Be your best self…even when it sucks.

Well folks, it’s almost September. And you know what that means…regardless of whether you are in school or not, there are dreams of bright red apples, hard-cover textbooks, and first-day-of-class outfits dancing in your head. Working in a college environment, I understand that I am biased. No matter how old I get, I will always view this time of year as “time-to-go-back-to-school,” no matter what.

Except this year, I’m trying to be a little more intentional in approaching the school year. The summer flew by, training hit me hard, and now I am literally enjoying the very last day to myself before classes start.

One activity during our office’s training that really stuck with me was “Developing a Personal Mission Statement.” The author of the worksheet identifies five steps to develop your own personal mission statement:

  1. Define what you want to be and do
  2. Identify an influential person
  3. Define your life roles
  4. Write a draft of your personal mission statement
  5. Evaluate

Well when you write it all out, in five easy steps, it sounds…easy! Don’t let the steps fool you. It’s not hard work, necessarily, but it will take some thought. I’ll give you an example of how I started with step one. “I’d like to create a meaningful impact in the community for myself and for others. I’d like to be balanced with a consistent yet fluctuating sense of well-being.”

Okay. So what does that mean?

It means that ultimately, I want to be my best self. For others, but also for myself. And eventually, that’s how I developed my own mantra for my last year of grad school. “Be your best self – for others, and also for yourself.” It’s quick, simple, and meaningful to me.

Growing up, I was always told that as long as I did my best, the outcome didn’t matter. Whether it was grades in school, the next piano recital performance, whatever. It didn’t matter, as long as I tried my best. I think the message that is missing though is that as long as you try your best, the outcome for yourself doesn’t matter. If I messed up at a piano recital, my parents didn’t mind…but wow, I sure did! I would beat myself up for weeks, hitting the keyboard for hours after the fact, practicing and repeating the exact same measure over and over until my fingers cramped. Did I ever miss that note again? Nope. But did I try my best at that piano recital, even though I messed up? Well, yeah. I did.

I’m finding that the twentysomething life is a lot like performing at a piano recital. Sometimes, it’s flawless. Other times, it sucks. But regardless of the outcome, as long as you do your best, that should be enough…for everyone involved, including yourself.

I’m also in the process of learning that it’s more than just being your best self. It’s allowing it. Allow yourself to be your best self! Embrace it. Own it. Love it.

And allow yourself to embrace it, own it, and love it even if it sucks. Even if you messed up. Even if it wasn’t the best. As long as it was your best, that’s all that matters.

A simple lesson, really…one I learned in elementary school. Yet, reading it through a twentysomething lens really seems to add a whole new perspective.

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Twentysomething Growing Pains

“There is growth across difference.”

This is a quote from somewhere. Great Michael, how profound. No, but really. It is a quote, and coincidentally enough, these words have been flashing across my mind a lot this week. When I Googled “growth across difference quote,” there were no exact matches. There were a bunch of beautiful quotes about diversity and accepting others, all from the lips of people like Maya Angelou and Ghandi. Yet, no exact matches. The quote is something I say a lot when I teach others about diversity, and because I can’t find any other matches, I’m going to attribute it to my supervisor. So, go her!! Thanks for that!

Anyway. Back to the main point.

There is growth across difference. Difference of opinions. Difference of perspective. Different people in general. There is so much to be learned from each other. There is a beauty in collaborative understanding, in sharing of different cultures and experiences, and learning more about the world around you. As Gretchen Rubin says, “To be happy, I need to think about feeling good in an atmosphere of growth.”

Growth is everything, people. There’s just one caveat. Growth is really, really hard.

(Just to reiterate: growth is REALLY HARD). And that’s okay. I guess that’s why they are called “growing pains.” Yet when I think of that term, I always thought physical pain. Literal growing pains. I remember my mother massaging my calves when I was going through a growth spurt because my muscles were having a temper tantrum of their own. But now, I’m twenty four…basically a full, independent adult. And single. Which is only kind of relevant. But when your mom isn’t there to massage your calves, I think the metaphorical equivalent of a cure for twentysomething growing pains is coming home to your person and talking through it.

This week in particular seems to be a challenging one. Training started at work, I’ve been meeting a bunch of new people in the program, and school is starting back up again the week after next. Maybe that all sounds great, but for some reason, I’m having a sense of social anxiety about it. It’s weird. But also, it’s a growth opportunity.

So, as always, here are some ideas that will maybe help with growth across difference.

  1. Feel it
    • I wanted to write “feel the feels,” but I kind of hate that expression. Although, it totally applies here. Actually, I love that expression. Feel the feels! My perspective is this: any challenging experience can also be seen as a personal growth opportunity. I’ll give you an example. Recently, there has been some tension with the parents. Mostly because I want to “run away” to Europe post-grad and “throw away my education.” Whatever. At first, I thought I was handling the situation by just ignoring it, which consequently meant ignoring them. And as soon as I felt the effects of that, all the feels came my way. And I needed that. I needed to think, reflect, and process why that tension was a point of difficulty for me.
  2. Embrace it
    • After you acknowledge the growth opportunity and allow yourself to feel it, you need to embrace the challenge in front of you. It may not be easy, but it’s a vital step. If you just ignore it, it’s not going to go away. The challenge won’t become any easier and you won’t be able to learn anything from it. With my parents, I had to embrace the fact that for once in my life, I didn’t feel supported by my parents. But after feeling that emotion, and embracing it, I was able to think about how to move forward.
  3. Learn from it
    • What’s the point of having a challenging experience if you aren’t able to learn from it? There are some times that life seems extremely difficult, but don’t let it be for nothing. Learn from it, and grow. With my parents, I needed to have a conversation with them. I learned that when talking about my post-grad plans, I might need to be a little more sensitive. My parents also challenged me to think across different perspectives, and challenged why I want to go to Europe. It was a fair question, and I’ve been thinking more about that recently, which I’d like to think is helping me grow.

And lastly, just in case you need one last reminder:

What other twentysomething experiences have presented themselves as personal growth opportunities?

Feeling Lost? A Twentysomething Guide.

For this week’s post, I was tempted to just come up with some creative title for this picture, post the picture, and then just leave it at that. A picture says a thousand words, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the inner writer in me felt the need to explain more in depth. What does this picture mean? Why did it resonate with me in such a way? Why is it on a twentysomething blog? Maybe some of these questions are obvious, I’m not sure. If that’s the case, please ignore the rest of this post and just thank me for posting the picture.

Anyway. I came across this photo earlier this week, and I never felt I related to a picture more than the one above. First, you’re a baby, then you’re a small child…some time goes by…and then you triumphantly hold your diploma high in the air, Breakfast Club style, after graduating high school or college. For me, it was college. As soon as I graduated, this twentysomething dizziness started to kick in. Fast forward thirty years, and the person at the other end of the time line seems to be thriving. Running, even! They are so excited about their amazing life.

So what is that chaotic jumble of squiggles in the middle?

Well folks, that’s the twentysomethings. That’s what this blog is all about. And in addition to the jumble, the title also caught my attention. “Lost in Life?” YUP. I am. So for this post, I thought it might be helpful to write about three ways that I, as a lost twentysomething, have found myself to be a little less lost.

1. Find your passion

  • I know this sounds like a daunting task. But the challenge here is simple. Think of your life right now and what you do. Work, school, XYZ responsibility, etc. But if you didn’t have any of those responsibilities, if you didn’t have to go to work tomorrow, or didn’t have to take classes, what would you be doing? In other words, how are you going to spend your days when you retire? In my case, I know I’m going to be sitting in a Starbucks all day, writing. And right now, I work at Starbucks, and I’m writing this blog post…so hey, maybe I’m not doing so bad!

2. Find your center

  • Life is stressful. Life throws challenges your way. But when everything becomes too overwhelming and chaotic, what do you do? What do you do to find your balance? Your center? What brings you back to the core? For me, it’s those deep breath moments. When everything in life is getting to be a little too much, just take a deep breath and think what do I need to do right now? Take a walk, stretch into a few yoga poses, some more deep breaths, eat twenty pieces of chocolate. Anything! As long as it makes you feel more connected to yourself.

3. Find your purpose

  • This one is my most recent challenge, posed to me by a good friend. It’s the why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why do you do what you do? It could apply to anything. Work, school, friends, anything. And if you don’t know the answer to that question, I would suggest some soul-searching, or consider trying something else. I had a tough time recently. My question was why do I want to work in Student Affairs? And after some good conversations with mentors and friends and some internal reflecting, I’ve found a partial purpose. Some days, I forget that purpose and want to do something completely different…and that’s okay too.

So, friends, the moral of the story is that life is hard. It will give you ups and downs. But don’t let it throw you off course. It’s easy to get lost. I’ve been lost the majority of my time as a twentysomething. But I don’t think that means I can’t keep working to find myself.

Twentysomething Dollars (…or lack thereof)

This week, I did an adult thing. I paid off one of my student loans.

Now don’t get too excited. I’ve received only one reaction from the few people I’ve told: “OH MY GOSH LUCKY YOU THAT’S SO GREAT.”

Okay, hold on people. Let’s clarify some things. I’m not debt-free at all, by any means. And that tiny loan I just paid off? I have another just like it, except it’s four times bigger. And now, more than ever, I’m feeling financial stress like no other because my bank account has suddenly plummeted. The dollars were put towards a good cause…my education…but still, it feels like I just threw my money in the shredder.

And now, I’m feeling all these other financial burdens. Twentysomething problems, and money are the majority of them. **Disclaimer before reading: this list may cause severe stress and minor heart palpitations.**

  1. Student loans
  2. Student fees
  3. Textbooks for grad school
  4. Groceries
  5. Rent
  6. Utilities
  7. Cable
  8. Wi-fi
  9. Car payments
  10. Car insurance
  11. Gas
  12. Random car maintenance
  13. Random apartment up-keeping
  14. Phone bill
  15. Gym membership
  16. Clothes
  17. Wine
  18. Going out to eat with friends
  19. Coffee
  20. Books to read for fun
  21. Travel
  22. Going to see new movies
  23. Concerts
  24. Other fun things

Okay, you get the point. Out of that list, the first 14 are mandatory. Basic necessities (unless I go without a car, which is not feasible at this time). I’d even say #15 is a necessity in order to keep up with physical well-being, but that’s debatable. But regardless, out of twentysomething financial burdens, OVER HALF are things that I can’t control. I can’t decide not to pay rent unless I want to be kicked out. I can’t decide to go without food for a week (LOL let’s be real here).

So I found myself in a trap this week. Should I put a financial hold on myself for the rest of the list? Limit myself from all of the other “fun” things that I can control? Maybe I don’t have to buy this new book…maybe I shouldn’t go to the movies…maybe I should stay in instead of meeting my friends…

Well, I just have one word: NO.

I tried that this past week for you all so you wouldn’t have to, and I’m here to report, it’s not worth it. Because those “non-essentials” are what make the essentials worth living for. Sure, I could sit in my apartment and not do anything. Saving money, yes. But what kind of life is that? I could also cut back a bit on certain things. Maybe I don’t need to get Baby Spinach and Spring Greens Mix at Wegmans for $4.99 a pack…(yes, for me, that’s “expensive”), but I want to be healthy and eat the best foods possible. I could have ramen, etc, but to me, it’s worth spending the extra few dollars.

Another tip: a friend on Facebook posted this earlier this week, “When I say ‘I’m broke’ it doesn’t mean I have $0. It just means I have responsibilities to handle first before spending it on dumb shit.”

Well ain’t that the truth! Literally, I have money in my bank account. It’s all fine. I just need to take a deep breath. But if a group of friends are going to see a movie I have no interest in, or if someone asks me to go to a restaurant that I’ve already been to and didn’t enjoy, why bother? Either A) suggest a new plan that is worthy of your hard-earned cash, or B) maybe wait until something better comes along.

And that’s another point…twentysomethings work hard for our money!! And no matter how old you are, the majority of the day is spent working. So why not spend the money on something that you will truly enjoy?

A lesson from my grandmother: Save your money and spend wisely. But a lesson from my dad: The point of working is to have money to spend.

Contradictory lessons? I don’t think so. Work hard to earn money, save some, spend some. It’s all about finding that oh-so-important balance.

Twentysomething Reasons to Move as a Twentysomething

Moving can be a tumultuous process. And no, I am not exaggerating. But it can also be fun and exciting! Maybe it’s the time of year, but a lot of people I know seem to be moving, including me! So with that, here are twentysomething reasons why I think moving as a twentysomethinng (or I suppose, at any time), is beneficial.

  1. A fresh, new start
    • Who doesn’t want that?
  2. Cleaning out your closets
    • Literally and metaphorically. Everyone has some baggage they might want to toss, but let me tell you, I was also able to throw out some hideous old clothing.
  3. Doing something familiar
    • I’ve moved before, it’s nothing new. It’s almost soothing to pack the boxes, unpack the boxes. It’s rhythmic. And at the end of the process, it’s nice to know that I will still have familiar things around me.
  4. Doing something unfamiliar
    • I’ve never lived off-campus. It’s unfamiliar! Uncharted territory. And I’m going to say moving is the definition of uncharted.
  5. Making at least one (or one hundred) adult decisions
    • Wait, you mean wi-fi isn’t free to the world? Whose name is the bill going to be in? These are hard decisions, and ones I’ve never had to make before.
  6. Entering the “real world”
    • And on the note above, those kind of hard decisions really make you feel like you are in the “real world,” whatever the hell that means. I’m not in a campus bubble anymore. I’m in the world around me…and I kind of love it.
  7. Feeling vulnerable
    • Moving can be scary and overwhelming. Raise your hands if you’re with me!
  8. Testing your independence
    • I can run around in my underwear if I wanted, but that also means paying the bills on time, cleaning to avoid bugs, etc.
  9. Shopping!
    • So what if it’s for Lysol wipes or carpet cleaner?! Shopping is shopping, people.
  10. Treat Yo Self
    • After everything (or mostly everything) was unpacked, I kicked back, put my feet up on the couch, and poured myself a healthy glass of red wine with a great book sitting right next to me. It was glorious.
  11. Bonding with new people
    • My neighbors across the hall have a mat outside their door. It says, “Hello, I’m mat.” I decided I like them already. I’m excited to meet them, and I’m potentially debating on whether or not to bring a Jell-O mold.
  12. Living with someone else, or multiple people
    • No matter who you live with, moving is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn more about yourself.
  13. A good use of quarters
    • Before, spare change was a nuisance. Something reserved for piggy banks and cracks in the sofa. But now, lay all the quarters on me, because now I need to pay to do laundry!! Ew. Why does it sound like I’m excited?
  14. A change of scenery
    • Everything is different. I’m in the same town, and yet, everything has changed around me. How do I get to the grocery store from here? Work? Classes? Everything is new.
  15. Celebrating the little things
    • Look at this amazing medicine cabinet in the bathroom!!! (that is not a hypothetical statement)
  16. Celebrating the big things
    • I’m moving to a new place with a great friend, starting with a clean slate for a second year of grad school, and feeling excited. A cause to celebrate!
  17. Having an excuse for the depletion of your bank account
    • My rent is how much?!!
  18. Building your credit
    • It’s never too early! When someone told me that I needed to start building credit so I could eventually buy a house, I nearly had a heart attack. However, paying rent (on time) will help build that credit, and it’s never a bad thing.
  19. Living in the present
    • Moving is here and now. You’re packing the past and unpacking into the present. It gives you the means to focus on what’s in front of you.
  20. Having fun
    • I think I have thrown myself more dance parties this weekend while packing/unpacking than I have throughout the entirety of last year…
  21. Enjoying it
    • And last but certainly not least, enjoy the process. Enjoy everything about moving, starting new, and having the opportunity to try something different.

Any other twentysomething moving tips? Leave them in the comments below!