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That’s enough

It probably goes without saying that this is an exceptionally strange, difficult, and unique time across the world right now. You’ve probably been oversaturated with constant news updates and tips for social distancing, sanitizing, and working from home. All I’ll say is that I hope you’re staying home whenever possible, and keeping yourself and others safe and healthy.

We’re simultaneously all in unique situations, and all together in this.

But it can be easy to either feel paralyzed amid all the goings-on or to feel pressured into some flurry of productivity as we try to stay home as much as possible.

Personally, I’ve been working from home for the last 2 weeks and while I’ve been mostly managing to keep up with that, it’s been tough to get much in the way of household labor done. My husband is a champ and doing extra chores since he’s currently working fewer hours than me, but sometimes I still find myself slipping into wondering if I’m doing enough.

And that kind of thinking — at least when it’s about simple chores and to-do list items — is quite frankly ridiculous. For all the things I am getting done, I also spend a fair amount of time looking out the window at all the birds that have been enjoying the sunshine and feeders on our patio. I sometimes play a game on my phone or let myself zone out thinking about whatever comes to mind. It feels indulgent at times, but also needed.

So while I remain impressed by all the folks who are able to get inordinate amounts of things done during this time, none of us ought to be beholden to set even higher standards for ourselves. Whatever you are able to do, whatever your heart and body are nudging that they need you to do or not to, that’s enough.

Leave a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup with anything you’d like to see on the blog or that would be helpful, especially during this time. Thanks for reading, and be well.

 

P.S. I am trying to reserve some of my energy each day and week to offer kindnesses where I can. Some of these are gestures for loved ones, some for dear causes, and some are on a broader scale. If you do have the means to help other folks out during this time, this list has some excellent resources and ways to do so.

(Photo is a free stock photo, and quite captures the space I’d like to create for a while.)

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Welcome to wherever you are

Ooh buddy, it has been a time recently. For starters, the disclaimer that this post will be more about sharing some of the challenges that emerging adulthood has thrown my way recently, a lot of which I don’t have a perfect answer or even adequate advice for. But I started this blog because I was frustrated by so few people talking about how difficult it can be, and I’m committed to doing just that.

Despite all the wonderful things going on in my life (like I’m marrying my favorite person in 3 months!), there have been a lot of negative thoughts floating around in my head.

Some of it comes from external situations, most recently the horrors of human rights abuses happening around the world, including at the U.S. southern border. I’m doing what I can to help correct and prevent the suffering of others, but my heart still breaks.

I’m also just plain exhausted, and no amount of sleep seems to fix it (though more sleep does make it less worse, in those exact words). I feel like I’m at the end of my rope once or more each week, and am starting to wonder if that’s the new normal.

Work is steady and I love my new apartment and wedding planning is going well, but I still don’t feel settled. Not that, to be honest, I have felt that way in a long time, if ever. There is always a big turn or change coming, and mental rest has been sparse.

I don’t know when or if things will start to feel settled, or when I will feel rested. Maybe once I finally hang up the last picture in the apartment, or after the wedding, or when it’s been a year at my job. Maybe never.

So I am trying — with mixed success — to find peaceful moments in the present, no matter how tumultuous it feels. I’m rewatching my favorite TV show, making time to visit with friends, reading and listening to podcasts, and also just going through the routine of normal life. When I get overwhelmed I talk to my fiancé or pray or meditate, or if I can’t handle any of those just breath in and out as steadily as possible.

I know I’m in a way better spot than this time last year, and I know that I still have a lot of room to grow. There’s a lot I’ve accomplished, a lot I still want to do, and even more that I have no idea about. And I guess when it comes down to it, that rings true for most of us.

Adulthood — especially emerging adulthood — is messy and challenging and wonderful and difficult. But we’re in it. So hopefully, together, we can figure out how to make the best of it.

Let me know your thoughts in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

Homesick at home

I was babysitting a few nights back, and after dinner the kids wanted to go for a walk. As we were walking through the neighborhood, I glanced toward one of the houses and saw a group of people inside, gathered around a table and laughing. And a realization hit me like a final punch.

It isn’t exactly a secret that I’ve felt really off my game lately. I’ve been frustrated, unmotivated, tired, and deeply bothered by something I could never fully articulate. I knew more or less where the feelings were coming from — living in a sometimes purgatory-esque phase of working but not where I want, responsible but not independent, both too far and too close. But I was still struggling to explain how I felt. Until I saw those people in the window, and realized I’m homesick.

Now that sounds like an awful thing to say when I’m living at home, but let me explain. Home has always been a difficult word for me. By the time I turned 17, I had lived in 17 different houses. My parents are divorced, so I spent basically the first 16 years of my life constantly switching back and forth between them. So for me, home isn’t really a place; it’s a feeling.

I have found that feeling in nature and towns and loved ones and communities and yes, sometimes in houses (and yes, the picture above is of the sunrise outside my actual house). I am incredibly grateful for all of the people and things that have helped create feelings of home, even now. Still, this phase is temporary. Plus I’ve got this habit of my heart running faster than the calendar, and it’s a hell of a discrepancy these days.

I wish I could tell you that I’m the only one going through this because a) it sucks, and b) it would be easier to tell myself to get over it. But frankly, it ain’t just me. One of the hallmark traits of emerging adulthood is a feeling of being profoundly in-between. In-between adolescence and established adulthood. In-between dependence and full self-sufficiency. In-between where you were and where you want to be.

For a lot of Millennials, the dream isn’t a McMansion and an expensive car — often, it’s an apartment with bills paid and good food in the fridge, maybe a dog and some plants. We aren’t after ostentatious; we’re after our own version of home, even if humble.

If you’re already got that, I hope you’re content. If, like me, you’re feeling homesick for a place you haven’t arrived at yet, hang in there. Let the hope drive you forward, and keep an eye out for the beautiful moments on the way. If you’re up for it, buy a plant. Either way, know that there are a hundred ways to feel at home, but the common thread is always a deep caring.

Share where you feel most at home in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading and good luck adulting.

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.

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!

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.

Qualifications: Over, under, and out of left field

I’m going to be very blunt about this: Job searching sucks. Cat’s out of the bag, in case everyone didn’t already know anyway. Maybe there aren’t very many positions open in the field you’re looking for, or maybe not in your area. Maybe you’re willing to move but can’t do so until you, you know, get the job. Or maybe you found the right position opening and the location is manageable, but the list of qualifications they’re looking for sounds something like this:

  • 5-8+ years experience (we know the position is entry-level, but we want to see that you’ve been committed to this career since before you were allowed to vote)
  • Skills A through Z (bonus points for inventing new letters!)
  • College degree in the field
  • Ability to work well under deadline pressure and adapt to needs of position (aka learn quickly or drown)
  • Cutting-edge knowledge of emerging news and trends in the field (be so cool you make us feel outdated but not insecure)
  • Oh, and of course, proficiency in Microsoft Office

Obviously that was a very sarcastic rendition, but that can be what it feels like. One friend I know — who also has a stellar blog of her own that you should check out — commented that she applied to nearly 100 jobs, finally resulting in exactly 3 offers. Three. I have another friend who applied to 23, and got 1 offer. Another friend went through seven rounds of interviewing before being offered his current job.

This kind of stuff makes hearing things like, “Oh, don’t worry about it! I’m sure you’ll get it!” and “You know, the job market’s actually improving” feel pretty empty. Because instead of feeling like there are other fish in the sea, you are just one fish and it seems like all the other fish have more experience than you.

I say all of this knowing that I have more than four years of experience in my ideal job, having applied to 32 jobs (for a variety of positions), and actively working on 5 other applications. It’s daunting. But eventually hard work pays off.

If you’re feeling like you don’t even know what type of job you want, research. If the job you want doesn’t seem to be hiring, find people to call or talk to in person — it garners a much better response rate. If you keep on applying and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, switch up your search, or figure out what else you can do to show that you’re an impressive candidate.

Of course, all of those things are much easier said than done, which is why I’m adding a few more links to the Resources page and will try to grow it as much as possible. Check those out, or see if so-and-so’s dad knows somebody, or set a goal for how many applications you want to send in per week.

If you have any questions, or want to vent about the job hunt, feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. It’s a big endeavor, but with enough time and commitment, we’ll prove that we’ve got this.

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.

Do dumb stuff

You read that right. To clarify, I am not suggesting doing anything that would endanger the wellbeing of yourself or others, physically or psychologically. Don’t be mean and don’t get anybody hurt. But I am saying that sometimes it is better for us, as weird and complex human beings, to make the dumb choice in order to save ourselves a little sanity.

I don’t know about you, but the last month or so hasn’t been the easiest stretch I’ve gone through. Hasn’t been the hardest, either. But I stay up late a lot of nights because I don’t like to go to bed feeling, well, unhappy.

I was having a particularly rough day a couple of weeks ago and talking to a good friend about it, which was starting to help. But then said friend decided to show up at my door at 11:30 at night, and told me to come outside. I grabbed my house key and a pair of shoes and hopped in the car, and we got junk food I hadn’t eaten in years and hung out at a favorite spot just to talk until I was feeling better.

Now mind you, I had not one, but two job interviews the next morning. I had to be up early. I had chores to do, and no guarantee of much rest time the following day. By a lot of accounts, choosing to go on that late-night adventure was dumb. But it was also exactly what I needed.

Emerging adulthood is a strange time of life because a lot of us feel in-between everything and as if we don’t quite belong anywhere. And that can suck. Maybe all your friends are far away or your living situation isn’t what you had hoped. Maybe jobs aren’t working out or you’re mired in schoolwork. Maybe personal stuff is just off and you feel like too many things are going wrong, like you can’t catch a break. Make one instead.

Free time can be difficult to find, and I don’t want to trivialize what some people have on their plates. But when I’m considering making a decision that feels a little risky, I usually go back to one question: Years down the road, what story do I want to be telling my grandkids? Do I want to tell them I took the risk and found adventure, that I took my time and made a difference for someone? Or do I want to tell them I played it safe and didn’t laugh as much as I should have, that I didn’t make the sorts of memories I wanted?

I don’t know what you’re going through, but I do know that Slurpees taste better after midnight, adventures are best when they feel straight out of ’80s movies, and a day trip to a place called unusual can be just what you needed. The things that are weighing on you will still be there, but it’s okay to sometimes give yourself the grace to step away from them and do something dumb, just for a little while.

What dumb stuff makes you feel a little better about life? Feel free to let me know in a comment below, or reach out on Twitter @ohgrowup and Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck growing up.