Graduated, sort of

I graduated from college one year ago today. That’s still a really weird thought. Unfortunately, in one year’s time I have not become a fountain of wisdom who can share every secret of life after school lets out. But it has been a year, and I have learned a lot.

Given that, and for all of my friends who are starting their own post-undergrad lives, these are the things I wish someone would have told me when I graduated:

There will be times when you feel crowded, and times when you feel lonely. Both feelings are inevitable, and neither being with a bunch of people nor being by yourself is a bad thing. Figure out how to enjoy both, but also know that it’s okay if you’re stuck with one and want the other.

Start reading again. Go at your own pace. Read whatever you want. It’s cool to watch tv too. But pick up a book or those magazines that have been piling or the comic books that have been gathering dust. Read the news on purpose instead of just when something comes across your feed. I’m so glad that I set aside time most days to read, and that I’m starting to enjoy it again. I truly believe reading is the best way to keep learning, and you might just find the magic in it again.

Start saving up asap. Whether you’re looking to pay down student loans, start paying your own bills if you don’t, or just save up for other adult-ish things, start saving. If you already did that’s awesome. I started actively saving later into college than I should have, so it was a huge priority when I got out, and now I am happy to say that I am basically self-sufficient (aka I still call my parents for advice and they buy me food when I come visit but I pay for all my own junk). Being financially independent is a really nice feeling, so don’t put it off for too long.

You will have to work a lot harder to find community. It bums me out all the time that I can’t just go knock on a friend’s door or text them about last-minute plans because we’re only 3 minutes away. My new church is more of a drive and I don’t know many people there. My family and most of my close friends are hours or plane flights away. And there are no longer classes and clubs and school events and a cafeteria all set up in some way to help make friends. I joined a soccer team and I try to hang out with coworkers when I can, but building a sense of community is a lot trickier than it used to be.

Related, you have to choose to stay in touch. I figured a lot of friends from college would fade a bit into the background, which has happened. But there are still some that I talk to every day. I’ve been able to see friends from back home at least a little more often than I used to, but all our schedules are harder to work with. The good news is this makes it easier to let go of relationships that weren’t good for you or them. The bad news is you have to find ways to make it work. I often FaceTime friends who are far, constantly text a close friend who’s across the country, and social media has actually been more of a help than a weird distraction. But if it’s an important relationship, it’s on you to maintain it.

Romanticizing the past will leave you stuck, and romanticizing the future will leave you disappointed. I hope college was cool for you. I really enjoyed (most of) the time I was there. But hanging onto it is going to stunt the enjoyment and growth of this new stage of life. If college wasn’t your favorite or you just think the grass is greener, take a deep breath. There will be awesome things and crappy things about being a grownup and not a student, and realistic expectations will help keep you on the right track.

You will (probably) feel more like a grownup. This is honestly my favorite part. And it took a while to settle in. When I was still living with my parents and applying for jobs and working part-time I didn’t feel like a grownup — I felt very in-between. But now living on my own (still with roommates), working full-time with my other obligations totally up to me, I’m pretty stoked. I come home at the end of the day and there is no homework, there is no job to get to after classes, there is no packing up all my junk twice a year. I still have to cook and clean and generally be responsible, but the rest is up to me. So I’ve visited friends and taken day trips and caught up on a bunch of tv shows and read books and tried new recipes and been able to not stress about when a paper was due or if I could afford pizza. I fully realize not everyone is yet or is still at that spot, but there’s something to be said for feeling a little more settled.

You can’t be in three places at once. Not that you could before either, but after college it often feels like those different priorities tugging at you are more spread out and unfortunately you won’t be able to make them all happen. I wanted to be in three other states this weekend, plus two different parts of the state I’m actually in, but I only got one. And it sucks, but it’s something we have to learn to live with.

You will hopefully get a little closer with your family. When I was living at home I got to see extended family way more often than I did during school, and even now that I’ve moved out I still visit family about once a month, FaceTime regularly, call often, and you know what? It’s awesome. Your family misses you. As long as it’s a safe, fairly healthy relationship, nurture it.

Days off are when you choose now. Mostly, of course. I was the kind of person who did not randomly skip class or take days off when I was in school. Actually, the only classes I ever missed for a non-academic reason were PE classes or one weekend when I went home to visit an ailing family member. (I did also miss for a couple of school-related trips and to help out with other classes.) The first day I took off at my current job was just because I wanted to. Wasn’t sick, didn’t have big plans, just because I could. I’ve also got time off scheduled to be a part of some exciting events in the next few months. So yeah, no summer break, but there is likely a lot more freedom to plan your life now.

You’re not old yet. You will feel like it sometimes. I go to bed around 9 p.m. so often now and it’s really weird. People will be getting married and having kids and you’ll wonder if you’re really old or even missing something. You’re not. All this stuff goes at a different pace for everyone now, and you’re in the middle of real life, but you’ve still got time left to savor it.

You’re going to keep changing, and hopefully growing. I’ve changed more in the last year than I did during my first year of college. A lot of it has been for the better: I feel more settled, more confident (in some areas), I sleep better, and all of the things I mentioned above. The other stuff I’m working on: I stress for different reasons, I don’t get to listen to as much music, I don’t do as well with being alone. I’ve learned new skills and  Some things have remained the same, of course, but I hadn’t realized that I would change just as much as my circumstances after walking across that stage. So don’t think you’re done growing yet.

So there you go. To all my friends who have just graduated or will be doing so shortly, congratulations. I’m insanely proud of y’all. To all my friends who graduated with me, I miss you guys. Life’s got some cool stuff in store for all of us, and we’ve got a lot of people who care about us to make it through the difficult times. Let’s make it an adventure.

What do you most wish someone would have told you when you graduated? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo credit goes to my mom, for catching the same pose I’ve been making since childhood when I want to show something off — sorry it’s low-res but yes, that is how happy I was after graduation.)


Sick day

I’m feeling a bit under the weather today. It will pass, as feeling unwell or being sick always does. But it sucks in the meantime. And since I often take the role of the mom friend, I’ve spent a lot of time taking care of friends who are sick. As emerging adults, this is — for better or worse — something we have to master doing for ourselves.

So below are some of my favorite tips for helping make being sick slightly less miserable. Some of them are common sense or exactly what your mom told you, but they work for a reason. Of course, take them or leave them at will, but hopefully you find something that comes in handy.

Also, if you’re just a little under the weather or you know you’re not contagious, go about your normal business with extra hand washing. But if you are actually sick or in any way contagious, STAY HOME. Actual jobs let you take actual sick days, and you’ll get better faster if you do.

For a cold:

  • Sleep. Your body is really good at making itself better, even if it’s more slowly than you would like. But being awake makes it way harder. Give it a chance to catch up by catching some z’s.
  • Liquids, liquids, liquids. Preferably clear, not sugary ones. This means water, tea, hot water with lemon, broth, etc. Juice is cool, but it shouldn’t be your primary intake.
  • I like natural remedies. You’ll see them interspersed in here. But cold medicine is perfectly safe when used as intended. NyQuil (if you want to sleep) and DayQuil (if you don’t) can help kick a cold way faster, Sudafed unclogs sinuses quite well, and Alka-Seltzer cold is a great addition.
  • If your colds are real sinus-y, get a Neti Pot. They suck. But they cut my colds in half. It’s basically just a small plastic teapot that your put a warm saline (salt) solution into, and you pour it in one nostril and out the other like a kid who didn’t believe they were really connected. Weird, but natural, inexpensive, and effective.
  • Up your vitamin C intake, but don’t go nuts. Eat some strawberries (higher in vitamin C than oranges!) or take Emergen-C, but keep your doses at a normal level. Your body will automatically flush out excess, so all you have to do is make sure it gets a normal amount.
  • Blow your nose! I’m sorry if that’s gross, but sniffling with a cold is counterproductive. My mom is so happy I finally understand that. But yeah, head for the tissues.
  • Add a little bit of honey or (if you’re old enough) 1 tbsp. of a brown liquor like whiskey or rum to help soothe a sore throat. Cough drops with menthol are also very effective, and onion is a good thing to eat to stop coughs.
  • Spring for a humidifier and/or take a steamy shower. Having extra (clean) moisture in your home or loosening up the gunk in your system with a hot shower are both easy ways to help with a simple cold.
  • Go for essential oils. Having some helpful essential oils floating around (especially eucalyptus, frankincense, lemon, tea tree, and lavender) can gently ease that cold. (NOTE: Be careful with essential oils that you’re buying safe brands, using them in small doses to avoid bad reactions, and mindful of possible allergies. Both my college roommate and myself have had bad reactions to certain oils and it’s not fun.)

For the flu or an otherwise upset stomach:

  • Sleep. See above.
  • Lay down. You don’t have to sleep, but just paying back and being horizontal helps.
  • Eat simple foods. Soup, broth, crackers, toast, tea, water. Nibble and sip on things your stomach can handle.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to eat if you can’t keep anything down. The body can go for a pretty long time without food. But simple, starchy foods are a good start.
  • Electrolytes. Gatorade, Smartwater, Vitaminwater, even putting extra salt on your food. Get some electrolytes in your body so you can stay hydrated better and start getting back to normal.
  • Cinnamon can help with an upset stomach, as can ginger. Try ginger ale, or cinnamon toast.
  • Peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon essential oils can also be good. Again, use as directed and be careful of potential allergies.
  • Put a cold compress (cool, damp washcloth) on your forehead, and put a little water on the back of your neck, and your wrists and ankles. They’re important spots in your body and can be really soothing.

For something else:

  • For allergies, try eating local honey. I think it’s about a spoonful a day, and your symptoms should lessen.
  • If you’re having a bit of trouble sleeping, try taking melatonin or magnesium. Both are natural sleep aids and super safe in small doses. If it’s a bigger or more persistent issue like insomnia, talk to your doctor.
  • Get vaccinated. If you want to skip your yearly flu shot, I don’t care. But risking more serious illnesses is not worth it. If you’re feeling unsure about a vaccine, ask your doctor about any side effects or risks, as well as how long the vaccine has been used (usually the longer, the more tested and safer it is).
  • Track your symptoms. If anything seems odd for what you think you have or unlike how you normally get sick, call your doctor.
  • If any medical issue persists, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Get a friend to take you or take yourself or call your mom. Don’t care. Medical professionals are there for a reason.
  • Almost all health insurance providers offer a free, 24/7 hotline to call a registered nurse or other medical professional for health advice. If you don’t have insurance, lots of hospitals and local agencies offer similar free programs. Google what’s in your area if you need simple advice, but if it’s an emergency or immediate health risk please call 911.

I hope that was helpful, and I also hope that if you’re not feeling well you get better soon. Being sick makes adulting more difficult than it already is, but taking care of one’s health is a too-often ignored responsibility.

Do you have any favorite cold or flu remedies? 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 my work tea mug does not look this cool.)

Green like new

Green, beyond being simply a color, can be an adjective used to describe someone who’s new or getting the hang of things. For us emerging adults, we’re green to this part of life. There’s a lot of stuff we’re still learning. But there’s one thing I really hope Millennials have made more progress on than previous generations had at our age: taking care of the environment.

Humans have always been really good at destroying stuff. But it seems like we used to be a lot better at harmony, at not taking too much, at not exhausting resources. The advent of the modern world — particularly industrialization in its many facets — has skyrocketed our civilization forward, while robbing and decimating our environment.

We’ve only got one planet guys, and we’ve made remarkable progress toward screwing it up irreparably. Whether or not you think the shifts we’re seeing in our climate are part of a large natural cycle the Earth goes through, or something humans are wholly responsible for, we haven’t been making it better. And if we continue to accelerate the changes, we’re going to make it a heck of a lot harder to live on this planet.

I hate getting apocalyptic, but the facts cannot be turned away from. Reefs and rainforests are dying, disappearing, or are already destroyed. Biodiversity is dropping all over the world, at a rate that begins to threaten the balance of ecosystems. The amount of waste we create, and are constantly creating, is overwhelming. As the dominant species on the planet, it ought to be our responsibility to care for it, and to ensure its continued health as much as possible, for the sake of all its inhabitants.

It is incredibly difficult to be environmentally friendly in all of one’s actions. From an information perspective, it’s hard to know the full impact of every choice we make. From a lifestyle perspective, there are some things I at least find it difficult to change or do without. But a little progress — a little awareness and change — is at least a step in the right direction. So I hope you’ll join me in taking some of these steps to help care for our planet.

How we eat

  • Drink from a reusable water bottle — and skip the straw. Plastic bottles and straws are one of the easiest ways to cut needless waste, and especially to keep it out of oceans and other places it might harm the wildlife. Same goes for avoiding plastic dishes and silverware.
  • Environmentally friendly means responsible farming, too. Eating organic, local, and/or from sources that use eco- and animal-friendly methods is getting easier. You can check out farmer’s markets, health food stores if your wallet allows, and the labels on items you buy.
  • Compost. You can buy a compost bin and either keep it under your kitchen sink or outside if the smell bothers you, and let any food waste (eggshells, potato peels, small scraps, etc.) get funky until it’s a sweet fertilizer for your — or your neighbor’s — garden.
  • On that note, minimize food waste. Especially in the U.S., we waste so much food. It’s horrible. Don’t buy extra if you know you won’t eat it, don’t throw it out if it isn’t actually bad (i.e. browning on cut fruit), and check to see if your community or city has any sort of a food waste program where people can donate excess food.

How we shop

  • Grab some reusable bags. Where I live shoppers actually have to pay for non-reusable bags, but even if plastic or paper is free, bringing bags from home will save waste.
  • Green is the new black. The fashion industry is reported to be the second largest polluter in the world, after oil. This Nylon article offers more info, and simple ways to support sustainable fashion.
  • Skip extra packaging whenever possible. When packaging is needed, try to use renewable/eco-friendly means like recycled cardboard.
  • Check labels/brands to see if they source their materials responsibly. Of course, the benchmark for this is companies like Patagonia, who has a whole sections on its website detailing its commitment to lessening environmental impact. But recently other brands like Allbirds have been making protecting the environment a pillar of their business.
  • Buy used. Almost everything (almost!) is less expensive and more eco-friendly to buy used. Used clothes, furniture, and cars (especially ones that aren’t particularly old) are a great place to start. Refurbished tech can also help cut down on manufacturing demand and the impact of those plants.
  • Build sustainable. Wood stuff is awesome, and in principle all renewable — but some wood is way less sustainable than other types. Trees and plants that grow slower are more difficult to keep sustainable, so materials like bamboo and pine are grow a lot faster than oak and mahogany, but there are sustainable sources of most woods.

How we live

  • Recycle. Most forms of plastic packaging, paper and cardboard, glass bottles, and metal cans can all be recycled. (Note that Styrofoam can’t be recycled, which is another reason to avoid it when possible.)
  • Don’t litter. I can’t believe I have to say that one but I still see so much trash and waste on the side of the road, in landscaping, any busy area, and even beaches.
  • Buy a plant. Or at least water the ones you have. I’m terrible at keeping plants alive, but they’re really important to the environment and balancing out carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
  • Turn the lights off. Seriously, the lights only need to be on for the rooms people are actually in. In the same vein, using the A/C and heat as little as possible, as well as swapping your lightbulbs for LED or compact fluorescent, will not only save your energy bill, but prove a little less taxing on the planet.
  • Ride green. This isn’t possible for everyone, but if you can walk or bike to work, do it. If you can take public transportation, more power to you. If you need to drive, try to carpool. Support vehicle manufacturing that not only reduces the need for natural gas and cuts down on pollution, but is conscientious manufacturing.
  • Support renewable energy sources. Solar, hydroelectric, wind. It’s not all gas and coal folks. The more we support and explore responsible and sustainable energy sources, the more we’re able to be responsible about how we consume resources that aren’t available so easily. You can do this by checking out the energy sources of businesses you support, or even installing solar panels on your own home (if you own it, which is a big if). A lot of power companies will give discounts to people who commit to more eco-friendly energy.
  • Support other people who care. There are so many wildlife reserves, state and national parks, and environmental impact organizations. Usually the people who spend the most time in nature are most committed to preserving it. Support them, be them.

All of those things feel like a lot to ask. I’ll be super honest and admit that not all of them are possible for me right now. But I stick to the ones that are possible, and we can all look for ways to reduce waste and be nice to the planet. We only have one, and we aren’t alone on it. There are billions more people and trillions more animals and plants — currently estimated at a total of about 8.7 million species. They’re counting on us. We’re counting on us. But together I think we can save the world.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to go green in everyday life? I’d love to hear, so let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy Earth Day!

Measure twice

Hopefully by now you have come to realize that adulting means occasionally fixing stuff. I mean actual, handyman-style, get-out-a-real-toolbox fixing stuff. I really enjoy fixing and building things, but know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But sometimes you’re making lunch in your kitchen when the cabinet door falls off the frame and almost lands on you, and subsequently has to be fixed. (Yes, that really happened to me, and something similar will probably happen to you.)

Inspired by two trips to Home Depot and being thankful that I have a proper toolbox, here are the things everybody should have under their belt.

First, the toolbox. This is not a completely comprehensive list, but I do believe it’s the minimum that every home (apartments included) should have on hand.

  • Screwdrivers. If you have nothing else, have Phillips and flathead screwdrivers, preferably in a few sizes. (I have two normal ones, one fancy one with interchangeable bits, and one pack of tiny ones.)
  • Measuring tape. I consider this the second most important thing. If you are buying furniture, installing something, whatever, your life will be made better with access to a measuring tape.
  • X-Acto knife/boxcutter. Scissors are cool, but they don’t always do the trick. Keep these on hand and make sure the blade can be covered.
  • Hammer. You can use a mallet or a rock if you need to, but do you really want to be that guy?
  • Level. You need to be able to make things hang, mount, or set straight. It is important. When the bubble is in the middle of the lines you should be good to go. (Pro tip that if you live in an old place and/or don’t trust the level 100%, you can measure from the floor up at each end point of whatever you’re hanging/mounting and mark those spots with a pencil.
  • Duct tape and masking tape. The masking tape is so you don’t mess up your paint. The duct tape is because fancy tools don’t fix everything.
  • Superglue and wood glue. Again, fancy tools don’t fix everything, and wood glue especially is a cinch for minor furniture repairs.
  • Cordless drill. I don’t care if you’re only building Target furniture, you might find yourself in need of a drill.
  • Pliers, especially needlenose. They’re just useful. Your fingers really aren’t that good at holding stuff in comparison.
  • Wrench(es). Keep in stock a regular wrench and a set of allen wrenches if possible.
  • Pair of work gloves. You will not need them often but you will be very grateful you have them when you do need them.
  • Pencil. You do not have to keep this in your toolkit, but it’s honestly a lot easier if you do.

Next, tips and hacks to save you time and frustration:

  1. Measure twice, cut once. Or drill, or hammer, or whatever. You get the point. But if you’re careful and double check your work ahead of time, you aren’t as likely to be in a bind later finding out you did something incorrectly.
  2. Measure twice, purchase once. This is what sent me to Home Depot twice this week. I picked up new hinges for that kitchen cabinet without measuring what turned out to be a critical area (frame overlay, if you’re wondering) and then got home to find out it was too big. It wasn’t a big deal to swap them out the next day, but doing it right the first time is a lot better. This is also true when it comes to furniture! Do not buy an expensive piece of furniture only to find out it doesn’t fit in the space.
  3. On that note, you have a pencil. Use it. Mark where you’re going to hang or install something, where you need to drill or nail, etc. Then after you mark it, measure it again. If you messed up, erase and do over.
  4. READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BEFOREHAND. Yes, this one needs all caps. I am sometimes tempted to skip the instructions and “figure it out for myself.” Don’t. It’s dumb. Read them thoroughly and follow them so “oops” isn’t a common utterance.
  5. Help is not for the weak. If you haven’t tried, don’t ask for help. But if you tried and can’t do it, or if it’s something that poses any sort of physical risk, please ask for help. Two people is usually a lot safer than one. I’ve only partially fixed my cabinet because I know I’ll need someone else’s help for the last part. Nothing wrong with that.
  6. Pilot holes are your best friend. If you are screwing into literally anything, it needs to have pilot holes. These are the little holes Ikea puts in the furniture to show you where the screws go. You can also make them yourself with a drill, using a bit smaller than the screw. They are not optional. They make sure your screw seats properly, and keep you from accidentally splitting the wood.
  7. Count your parts before you start — and then don’t lose them. Make sure you have all the right pieces before you get halfway into a project, and place small items like nails, screws, washers, etc. into a dish or something where they will not run away from you.
  8. Don’t strip your screws. If you’re using the wrong size screwdriver, or not applying enough pressure when screwing something in, you can basically grind the fitting off the head of the screw, which makes tightening it or removing it nigh impossible.
  9. Know the right tool for the job. There is no shame in googling. Or asking your mom or dad or roommate.
  10. Be safe. Don’t screw around with sharp things or power tools, wear eye protection if you’re doing anything more intense than assembling furniture, and clean up your workspace. Responsible stuff.

A huge thanks to all four of my parents, my freshman woodshop teacher, and various other relatives and friends for making sure I can build and fix stuff.

What are the most helpful handiwork tips and tricks you’ve learned? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

Choose who you sit next to

My office has a fairly open floorplan, and though our (large) desks have short walls, none of the space feels as closed in as a traditional cubicle. This makes it easy to chat with coworkers and figure out if the person I need to talk to is actually at their desk before I walk over there. But of course, the easiest people to talk to are the ones you sit right next to.

Despite being one of the newest employees to the company (I’ve been here just over 3 months), my desk happens to be right next to one of the most senior people at the company. Sometimes, that doesn’t mean much. We’re both often busy and may not get a chance to say more than cheerful greetings throughout a work day. However, when there are brief stretches of more flexible time, we’ll often talk.

Sometimes it’s about personal lives, but more often it’s about work. I’ve been able to help out with big-name clients and learn way more about the business and the company than I would have picked up otherwise. It’s opened my eyes to how things work, and made me feel more valued and empowered in my position.

The best ways I’ve found to capitalize on that opportunity are to:

  • Listen well. People are funny in that a lot of them will tell you more simply for the fact that you’re listening. Listening thoughtfully and carefully (and knowing when not to eavesdrop!) is a really underrated skill.
  • Ask good questions. This will not only show that you’ve been listening, but show that you care about the work and/or the company, and that you’re invested in both its growth and your own.
  • Offer any value you can. This might be offering to run a quick errand for them on your way somewhere, but it’s better if it has to do with what your job is. My work involves editing and writing, so I ensure that I can make a little time to help out my desk buddy or anyone else who needs it with small favors like fine-tuning an email.

Of course, it’s a two-way street. One day you’ll hopefully have the opportunity to be on the other end of this opportunity. Here are the things you can do from a more senior position, to assist and mentor a younger colleague:

  • Learn names, learn people. Treat colleagues like they are not just valuable, but valued. Speaking to people by name and with respect builds credibility and likability faster than just about anything else.
  • Bring them in where you can. Ask their thoughts on something you’re working on, or for their help if it would be useful. This allows them an opportunity to succeed on a small scale, which builds their confidence and experience, while also fostering investment in their career at your company.
  • Level with them. Everyone loves to be in the loop, and the more open communication can be across an organization, the better it is for everyone. Of course, this should still be kind and professional, but it will also help the newer person feel like a respected and valued member of the team.

We don’t always get to choose where we sit, of course. My desk was assigned to me and I happened to get lucky. But if you aren’t sitting in an advantageous spot, there are other ways to forge positive connections. You can do things like ask a more experienced colleague to grab coffee, sit with coworkers you don’t know as well for lunch, or ask thoughtful questions when you’re already talking to your boss.

What are the best ways you’ve found to learn from more experienced coworkers? Let me know 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 apparently I need to take more cityscapes.)

The Defining Decade

One of the reasons I started this blog was due to frustration that this stage of life has no instruction manual. There is no prescribed path, and no set timeline for when you should do any of those major “adult milestones” like starting your career, getting married, starting a family, etc. This book isn’t an instruction manual. But it is the most well-informed and helpful piece of writing I’ve come across about emerging adulthood and the twentysomething years.*

The author, Dr. Meg Jay, is a renowned and experienced clinical psychologist who manages to ride the line between speaking with wisdom and a removed perspective about people’s twenties without ever being dismissive, pandering, condescending, or judgmental. That’s a huge deal.

The book breaks down into three sections: work, love, and the brain and the body. I found the work section most helpful and informative — likely because that’s the area which I feel the least equipped to handle and the least prepared for.

Of course, the content of the book will strike everyone differently, which is why I highly recommend reading it if you are college-age or in your twenties. It’s an informative read for other ages too, but covers aspects of high school kids don’t need to prioritize yet and would serve as more of an informative (rather than useful) nonfiction piece for folks much over 30. But these are the points that struck me most as I read it, paraphrased and with commentary:

  • “Later” doesn’t mean the distant future — and it might mean now. One of the biggest themes among examples mentioned in the book was twentysomethings feeling like, or at least saying, that all the important things are for later down the road. It can be easy to feel lost at this age, and I’m certainly guilty of procrastinating. But Jay reminds readers that putting off investing in goals — from careers to relationships — is guaranteed to make things harder down the road.
  • The things you care about and are good at have value beyond trivia. Jay calls this “identity capital.” You need to offer more than what’s on your resume, which means identifying and nurturing aspects of who you are that can benefit you and the people around you.
  • Choosing might actually open more doors. Sometimes we delay significant choices or transitions because we’re afraid it will limit our options down the road, especially if we don’t feel like we have “enough” of our future goals figured out. But just starting in the general direction you want to move will make the next steps easier and clearer.
  • Drop the “should.” It’s your life. Stop worrying about what you see all your peers doing on Facebook or what media or your family tells you that you “should” be doing. This stage of life is the first one where people are on such wildly different paths with such varied timelines. Listening to advice and planning well for goals are wise, but if your whole life is run by “should,” you’ll just make yourself miserable.
  • It’s not a time to be unintentional about relationships. Jay mostly talks about romantic relationships, but I think it also applies generally. I feel really glad that I’m in a thoughtful, worthwhile relationship where we actually treat the relationship as something to be tended to. But it can be easy to let that slide, or to not be intentional about investing in friendships and family relationships that are important to us.
  • Show your brain some respect. I had no idea how much brain development actually happens in the emerging adult/twentysomething years. (Hint: It’s a lot.) The cool thing is that means there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and improve. The catch is that you’ve got to capitalize on it — the patterns, habits, and skills you build now are generally the foundation for the rest of your adult life.

There were certain times as I was reading the book where it started to feel like a lot of pressure given all that evidently rides on the twentysomething years. But every time that started to concern me, Jay offered thoughtful commentary and helpful advice to mitigate the pressure. It’s the kind of book that I’d like to pick up and re-read every year or two for the rest of my twenties, and which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Is there a book or article that has helped you decipher the twentysomething years? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!


*The usual disclaimer that, as always, I receive no compensation of any kind for discussing this book, and my opinions are entirely my own. Also a huge thanks to my friend Kami for recommending the book!

Gotta budget for your friends’ lives too

Back to budgeting! Emerging adulthood is tricky. In the midst of learning how to handle and manage our finances, we often forget necessary budget items. Maybe you consistently save for car repairs, but not for car replacement. Maybe you forget to calculate a trip you have planned for into your month’s eating out budget. But one of the big ones we often forget — and frankly, one of the ones that’s hardest to plan for — is budgeting for friends’ lives.

There are mostly big occasions for this: birthdays, graduations, weddings, babies, and the like. For example, I’m going to a couple of friends’ weddings in the next few months, and am realizing that I had not budgeted enough in the “wedding gifts” category. Many weddings also require travel, lodging, and new clothes (especially if you’re in the wedding party).

I’ve been thoughtful to budget for Christmas, but hadn’t quite planned for the fact that late spring brings, in quick succession, four important birthdays and now a few weddings.

So what to do when you go over budget?

First, don’t panic. Be mindful not to go too over budget, but it’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen now and then. You can’t plan perfectly for everything. So take a deep breath.

Try to minimize spending where you can, and/or pull funds from other categories. I won’t be spending as much on food (particularly eating out) or miscellaneous things the next couple of months in order to help offset the costs of big friend events.

Prioritize, and say no if you have to. I’ve had to say no to attending events because the travel and/or other costs were simply too much amidst other events or commitments. It’s a bummer, but it’s a spot that everyone is in at some point or another, so your friend(s) will more than likely understand.

Figure out how much your budget was off by. Then you can adjust it for the future. On that note, it’s also a good idea to have some general, “extra” savings for times like this so when you go over budget you’re pulling from excess or flexible funds instead of necessary ones.

We try to plan for as much as we can, but it doesn’t always work. When it doesn’t we adjust. It may mean adding more to that budget category in the future or stocking away a little cash, but there are usually ways to make sure we’re there for as much as possible of friends’ important moments.

How do you address budget spikes? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

One’s company

Suddenly finding yourself alone is odd.

Context: As of Monday, my boyfriend and I have (begrudgingly) been hurtled back into long-distance. The last 3ish months of being able to see each other nearly every day, to catch up on tv shows and go on dates just because, went by wonderfully. And we knew he’d be getting sent back across the country for work eventually, even if we didn’t anticipate it happening so suddenly.

The good news, of course, is that it won’t last forever — right now the estimate is about 6-8 weeks. But almost 2 months apart still sucks. Plans got put on hold, adjusted, or canceled entirely. Even video calls — a staple mode of communication for our first 4.5 years of long-distance — won’t frequently be an option. I’m not stoked.

Even for someone who enjoys time alone, having copious amounts of time to oneself can be not just boring, but stifling. Hence today’s topic: being alone in a good way.

For the record, I’m not here to say that being alone is the way to go 24/7. I spent more than a month almost constantly alone a couple years ago — don’t need to do it again. But sometimes we surround ourselves with people, or other distractions like tech, because we don’t know how to be alone. And for emerging adults as well as everyone else, it’s a good skill to develop.

These are some of the best ways I’ve found to make being alone a positive experience:

Take yourself on a date. It doesn’t have to be a nice dinner, and it definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. Go to a movie, walk to the park, cook a favorite food. Last night I went to go see a movie I’d been looking forward to, and even when I don’t have to be alone I’ll often plan occasional day or half-day trips to just go do stuff I like without having to worry about anything else.

Hobbies, hobbies, hobbies. I read, crochet, and whittle. And when I’m unable to spend time with other people, they’re a good way to make my time feel well-spent. I promise it beats scrolling through social media feeds for hours on end (which I have also done).

Break a sweat. Exercise is good for you (obviously), but it’s also a good thing to do alone that isn’t as introspective as some of the other options. Plus your body will thank you.

Take a drive. You can pick a place to go, or just a direction. When I have extended stretches of time alone I try to head places that are outside, like walking trails or the beach if I can. But if that doesn’t work (or even on the way there), taking a drive can be a good way to clear your head or just pass time.

Try something new. Go to a new restaurant you’ve been eyeing, try to learn a new skill, or watch something you haven’t gotten around to yet.

Sleep. You think I’m kidding. Time alone generally means fewer obligations, and going to bed on time is a good idea, contrary to our collective habit of terrible sleep schedules.

Be quiet. When we’re around other people, we’re usually talking. And talking is good, but too many of us aren’t comfortable with quiet. If you’re alone, there’s no obligation to fill the airspace, so practice embracing the opportunity to let life speak for itself.

If you’re stuck in your head, it’s okay to not be alone. Learning how to be alone is important. Forcing yourself to be alone can be unhealthy. When I spent that month alone, I began spacing out my errands so I would at least see some part of civilization most days, even if it was less efficient. Trust your gut, and if being alone isn’t what you need, find a friend to FaceTime or call your parents or go to a shopping center so you at least aren’t fully by yourself.

I’m trying to plan for all of those things in the next several weeks. My roommate is awesome and we’ve been hanging out, and I have plans with a few friends in the next week or so. But I’ll keep taking myself to the movies, have upped my workouts, am ramping up my hobbies, and am trying to plan some small solo trips for weekends. The point isn’t just to pass the time, but to do it in a way that allows you to be your own company.

What are some of your favorite adventures that you’ve done alone? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

The balancing act

First off, happy Easter if you celebrate it! If not, I hope you’re having a peaceful and pleasant weekend. Because it’s Easter, I’m out of town and away from the computer, which also means I’m away from anything work-related.

Of course, achieving a good work-life balance is something that a lot of people talk about without being straight about how elusive it can be. I’m really lucky. My hours are (more or less) 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. I’m usually at work early and stay late whenever needed, but my company is flexible about sometimes leaving work early when there isn’t anything to do, or taking days off now and then. I know it isn’t that simple for a lot of people.

But on occasion (like lately), work gets hectic and I end up putting in extra hours or working on weekends. I also freelance, which means nights and weekends have previously been spent working when I would have preferred to be reading or watching tv. During a major transition at an old job I spent — out of my 3-day weekend — 24 total hours working. (After that, we made some adjustments.) During times like that, which is a lot of people’s consistent reality, finding a healthy work-life balance can be really tricky.

For emerging adults in particular, we’re often so new that we either feel obligated to or are required to put in extra time and effort to make a good impression. Not to mention that a fair number of us grew up with such a pile of academic, extracurricular, and/or family responsibilities that we’re used to being overloaded. And the goal of that is good; none of us should ever shy away from hard work. But if your work is consuming you, then an adjustment may be in order.

So here are a few thoughts and reminders when it comes to achieving that balance:

Work should be a top priority. Your safety and well-being, the urgent needs of loved ones, and major life milestones get to trump work. But shirking responsibility or avoiding effort isn’t cool — especially when it pays your bills. Fulfilling your commitments and putting in full effort will not only be good for your career, but your character.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking a day off just because you could use one. A couple of weeks ago I took a day off for no other reason than I wanted to. I’d been at my job almost 3 months, hadn’t taken any formal time off, and knew I wouldn’t be taking more days for a while. So I put in for the day off, my boss approved it, and it turned out to be much needed because the previous work days that week had been insane.

When you work you get paid, but you’re also losing valuable time that could be used in other ways. It isn’t just a work = money, fun = no money thing here. Spending time with friends, volunteering, or maintaining a hobby can all actually add value to your life. It’s important not to discount that.

Work-life balance doesn’t just mean your job. It also means balancing chores and other adult responsibilities with doing fun stuff and, you know, having a life. I am in general a very responsible person, so unfortunately I actually lean toward having too little of a life, and I’m working on it. I’ll limit chores for the day or say that at whatever time, I’ll put any work away and just relax for the rest of the evening. Now and then I try to take a full day off and not handle any responsibilities that aren’t crucial (dishes are usually the exception).

It’s a process. Don’t expect balance to happen overnight, or for it to be balanced forever once you feel like you’ve got a good thing going. As circumstances fluctuate, so will the balance. Go with its flow, and adjust as needed.

What are some of the best tips you’ve learned for moving toward a better work-life balance? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!