Happy 100

I’ve measured my life in Augusts for almost as long as I can remember. Actually, for as long as I’ve known how to measure time. It started the way it usually does with kids — when summer ends and school starts. Then my boyfriend’s and my anniversary in early August got added on. This year, it’s also the one-year anniversary of this blog. Technically the anniversary is next week, but this is my one-hundredth post, so we’re counting it.

I don’t always love looking back because I know I don’t remember it accurately. Some things do become more clear with time — like how high school was not as decent as I thought it was then — but other things soften and some things just fade. And all those shifts make it hard to examine the past clearly.

The last year has honestly felt really, really long. When I set up this blog and published the first post, I remember where I was sitting (in my parents’ backyard in much too hot of weather to be doing so). Though it’s difficult to remember quite how I felt right then, I know my life felt suspended. I had made it through college, I knew the physical region where I wanted to look for a job, and I had finally snagged a part-time job for the meantime. Little things were in place, but the future seemed like a giant abyss.

Less than 6 months later, I had moved to a whole new area and into a new apartment with friends, started a full-time job, finally (mostly) stopped having to do long-distance with my boyfriend. Things were the best I could have reasonably expected.

Of course, life throws curveballs. Family tragedies, social challenges, unexpected pressures, and the sometimes crippling weight of my own expectations rolled in. And the thing about being a more-or-less self-sufficient adult is you just have to figure out how to handle what gets thrown your way. You grow, or you crumble. Sometimes you crumble and then grow.

I’ve changed a lot more in the last year than I anticipated. Some of it is for the better: I’m more confident in a number of areas, more settled into where I’m at in life, and more straightforward with my thoughts. Of course, there’s also stuff that I’m still working on — some if it is honestly in a bit of worse shape than it was this time last year.

It would be gratifying to share a big long list of all the things I’ve learned, advice I could give to people who might be in a similar spot, but I still really feel like I’m learning. And it seemed much more important to start with a thank you.

Thank you to all the people who continue to read and be supportive of not just the blog itself, but its purpose and the space it was created act as for those of us who are making our way through emerging adulthood in all its wonder and confusion. Thank you to everyone who offered kind and encouraging words over the last year — I seriously can’t believe how great y’all are. Thank you to the people who have tolerated me pacing and huffing when I had writer’s block and a post was due. Thank you to the mentors, leaders, and peers who have taught me basically everything I’ve shared on here. And thanks to you, emerging adults: I hope I’ve made our journey feel even the tiniest bit less murky.

I do have two pieces of advice, and one request. Advice first.

The biggest things I’ve learned this year can be summed up in this: Absolutely everything changes in either substance or feeling, and you really can make it through anything.

People change, jobs change, areas change, the world changes. Constancy is a very, very rare thing. I do believe that a few things don’t change — like hope and love and faith — but how they feel can still change. How you interact with even the most constant, steady forces in the universe will change. Because you’re changing. Your only job is to try to push those changes toward the better.

Life is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. I’m not trying to be either cynical or flippant, it’s just a fact. Some challenges will feel worse than others, and you might get hit when you’re already down, or as soon as you get back up. There’s a lot about life that we have zero control over, but we can always choose to keep going. So no matter what small accomplishment it start with, no matter how insurmountable the odds, you can win just by continuing. Even if it’s not on the same path, you are full of more courage and strength than you know, and can keep moving forward.

Finally, a request. I would absolutely love to hear — particularly from emerging adult readers — what you’d like to see more of on this blog in the coming year. I’ve got some cool posts lined up but am not made of ideas, nor am I in your shoes. What info would be most helpful and/or enjoyable to read?

As always, let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thank you for a stellar first year, and happy adulting!

‘It bothers me when…’

This is one of the most Communication major, academic-sounding posts I will probably ever put up, but I cannot overstress its importance: “I statements.”

If you’re wondering what the heck that means, here’s the gist: I statements are a tool to address conflict and disagreements. Rather than saying “you drive me crazy” or “you aren’t listening to me,” which can be accusatory and further devolve the conversation, statements are reframed to express the speaker’s feelings. The quotes above become “I feel frustrated” and “I don’t feel listened to.” Doing this takes a step back from blame and shifts the focus.

Obviously there are two participants in this scenario: one to speak and one to respond. (Note: The roles aren’t static and a healthy conversation means taking turns in each role.) So person A, the speaker, needs to formulate statements that convey what’s troubling them without immediately throwing blame. This doesn’t mean avoiding mention of someone else’s action if that’s what’s bothering you. “I felt taken for granted when you didn’t ask my thoughts first.” Totally okay. “You should have asked me first — it’s like you take me for granted.” Not so much. The difference is that the first statement is a specific explanation of what struck a nerve; perhaps not easy to hear, but hardly accusatory. It’s also worth mentioning that sarcasm can ruin even the most well-formed I statements.

Of course, to communicate at all requires someone on the receiving end to hear and respond (at least per many interpretations of communication theory). So how does one respond to I statements? I’m going to be really blunt here: LISTEN. Acknowledge their feelings/that you hear them and either offer or ask for ways you can help. This might mean apologizing or simply noting for later.

For example, when bringing up an issue with my boyfriend I try to use phrases like “I would prefer if…” or “I feel like….” Of course, sometimes I screw up and just don’t use them. Even when I do, it doesn’t magically solve all our problems; but it does help us keep the right mindset when approaching them.

This tool can also be extrapolated beyond direct conflict situations as a way to express ourselves more constructively and be more mindful of others. I have a friend who told me a while back that they really don’t like the question “how are you?” because it carries a lot of baggage and expectation (“I’m good! You?”) while also being used so often that most of us don’t even really listen to the answer. Since then, I almost never ask that friend how they are. Instead, I’ll ask what made them smile today, or what’s going on in their life — when I have time to really listen — or any other interesting question I come up with. It’s more effort for me, but it helps my friend feel listened to and valued.

I realize all of this may sound overly PC or hypersensitive, but to be incredibly frank a big part of being an adult is learning to treat the people around you like people. People who are valued, and who are worth care and effort on our parts. Like taxes, this is not taught in school, or at least not well enough (even for Communication majors). But it is important, and it is helpful. A lot of the worst conflicts in my life would have been significantly less hurtful if we had properly implemented tools like I statements.

Of course, it cannot solve all problems, and if you are experiencing any form of abuse please safely remove yourself from the situation and/or reach out for help instead of trying to fix it. Your well-being is of the utmost importance, and I statements only work if both parties really do want to lessen the problem. Also remember that not all problems can be solved — even between loved ones — but they can always be handled with grace and compassion toward yourself and the other person.

I know that was a long post, but hopefully it proves helpful in your adulting journey alongside fellow humans. Let me know your thoughts in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting!

Traveling on an actual budget

As promised, here is the post I mentioned about traveling! The last three weekends I have taken trips of some sort, and it occurred to me that traveling is probably one of the most desired and difficult things for emerging adults to pull off. Especially when looking at the Instagram accounts of other people our age and wondering where the heck they got the money (and/or time off) to hit up such insane destinations.

Here’s the disclaimer: None of my trips were holy crap levels of cool, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford them all on my own. But each is still a good look at managing to travel without draining one’s bank account.

Weekend 1: The Day Trip

Length of trip: 6-8 hours

Total spent: ~$50*

My brother and I went to some local farms about an hour away from my house that offer craft fairs, apple picking, and other fall-related activities. Main costs were activities (who doesn’t want to make a candle and pick organic tomatoes?), gas, and then some food.

Weekend 2: The Big Trip

Length of trip: 4.5 days

Total spent: $111.38*

After almost 3 months apart, I got to fly to Maryland to visit my boyfriend for a few days. Overall, the trip cost much more than the number listed here, but the flights out were a gift and my boyfriend paid for way more than his fair share, so that brought the number down. Most of this cost is food and Lyft rides around parts of Washington, D.C., where we spent that Saturday.

Weekend 3: The Road Trip

Length of trip: 3 days

Total spent: $125.42

As mentioned in last week’s post, I took a trip to my old college for the first time since graduating. The drive was about 7 hours each way, and I stayed for 2 nights at my friend’s apartment. Most activities were free, so food and gas were the only real costs. On the way back I picked up another friend headed the same direction, which helped cut gas costs.

*I’m omitting the cost of any presents I bought because while it did impact my spending, it wasn’t necessary to the cost of the trip and technically comes out of my gifts budget.

Here is my advice, condensed as much as possible:

  • Driving is often cheaper than flying, and then you still have transportation when you get there. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going alone and can do the drive in one day, consider driving. If you’re going with two or more people and can do the drive in three days or less, consider driving.
  • If you are flying, search around for airline prices. There are tons of discount airlines, but even the bigger names have fare sales and such, which can be great if your dates are flexible.
  • Find a couch to crash on. I am constantly updating a list of people I know in various cities, states, and countries so that if/when I end up there, I can pretty please ask to crash on their couch. Do offer to buy them a bottle of wine or take them out to eat as a thank you, but it’s way cheaper than a hotel.
  • Don’t eat all your meals out. The big trip I talked about above was an exception, but usually I try to limit traveling to one meal out per day. For the day trip, we packed a lunch and only bought a snack, and for the road trip I spent a whopping $47.43 on 3 days of food (which included drinks). Pack snacks or small meals, and don’t be afraid to go to a grocery store or market instead of a restaurant.

It’s also worth noting that each of the trips above could have been done more cost effectively, but also that I wouldn’t have been able to afford either of the latter two without other people being generous. After three consecutive weekends of travel, I’m also cutting back on spending for a while. I’m definitely not the expert on inexpensive travel, but being able to travel is important to me, so it’s something I’m going to keep working on.

What are the best tips you’ve learned for traveling on a budget? (Also I’m not asking facetiously, I really would love to hear them.) Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and I hope you go somewhere cool this week!

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.

Old stomping grounds

This weekend, I visited my college for the first time since graduating. Granted, it had only been 5-or-so months, but going back to somewhere you used to belong is a textbook example of strange. I didn’t know how much would have changed or if everything would be basically the same as it had been when I left.

The first thing I was forced to grapple with was realizing I wouldn’t be able to do it all in a short visit. There was no possible way to see everyone, eat at all the old places, take in all the old views, relive all the old times. On the one hand, that kind of sucks. But I’m pretty sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere, and learning to be content with doing less than everything is definitely something I need to practice.

Of course it was fantastic to be able to see so many friends and a few past professors — and it didn’t hurt to be close to the beach again (yes, I lived by the beach for 4 years). A few things had changed, but overall I was surprised that it almost felt like I never left. Almost.

Where I hadn’t expected to notice change was, frankly, in myself. I graduated less than 6 months ago, and my life hasn’t undergone any more big transitions, so it was odd to feel like somehow I had changed more than the place I left. But I have changed. I’ve become more sure of myself and less sure of where I’m at, somehow even more independent and determined. I haven’t necessarily become less anxious or forward-thinking, but I am more aware of how those qualities affect any given day.

Nostalgia was still a factor, and it will always be difficult to drive away from a place that means so much, with no idea when I’ll be back. But it also hammered home what I was pretty sure of when I graduated — I was ready to move on. It made the 4 years I spent there feel simultaneously near and small, and it made me wonder what I might be feeling similarly about in another 4 years. To quote my very favorite ‘80s movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Going back to a place that was home for 4 years reassured me that I didn’t miss out on life as it passed me by, but was also a big reminder that it does move fast and it doesn’t stop for anyone. I was talking with a good friend recently about major milestones in life, and emerging adulthood is a period when some really big ones can happen in quick succession. Each will be one to look back on, but more importantly a new place to move forward from.

What transition has felt the most significant in your life so far? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thank you for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. For all the amazingly kind people who brought up this blog over the weekend, you’re the best and I’m honored to hear your feedback. Thanks y’all.

Weak is a four-letter word

Not-so-fun fact: I have asthma. Technically it’s a condition where the air passageways in your lungs inflame and keep you from being able to take in enough oxygen.

But if you haven’t had the chance to talk to someone with asthma about what it actually feels like, the best metaphor I’ve found (and the only way I’m able to clearly communicate the severity) is like an animal sitting on your chest. There’s a weight there, big or small, shrinking the space needed to breathe and making anything else more difficult. Sometimes it’s just a fat guinea pig, and it isn’t fun but it’s manageable. Sometimes it’s a gigantic dog that weighs more than I can lift.

This is not a new thing I’ve been dealing with. I’ve struggled with asthma for as long as I can remember, and it was quite a bit worse when I was really little. (Even then I was lucky in that I never had to go to the hospital or be put on much consistent medication because of it.) A lot of people at least mostly grow out of it, but it rarely goes away entirely. When I was younger it was often allergy-induced, but since late elementary school it’s been mostly exercise-induced.

I was running late yesterday and near-sprinted to make it on time, but after maybe 200 yards had to slow down and power walk the rest of the way because my asthma made the biggest resurgence it has in years. When I got where I was going I used my inhaler, but proceeded to cough for the next 3 hours while waiting for my breathing to feel fully normal again — which, unfortunately, took another 8 or so hours.

Now I’m not bringing this up for any sort of pity party, but rather because it highlights another, deeper issue that we all face in different forms: feeling weak.

I hate that I have asthma. I hate that my lungs don’t work properly and that any cardio-heavy activities are a risk. I hate not having enough oxygen to fuel my muscles on a run, and that more than a couple points of full effort when I play tennis means an immediate drop in my performance because, well, I can’t breathe.

I don’t like admitting that I have limitations, that certain things are more difficult for me than they are for most other people. It’s pretty likely that there’s something in each of our lives that makes us feel like this, whether it’s a physical impairment, mental health struggles, work-related difficulties, or something else entirely.

Demons come in all colors and contexts, but the common thread is making us feel weak or incapable. It’s true that we can’t do everything. We do have limits. But just because how you do something is limited doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of reaching your goal.

Start small. “Baby steps” is a clichéd phrase, but building up your confidence and ability makes a huge difference. A lot of obstacles will feel conquerable if you face them little by little. For my asthma, that means small amounts of consistent exercise.

It’s okay to take a break. Sometimes it’s too much, and you will need room to regroup. Giving yourself grace is healthy, not lame.

Use the tools you have. That might be a friend to talk to or a website for resources — or in my case, my dang inhaler.

I don’t know if you’re feeling exhausted, scared, or psyched about what life looks like right now, but I hope you know that obstacles and limitations aren’t weaknesses. They’re opportunities to grow stronger, even if it takes a while. What tools do you find most helpful when things are in your way? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and go kick this week’s butt!

Ask for what you want

I wanted to talk about this topic for the specific reason that I suck at it. In principle, I totally agree that we ought to just ask for what we want, with a balance of consideration and straightforwardness. In theory, I totally know how to do that. In reality, I am not a particularly forward person, avoid initiating conversations when possible, and am loathe to inconvenience anyone. But to succeed in the big wide world of adulting, learning to ask is a crucial skill.

A little while back I was babysitting for a family, and at the end of the night the parents wrote me a check. I was doing that weird polite-but-risky thing where I didn’t look at it while I was standing in front of them, until they asked me if that was the right amount. I looked at it (and had thankfully already done the math of what I should have been paid), and they accidentally underpaid me. I cautiously let them know, and they apologized and fixed the issue. Fortunately they had been proactive for me, but it made me realize how poor I am at ensuring I get what I’m after in some situations.

More recently, I asked for both this last Friday and next Friday off to accommodate some personal plans. Other than occasionally asking to leave a half-hour early to make another commitment on time, I don’t like asking for time off. For starters, I don’t like voluntarily lowering my paycheck, but I also feel bad leaving the people I work for hanging. So asking for time off was weird, and I admittedly hedged the request a bit with “if it’s alright with you” and similar phrases, but my employer was totally cool with it.

Obviously, not all situations work out so well or are even so straightforward. For a job that I was working at in college, I realized a few months in that I wanted a higher compensation than I was getting for the amount of work I was doing. So I came up with a range for how much more I wanted, brought it up with my bosses, and we sorted it out.

I realize that was three success stories in a row, and am very aware they don’t always work out like that. There have been several times when I’ve asked for something and the person I was asking didn’t give me an answer at all, or flat told me no. It’s awful when that happens, and can mean that it might be time to examine the situation you’re in and see if something larger needs to change.

It’s also important to clarify that not all things need to be asked: If you are being made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you have the right to remove yourself from that situation. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are important, and no one gets to make your decisions for you.

But of course some things — especially work-related, such as payment negotiations and time off — need to be asked for. I promise that the more you practice the easier it will get. And the better we all get at it, the less difficult it will be when new generations are going through the same process.

As silly as it sounds, the most important thing I’ve learned when it comes to asking for what I want (besides the asking itself) is to prepared by knowing exactly what I want ahead of time. Not every instance has to play out like a negotiation, but you should know what your ideal is and the least you’re willing to accept before you ask, so you’ll be less likely to end up with a result you’re unhappy with.

I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear what helps you ask for what you want. Let me know in a comment below, and be sure to follow on Twitter @ohgrowup and 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 have every right to be tired (and an obligation to keep going)

When people ask me how I’m doing, I usually respond honestly: “Pretty good, but definitely tired.” There is of course a scale of responses people offer, from the kind and thoughtful, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. What’s got you tired?” to the awkward (but probably accurate) “Yeah, you look it.” However, my absolute least favorite is laughter followed by “Why would you be tired?”

Thankfully, I haven’t gotten this response in a little while. But last time I did was a week that I spent juggling my one steady part-time job, one freelance design job, two housesitting jobs, three babysitting jobs, plus a dentist appointment and the usual errands. It is no longer normal that an employed person — whether they have one full-time or multiple part-time positions — works the standard 40 hours a week. Unfortunately, these days people are often working far more than that. Need proof?

  • The week I just described, I did some rough math and I spent a little over 85 hours working. Now, this is skewed some by the fact that I was housesitting, but I did not count hours between 11 p.m. and 7 or 8 a.m. when I was asleep. I also did not count commute time and did not count overlapping hours when I was doing multiple jobs (such as designing while housesitting).
  • A friend who is training at a current job is encouraged not to do overtime yet — but in order to finish projects, still averaged 9-hour workdays this week.
  • My mom is a teacher, and is usually at her school for 8 to 9 hours a day, plus whatever work she brings home — usually several hours’ worth.
  • During my senior year of college, one of my friends was trying to balance an 18-unit course load and six other jobs. Some of them were only a few hours a week, but at least one was never less than 20, and this was on top of being a full-time student.
  • Gallup published the results of a study in 2014 showing that adults employed full-time in the U.S. are averaging 47 hours per week, with half of respondents saying they work more than 40 hours.

I’m not going to delve into the health and quality of life side effects, but it is absolutely impossible to deny that a lot of us are working our butts off. And what that looks like is different for each of us, but this is why it bothers me so much when people question why someone my age would be tired. There is no shame in being busy; most of us are, and sometimes it’s necessary. But there is also no shame in being exhausted, and there is no age limit on that.

That said, I’m not sure any of us enjoys being tired. There are lots of ways to help: intentional time to relax, light exercise, sleep, or even scale back if you need to. Make sure that whatever schedule you set up isn’t going to burn you out or make life completely miserable. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be long days or weeks or seasons. In the midst of those, the important thing is to keep going, and to remember you’re not alone.

As always, thanks for reading and I hope this helped. Feel free to add a comment below, or follow on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Now go kick your to-do list’s butt.

Comparison is a losing game

One of the most distinctly negative personal realizations I’ve come to in the last year or so has been that I am far more capable of and prone to jealousy than I thought. I’ve never really been that type of person, and prided myself on that.

Until. Until living circumstances shifted and I found myself feeling like a little kid after their parents bring home the new baby. Until friends had full-time jobs right out of school and my plan still, well, didn’t feel like much of a plan. Until friends were moving forward in their personal lives and there wasn’t anything I could do about mine.

As much as I really am happy for all the people in these examples, I was surprised at how bitterly I wished I was in the same position. All the negativity I was feeling wasn’t directed at the people around me; rather, it’s a discontentment with my own circumstances because I got way too caught up in comparing my life to theirs. I don’t want to beat a dead horse on the whole “comparing yourself to others isn’t good for anyone” message, but there is truth to it. You’re you. They’re them. You will have different issues and different successes. Over time, comparison will hurt your self-happiness and can make it more difficult to connect with and care unselfishly about those people.

The decade after graduating high school is no longer just one fork in the road we’ve all been on up to now. Now the paths forks, twists, and turns, moving us at different paces and in different directions. It can feel strange, but it’s how we grow.

Of course, knowing that isn’t enough to stop bad thought patterns in their tracks. Maybe if I had done X, Y, and/or Z differently I’d be happier with my situation. While there are definitely things I could have done better, most of them were thankfully very minor. What helps the most is knowing I wouldn’t change the major life decisions I’ve made, which means for the most part I chose where I am now, and that I’m more or less where I’m meant to be.

Each of our paths is different, and they will continue to diverge and converge. Hopefully that means we run into some great friends along the way, and that friends whose paths differ from us will be able to teach us more than we would have known on our own.

What challenges and happy moments have you found on your path? Feel free to let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope each step feels a little more like the right path.