Hello, It’s (the Twentysomething) Me

As all of you MUST know by now, Adele released her newest single, “Hello,” this past week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please click here immediately before continuing to read this post.

People all over the world are freaking out about this song. In a good way. “Adele is back!” “What an amazing song!!” “All praise Queen Adele.”

All for valid reasons, and I 100% agree.

But I’ve also heard some push back that I need to address. “It sounds selfish, Adele making this album for herself.” I’m sorry, what?

Adele has said this: “My last record was a break-up record and if I had to label this one I would call it a make-up record. I’m making up with myself.” Well, damn. Isn’t this the pinnacle point of all relationships? Break-up, make-up, repeat. The catch here, which I absolutely love, is that it’s Adele making up with herself. And the whole entire reason I’m writing about this is because of that idea. Yeah, sure, I love the song and it’s been on repeat nonstop all week. But for me, it has a deeper meaning. This isn’t a break-up song. It’s a make-up song.

And speaking unitedly as a group of twentysomethings (and people of all ages, really), I’m going to generalize and say that we all need to embrace this concept. Make up with yourself. The past is the past. What’s done is done. I’m more concerned about looking ahead. Living in the present, yet still being able to move forward. And how can we do that? Make up with the past, and make up with yourself.

In the song, Adele says three simple (yet oh-so-complex phrases) that start with “Hello.” All of which lead to “Hello from the other side.” In my mind, the other side is after we have made up with ourselves…embraced the past, accepted it, and moved forward. So how do why get to the other side? Let’s start by acknowledging the three “Hellos.”

  1. Hello, it’s me.
    • Who are you? This is a real question, not rhetorical. Take out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down five of your most salient identities. For example, I am a son, a brother, a writer, a student affairs professional, and a graduate student. Reflecting on your identity is such an important concept in getting to the other side and in moving forward. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Are those two visions aligning? In order to get to the other side, you need to be able to say, “Hello, it’s me,” in a clear, confident tone. Know who you are, who you want to be, and where you are going.
  2. Hello, can you hear me?
    • Listen to yourself. Can you hear yourself when your intuition is telling you something? I have found this to be especially true in coming to term with your values, especially if you find your own personal values to be changing in ways that you would’ve never thought of before. Just listen to yourself. What feels right for you? Getting to the other side requires a certain amount of self-awareness, and in order to get there, you just need to listen.
  3. Hello, how are you?
    • Self-care. How are you doing? How are you feeling? This one is so so important. After you discover that new sense of self-awareness, think about how you are going to maintain it. If you know that you need to have a challenging conversation, have it. But make sure that you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself first and foremost. Some see it as selfish, I see it as wise.

One last thing: this is a process, people. Getting to the other side is not as easy as One, Two, Three. I think you can hear the pain in Adele’s voice with this new song. AKA, it’s not going to feel easy, but it’s going to feel right.

For more inspiration and everything good, please refer to the letter from Adele herself below:


Adulting is Hard…and Other Tales

I’ve noticed something.

Being a twentysomething is only a phase. You’re probably thinking, Duh, Michael…did you think you would be a twentysomething forever?! Okay, well let me tell you…it FEELS like forever. Not that I’m rushing it, by any means, but to me, being a twentysomething means more than just being between the ages of 20 and 29. With that identity comes a sense of limbo, and that’s the tough part. And even though it is just a phase, there are some side effects that seem to last forever.

I’ve also noticed a new phrase in recent months…and maybe it’s just the new slang (what all the cool kids are saying nowadays) or maybe it only comes as you grow into your mid-twenties, but the phrase is “adulting.” It’s a verb. Specifically, “Adulting is hard!” And it is.

And to commemorate how hard adulting can be, here are five experiences that I don’t think will ever get better, regardless of how old I am.

  1. Laundry
    • I don’t care if I’m 25 or 75. Will laundry ever be a fun task? Especially now that I have to pay for it? Ugh. I feel like laundry should be a right, not a privilege, and at no cost! You all know the moment: hamper overflowing, clothes starting to pile up on the floor…how many pairs of underwear do I have left? Eh, maybe it can wait a couple more days.
  2. Paying Bills
    • I don’t think I know anyone, regardless of their age, who gets excited to pay their bills. Whenever those envelopes start to come in the mail – Verizon, National Grid, Sallie Mae, etc – my heart internally cries a little bit. Goodbye bank account. Yay for being a responsible adult who can pay their bills? But raise your hand if you have a serious side-eye emoji every single time those bills come through.
  3. Weekend Commitments
    • I was up at 7:16am this morning. Just a reminder, it’s SUNDAY. Why? Because I have things to do today. I’m working at my part-time job from 3pm to 11pm, I have to go grocery shopping, meal prep, laundry, AND homework on top of everything else. All before 3pm, and all of which needs to be done before the week starts tomorrow. Can’t we just make a universal law that states weekends are 100% free time for 100% of the people? That would be nice.
  4. Grocery Shopping
    • I have to be honest, I actually really enjoy the act of grocery shopping. I like being able to pick out any food I want, going up and down the aisles, thinking of recipes in my head. But what I don’t love is when the cashier tells me my total and I have to swipe my credit card. Damn, Michael. Do you really eat that much?! I tell myself it’s all good food, and for that, I can’t feel bad about the dollar amount that comes up every. Single. Week. Another thing about grocery shopping is the status of your fridge the day before. Yesterday, for example, my fridge was so empty that there was a tiny echo coming from inside of it. For lunch, I had chicken broth with one poached egg cooked inside…I called it “soup.”
  5. Friendships
    • If you’re a twentysomething, you’ve definitely thought about this one. Friendships as a twentysomething are HARD. During college, everyone seemed to have all this free time, even though everyone always thought they were so busy. And even if everyone really was so busy, at least you lived on the same campus and were able to get coffee once in a while. Maintaining friendships is difficult in this new limbo phase of life, but also making new friends has its own challenges. But I’m not sure it will ever get better. From here on out, friends will always have their own things going on in life, their own people. New friends will still be hard to make, especially as you get older. Quality, not quantity, right?

What Other Tales do you all have? Feel free to share or comment below!

Happiness in Just Three (Easy) Steps!

This past week, as some of you may know, I was at a conference for work with other student affairs professionals. When I returned to work on Thursday, people asked, “How was it?!” I responded with one phrase: “life-changing.”

“Why?!” everyone asks.

My scripted (and entirely true response): “It was life-changing because I felt educated, inspired, and connected.”

Over the course of this past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about why those three feelings contributed to the overarching sense of “life-changing.” And as I thought about it, I realized that these three feelings – educated, inspired, and connected – were also relevant to a twentysomething life. Maybe even life in general for people of all ages. Here’s why:

  1. Educated
    • At the conference, I learned something at almost every single session I attended. For other conference goers, you know how rare that is! But after each session, I walked away with pages of notes and dozens of new ideas to bring back to my campus. Student affairs professionals like to use to term Lifelong Learners, and it applies to all of us. Having a feeling of growth is a major component to happiness, and that includes your brain. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, suggests picking up three new magazines every month that you would have never read otherwise. Or watching a documentary on something that interests you and learning even more about it. Either way, the point is to learn. Forever. Becoming a life-long learner will absolutely contribute to your happiness.
  2. Inspired
    • The amount of times my job has come up through the course of this blog might be one too many, but here’s a plot twist: after this conference, I LOVE MY JOB! And more than that, I love the field of work that I am currently doing. It was a reminder of why I’m doing the work that I’m doing, and why I love it so much. So how do you start to feel inspired when you are feeling completely lack-luster? Well, I would ask yourself, why? Why am I doing this job? What made me want to do this job in the first place? If that doesn’t fill you with passion and inspiration, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Another idea is to check back in with yourself about your goals. When you first started at your job/company/office/etc, what were your goals? Have you reached any of them? If not, are you currently working towards them, or did they kind of fall off the bandwagon? Realign your work with your goals. Goals provide a purpose in your work, which in turns provide a sense of inspiration.
  3. Connected
    • By the end of the conference, I was able to look around the room and feel connected with most of the people in the room. Some I knew before the conference, some I met while I was there, and others were just a friendly face that I had gotten used to seeing over the past four days. Again with Gretchen Rubin (she really is great), but she says that people/connectedness is another contributing factor to happiness. So how are you connected? What are you doing to get involved, get connected in your office, or in your community? We are always telling college students to get involved, but we need to practice what we preach. No matter what your job is, get involved. Make an active positive presence for yourself. Join a committee, attend events that are not required, offer guidance to a coworker in another department, volunteer on the weekends. Soon enough, these additional responsibilities that at first may just seem like extra time commitments will soon pay off in having connections and in having some really amazing people in your life.

So, I guess that’s it folks. The three key factors of happiness: Feeling educated, inspired, and connected. Although I know it’s not that simple, it may be a good place to start.

What are other ways you feel educated, inspired, and connected?

The Importance of Finding a Mentor

Finding a mentor is one of the most important things in life.

I know that sounds like a dramatic statement, an exaggeration perhaps…but I dare you to challenge it. Mentors are kind of like the idea, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Except with mentors, it’s the opposite. You don’t know how valuable mentors are until you need one.

A mentor is someone who can guide you through those not-so-great experiences. Someone who is there to validate what you are going through and help you work through it. I used to think that a mentor was someone who provided guidance for all aspects of life, but as I’m getting older, I’m realizing that’s not necessarily the case.

When I am feeling musically inclined, I email my piano teacher for Chopin suggestions. A musical mentor. When I am feeling stuck in a writer’s block, I email my writing coach. A writing mentor. And when I am feeling discouraged at work, I can walk into my supervisor’s office and ask her advice. A work mentor.

A mentor is someone who has most likely gone through your experience and is able to offer helpful advice. Someone who has been there before. But because we all have so many different experiences, it’s hard to have one “life mentor.” But it’s easier to connect with people who have similar interests and similar experiences.

When going through any kind of difficult twentysomething period, I’ve realized that I can’t really rely on my musical mentor, my writing mentor, or even my work mentor. It’s nice to hear about their perspective, but it’s even nicer to hear from other twentysomethings who are going through similar experiences in the same time period.

So, here are my tips and tricks to finding your very own twentysomething mentor:

  1. Find another Twentysomething
    • This may sound strange. Usually, when looking for a mentor, you want an older, wiser person who is able to give you their words of wisdom. But sometimes, especially as a twentysomething, I just need another twentysomething person to tell me that they’ve also had drunken encounters before and regretted it the morning after. Or that paying rent nearly cleared out their bank account. Or that grad school is completely soul-sucking. You need to be able to relate to your twentysomething mentor, and even more importantly, they need to be able to relate to you.
  2. Embrace the Vulnerability
    • If there’s one overarching theme that I’ve learned about being a twentysomething, it’s that vulnerability is a consistent feeling across all twentysomething experiences. The security of college is gone, the security of living at home or with friends is taken…hell, you may not even have a secure job, relationship, friend group, etc. There is no stability at all. Hence, vulnerability. If you go about your whole mentor/mentee relationship skirting real-life adult issues, nothing is going to get any better. Take a risk and be vulnerable. If you feel you have no friends, it’s okay to say that. If you hate your job, be honest! Be honest, take risks, and embrace the vulnerability.
  3. Listen with Open Ears
    • You can’t  have a mentor and not be open to at least hearing what they have to say. They might tell you that you need to get your life together, that you are having way too many one night stands, or that the number of Chinese take-out containers in your apartment is getting out of control. Take it in stride. Maybe your life is a mess, maybe you really enjoy meeting new people in that way, and maybe you just love Chinese food. It’s cool. Or maybe there is some truth in their advice. Either way, take everything with a grain of salt, but still be open to listening.

And when all is said and done, make sure to thank you mentor, because without them, who knows where you’d be?