anyone or they owe me. To top that off, I have an Excel graph that tracks how much I’ve earned, spent, used for gas, and my gross total from month to month. This is what I’ve found most useful, but it can be a pain, and there are apps and programs that can help if you don’t want to do it all manually.
  • Have a goal for how much you want to save. Ideally, you’d know the exact amount you want to have, but I only have a rough guess so instead I set a goal for how much I want to save per month.
  • If your parents are still paying any of your expenses, find out how much they cost. I sat down several months ago and had a conversation with my mom asking about how much I cost in insurances, phone bill, and food so that when I’m on my own I’m not as caught off guard by the additional expenses.
  • Treat yo self — but not too often. The other day, I splurged and bought a sweater. It wasn’t a necessity, but I absolutely loved it, and I used the money I had been planning on spending on eating out that day to pay for it. It’s alright to go for small splurges, but don’t let them get out of control or your saving will get siderailed.
  • Credit cards are helpful for building a credit score but BE CAREFUL. I have a credit card so that I can build my credit history and score (since it’s often a checkpoint when renting), but only use it to pay for gas. Don’t spend money you don’t have, and pay that thing off in full every month.
  • It’s okay to say no because you can’t afford something. If something you don’t need doesn’t fit in your budget or the spending rules you want to keep, it’s okay to say no. If other people don’t understand that, they might not have your best interest in mind. I’ve had to say no to multiple trips I really wanted to take because I just couldn’t afford them, and it sucks, but it means further down the road I’ll have more freedom.

I realize this was long, and it’s in no way totally comprehensive. But I hope that it was helpful, especially for those of us that are semi-independent and used to questioning whether we can afford pizza. Down the road I’d love to offer more advice and resources for setting up a good financial situation, so keep an eye out for that. If you have questions or tips on what helps you manage money best, I’d love to hear them — comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

*If any of y’all want to see the Google sheet I use (with all of my personal data removed of course, there are just some example numbers), swing over to my Contact page and I’d be happy to share the doc.

You matter.

It will be another serious post today, but it’s one that is incredibly important to me. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

I imagine that each of us can think of someone we know who has been affected by suicide, depression, and/or self-harm. Some of the people I am closest to have been deeply impacted, and dark times have pushed me further down that path than I would like to admit.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and it is the number one cause of death for those ages 15-29. Suicidal thoughts and attempts among adults are most common for those ages 18 to 25, according to statistics from Emory University. The suicide rate is higher among males, though the attempt rate is higher among females.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the world are dealing with depression; it is more prevalent among women than men, and has high rates among adolescents and the elderly. Approximately two-thirds of those who die by suicide were dealing with depression.

Unfortunately, there is no easy response to such profound pain. But there is always something we can do. I may not know your story or what you’ve been through, but I do know you matter. Your life and light and laughter are important, and you are capable of more good than you know. Pain isn’t trivial — it doesn’t go away overnight and honestly it might not ever fully disappear.

Maybe you don’t know anyone right now who is dealing with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts. But someday you will encounter someone who is facing them. Maybe you do know someone who is in the depths of those challenges. They’re worth your help and your time. Maybe you’re the one who feels stuck and hopeless, or are questioning whether the fight is worth it.

You are worth it. You matter. Even when it feels like it, you are never alone. There are people who care about you more than you know. And if you can’t reach out to them for some reason, I’m here, always.

The bottom line is even when those thoughts creep in you have the power to choose kindness toward yourself. You have to power to reach out or look within (or both) and find the strength to treat yourself with compassion. You are made of stardust and hope and worth every new beginning and second chance that might ever come along, so allow yourself the time and freedom to take them. You’re worth putting the razor blade down. You’re worth stepping outside to feel the sunshine. You’re worth asking a friend to hang out. You’re worth another day.

In addition to those above, here are links to some resources below that offer information and/or help for those dealing with depression, self-harm, and suicide.

I know this was somber, but I hope that it makes the light in the darkness a little easier to see, and that it encourages all of us to keep our eyes, hearts, and arms open to people who might be hurting — including ourselves. Thank you for reading, and you can always reach me through a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, and Instagram @oh.grow.up, or through my Contact page if you’d rather not post publicly.

Honesty and terror are roommates

At least in my head. Honesty and communication are two of the most important values/skills to me, and when it matters most there is a 99.97% chance I will suck at them. And that realization in itself feels awful — especially considering I have a degree in the latter. (It only adds irony to remember that I graduated at the top of my major.) Most of it boils down to bad past experiences and moderate anxiety.

I don’t say all of this for sympathy or a pity party, because honestly I hate admitting it. I’m saying this so that hopefully it helps someone else.

Anxiety, or feeling like you’re doing terribly at the things you’re supposed to be good at, is really intimidating. And it’s a thing that in reality most people deal with, but often we try to compensate for it and almost never talk to other people about it. I really want to change that; it would be naïve to think it’s easy, but I have to believe it’s worth it.

So here’s the honest truth:

I feel incredibly insecure when thinking about/talking about/encroaching upon the subject of job searching. I get nervous and clammy and defensive and I usually avoid all of that by talking about it as infrequently as possible. I often feel like I’m poor at articulating myself in a normal conversation, and think most clearly when writing, which makes phone calls and important conversations more difficult than it feels like they should be.

So when it comes to having conversations about this in-between phase so many of us are at in life, particularly with people who aren’t in that phase, it can be difficult to feel like the conversation is worth the anxiety and potential misunderstandings. I’m not the expert, but I also have to remember that other people don’t always know where I’m at and talking about it is the only way to shrink that gap.

I don’t know what things make you feel anxious or intimidated, but I do know that talking about it with someone who cares about you can help a lot, and that fears start to get smaller when you face them. What fears do you feel like you’re starting to conquer? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and I hope the week feels like a mountain you’re capable of climbing.