Adulting On Your Terms

Adulting:

 1. to behave in an adult manner; engage in activities associated with adulthood

2. to make someone behave like an adult; turn someone into an adult

I’m looking forward to getting older. I’ve never been afraid of it. Physically I look younger than my age and always have so if vanity does play a part in the fear of aging I suppose I have decent enough genes that I’m not too concerned with it. For me growing older means, reaching milestones, making memories, giving into fewer anxieties and being more comfortable with myself. I find that when people are on the verge of thirty they begin romanticizing their tumultuous twenties. And don’t get me wrong, I like to think back on times to see how far I’ve come and reminisce about fun experiences but I don’t think any time in a persons life is more important than the present because it is the malleable time we have now that can change things, not some fixed foggy memory far out of reach. A memory can be visited, the present can be lived. 

A fun and exciting youth is ultimately unsustainable, and hopelessly clinging to it only separates you from the inherent joys of aging. And so, to accept growing up with a healthy mindset I think its important to let go of the past without letting go of ourselves. This is where people tend to get lost.In the process of growing into adulthood, they stop having fun, they give up making time for their hobbies, they take themselves too seriously, they stop nurturing long time friendships. As if a vital, important chunk of who we are and always have been is no longer necessary in our adult lives. But you can’t evolve with only part of what makes you who you are.

Its infuriating to see my peers drop out of their true selves in order to become adults. They go from their twenties to their thirties simply checking off one step after the other. As if at around twenty-five some dull, unimaginative writer has taken control of penning their stories. College, career, marriage, home ownership, children and on and on.

Landing a big job, getting married or becoming a parent will not give us any sense of fulfillment if we simply go through the motions of achieving them only to let them become the sole titles by which we define ourselves. A homeowner, a mom, a dad, an entrepreneur, a big wig attorney. Why can’t an adult “milestone” be reached without allowing it to take precedence over the person/people that have gotten there. You are not what you do for a living,  or your marital status, you are first and foremost an individual human being. We can’t lose sight of that. If you are blind to yourself, who are you aiming to please?

Growing into adulthood as a women sometimes feels like there is an additional story line that can be written for you if you let it. There seems to have been a shift from “women can do anything ” to “women should do everything” and I think that comes from coming of age in a generation raised by women with mostly traditional ideals of femininity who were part of the first big wave of women getting college degrees and entering industries previously dominated by men. They paved the way and now we are left to normalize it, to push the needle further. Not to just sit at the table but to be appointed to sit at the head of the table and be seen as intellectually equal. 

Our grandmothers and mothers generations are not reflective of our progressive dreams and aspirations and many of us land some where in the middle of traditional womanhood and modern feminism. We are trying to obtain a sense of equality that has never existed before and so we don’t know how to get there.We are the new modern women of our times and we have more options than we have ever had and that is a good thing! Except it can backfire because whatever you choose as your path as a woman, someone will deem it inadequate. That’s where settling enters for women. Maybe career ambitions start to be clouded by pressure to marry, or have a family. But why? The “can women have it all?” conversation that is perpetrated by the media and by women themselves needs to be changed. Just because we can fill many roles as modern women doesn’t mean we have to. That is the beauty of it; choice. Society needs to catch up and so do we all. I used to fear that I would have to compromise a part of me in order to fulfill an aspect of adulthood, except that’s not true. No one has to, we can choose what not to do and what to do and when to do it!

Don’t worry about having it all whether you are a man or woman coming into adulthood, focus on having it your way, on your terms, whatever that means to you. 

How You Are Getting In The Way of Your Career Growth & How To Stop

Everyone has moments of frustration with their jobs, but if you have been consistently unhappy at your job it’s time to think about making a change. As with most important decisions in life, it’s not that simple. There are several things to take into consideration: you may not be able to find a job that pays as well as your current job, with your current credentials you may not be qualified for another role and may need to seek additional education or training to work toward the role you desire, or you might simply be struggling to muster up the energy to launch a job search.

I have been in this tough situation and I know that as unpleasant and stressful as it can be, we can make it so much harder on ourselves by self-sabotaging. We compare ourselves to our colleagues and friends, we tell ourselves to “just wait and see”, or we don’t have a definitive plan so we panic instead of doing something.  As a former pro self-saboteur I know a thing or two about totally screwing yourself over while fully being aware of it and yet, feeling unable to stop. So let’s break it down and break out of this career standstill!

How you are getting in the way of your career growth and how to stop:

  1. Comparing yourself

Comparing yourself to your colleagues or friends is going to achieve one thing well: making you feel really shitty. Sure, maybe your former college roommate is killing it as a fancy real estate agent in LA and you know this because her Instagram feed is chock-full of images of the mansions and swanky beach homes she gets sold. And perhaps one of your coworkers is creatively brilliant, while another is a great speaker and can command a room like no other. But comparing yourself to them is useless. Everyone does better or worse than others when it comes to certain skills. What one person does poorly, you may naturally have a real talent for.

Instead of comparing yourself, think about your strengths. What can you do better than most? Perhaps that old roomie of yours is making bank in the vapid west coast real estate world but can she design a website like you? Can they, like you, skillfully compose an email to a difficult client who is complaining, yet again? Can they thrive in a team environment as well as you do? Ask yourself: What do I do better than most? And OWN those strengths!

  1. You convince yourself it’s okay to wait and see

“I should just wait until the next round of performance reviews.”

“I’ll hold on until after the new year and see what happens.”

“A lot of things could change, you never know.”

If you find yourself saying these things in order to convince yourself to stay in your wretched job, you are in denial. The last thing you want to do in this situation is play the waiting game! When it comes to our careers we cannot drag our feet in the hope that other people will come along and make everything okay. I know that working a full time job that is absolutely eviscerating your energy and morale only to go home to meticulously tweak your resume and scour the internet for open positions, is exhausting. But it is a part of the process, whether you are a painter or a software engineer you have to actively put yourself out there, market yourself, and straight up hustle in order to land a dream gig. (Also as an aside can we just accept that your dream gig today will probably not be your dream gig in 5 years, and that it’s totally fine because evolving and learning is important!) Please do not wait for anyone to just pop out of the ether and offer you a great job if you haven’t put in the time and energy!

When is waiting it out a good tactic?: if it’s part of a larger strategy like saving up enough money to start your own business, or waiting to graduate from your masters program, or waiting on more funding so your company can create the roles you really want to do (in the case of startups). Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time, and if you stick to the waiting game long enough it will become a way of life and nothing will ever change.

  1. You don’t know what to do next

It’s really hard to get what you want when you don’t know what it is you want. It can be scary and stressful especially when you find yourself ready to leave your job in order to save your sanity/dignity yet aren’t sure what to do next. When you don’t know what you want, it seems like the only option is to stay where you are until the answer appears, regardless of how trapped it might make you feel.

There are limitless options but maybe you just don’t feel particularly committed to any of them because you can’t see them individually, they all seem to be lumped into this one massive cancerous decision growth that just keeps growing the more you think about it threatening to crush you.

Don’t get crushed! Start asking yourself some questions. Is it the job itself (your role in the company) or the company culture/work environment? Would you be better off in a new city? Maybe you want to spend more of your time with people, have better flexibility in your hours. I don’t think the level of clarity matters a whole lot. What matters is being able to ask some tough questions and being confident enough to go for it!

Letter from Fear

Dear You,

I know that I get unruly sometimes and that I may have held you back from jumping into exciting and dangerous experiences but know that I did it to keep you safe and sane. I have evolved over the years but there are a few things that will never change. Fear of mediocrity, fear of stagnation and fear of losing control.

Death doesn’t really spook me as much anymore. Violent thunderstorms no longer keep me up at night working overtime. Nightlights have not been necessary for practically 20 years! Yes, indeed, I have evolved in many ways and in doing so I’ve become complex and harder to shake, like a gob of sidewalk gum on the bottom of your shoe that with each step becomes grittier picking up filth along the way, becoming more solid, thicker and stronger with each step.

You’ve done a great job of keeping me in check but sometimes I get pushy and take over. I can linger for days and months keeping you second guessing, unsure and uneasy. I have a knack of sneaking up on you like a trench coated stranger coming up around the corner, keeping pace with you but just far away enough that you can’t make me out to be anything but a shadow cast over your quickening footsteps. For the times I have consumed you and made you obsess over thoughts that tormented you, I’m sorry. I’m intrinsically weak you see, I’m Fear and that’s just how I function. I can be motivating or stifling; I can be logical or irrational. My real purpose is to test you, to make sure that no matter how dark or overwhelming I become you don’t lose yourself in me and can tell me “no” and say “you are wrong”. I’m usually wrong and I like being wrong, please keep proving me wrong.

yours truly, like it or not,

Fear

Don’t Be A Doormat & Learn To Say “No”

Ever find yourself taking on side projects at work that won’t benefit your career whatsoever? Do your personal relationships feel one sided – where you are always the one putting in effort to appease friends, family and partners? Are you constantly kicking yourself after you overbooked another weekend because you couldn’t bring yourself to simply say “no”. People-pleasing is toxic, it’s also a tough habit to break.  Why do we do it? Because people-pleasers want everyone in their lives to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to keep it that way. PPs are almost addicted to being needed in a twisted way because saying “yes” to everything makes them feel like they are playing a part in the lives of others.

PPs tend to believe that they will be well-liked the more they say yes to others but often times they’ll end up feeling like doormats.  One thing I know for certain is that if you allow others to treat you like shit, eventually you will start to treat yourself like shit too. Also, saying “no” to favors or engagements you’d rather not attend does not make you a demanding jerk and if anyone on the receiving end of your “no” gives you a hard time, its likely that THEY are the demanding jerks not the other way around!

What many people-pleasers tend to forget is that constantly saying yes to others is to constantly say no to your needs. Not only does it put a lot of pressure on you, but it can literally make you sick by stretching yourself too thin in order to accommodate others. You are depleting your energy sources and this unhealthy behavior will eventually leave you feeling exhausted, used and stressed out.

Here are a few tips to help you be better at saying NO.

 

  1. Remember you have the option to say no.
  1. Think it over. If someone asks something of you, take a minute to think about it. Ask questions and get the details on this particular commitment. After you get all the info ask yourself the following: “Will this be too stressful for me?” “Do I have time for this?” “ What would I be giving up?” “ Am I being pressured into this?”
  1. Have boundaries. Is the person asking something of you being disrespectful in their approach? Is the favor inappropriate? Is there any benefit for you and if not is this a pattern constantly playing out with you and this person? Also, feel free to set constraints on a particular commitment for example if you can only attend a friends bridal shower for an hour because you had already made plans far in advance. Don’t cancel those prior plans! Just let your friend know you can attend their event but for only a certain amount of time.
  1. Try not to feel guilty for saying “no”. It takes time to get comfortable with saying no,  and feeling guilty about it will make it much harder for yourself. Your time and energy is yours to manage!

 

The Burnout Epidemic

Chronic fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, anxiety, impaired concentration, weakened immune system and depression. These are the tell tale signs of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. At 27, I’ve experienced burnout a few times in my life and I’ve needed to learn how to balance my energies to stay healthy and happy.

During my senior year of college I worked as a waitress and bartender, I was a nanny to three small girls, I was VP of my schools Hispanic student association and I was interning at one of Bostons top advertising firms. I was 21 and I thought I was invincible. I was an overachiever hell bent on doing it all who sustained herself on caffeine in order to make it through. To decompress, instead of taking it easy and catching up on sleep on my nights off, I would go out with friends. This lifestyle completely destroyed me.

Sure I graduated with honors, a solid internship experience to add to my resume and some money in the bank from my various hustles but it all came at a price. By the time I graduated I was in rough shape. I remember feeling totally uninspired, anxious and emotionally depleted. After graduation I thought to myself “Okay,crazy you did it, now stop!” I remember spending a good two weeks at my parents house doing nothing but watching Harry Potter and working on my tan. It was glorious. It was also a bit of a wake up call.

I’ve written about my last bout of burnout in Letting Yourself Be. Both of these instances of burnout where tough to get through because I had to recondition myself to live a more balanced life. I had to train myself to know when to stop pushing beyond the brink and when to cut myself some slack. It’s not easy to keep yourself in line if you are someone who has high expectations and no patience for themselves. Add to that, living in a society where social media has elevated standards of what having it all and doing it all looks like. We can’t all attend barre class 5 days a week, work full time, keep a tidy apartment that is decorated impeccability, make Instagram worthy organic meals each night, go on exotic vacations around the globe, dress like a street style blogger all while managing to get enough sleep and maintaining healthy relationships! Unless you have a personal assistant, this just isn’t going to happen. More importantly it DOESN’T HAVE TO, despite what all the Pinterest boards and GOOP-esque blogs depict. 

So, what are some ways to avoid burnout? Here are a few things that have helped me and I hope that you find them useful!

  • Know where the stress is coming from – Burnout can be caused by internal factors so ask yourself where is the stress coming from. Knowing the source can help you figure out what is stressing you out and what you can do about it.
  • Take rest seriously – Take time off. This doesn’t need to be a fancy trip but even a long weekend to get yourself organized, and catch up on rest. Go ahead, binge watch that series you haven’t had time for!
  • Enrich your life with hobbies – Always wanted to learn piano? Take lessons! Want to improve your photography skills? Make it a point to get better! Devote just a few hours a week to an activity that has nothing to do with your day job. Whether it’s an exercise regimen or taking up DIY projects, your hobbies will help you unwind and increase your confidence in an array of skills.
  • Unplug – It is hard not to stay connected when you have a demanding job. But make your free time a priority when you can and unplug completely. Sometimes even leisurely scrolling through twitter can be a mind numbing time suck! So drop the phone and get centered, go on a walk, or do a meditation exercise. I have an adult coloring book that I enjoy doodling in occasionally and its very calming.
  • Know when enough is enough – Gauge yourself at the end of each day. Are you feeling anxious? Are you feeling healthy? Are you feeling mentally drained? Are you getting enough rest? We all need to motivate ourselves to be challenged and engaged in both life and work but there is a difference between motivating and forcing. It’s great to push yourself but there is a point in which that can become determental for your well being. Know yourself and know where your breaking point is and stay away from it!
  • Get sleep – I can not stress how important this one is. Sleep is vital! Did you know that women need more sleep than men? Not getting enough sleep throws everything off and is incredibly bad for your health. If you are having trouble sleeping, try sticking to a bed time routine, avoid screen time in the bed room, drink soothing tea and make sure your bedroom temperature is comfortable. If a routine or natural supplements (try melatonin or Natural Calm) are not helping you may want to speak to a doctor. I once had a terrible bout of insomnia that lasted about 4 months and toward the end of it I was seeing visions…it was by far the most frightening health scare of my life. Please take sleep seriously! 

Avoiding burnout starts by putting some preventative measures in place. Also, its important to have support from a partner, colleagues, friends or therapist that can help you implement these practices and know when to call you out if your veering dangerously close to burnout.

Navigating Life as a 20-Something

I enjoy thinking of life in terms of school grades. At almost 27 I’d say I’m in 5th grade. I know some life basics, I’ve gotten past my bigger insecurities and as I enter the last bit of my twenties I’m kind of feeling like a much wiser and worldly woman. Yet I still have no idea what the middle school (my thirties) stage of life will have in store.

We are all students of the World. Always learning directly or indirectly and that means experiencing a lot of ups and downs.  Adventures, achievements, disillusions, romances and heart breaks. These life experiences are worth it all in the grander scheme of things. What we gain in knowledge out weighs any potential discomfort or pain and so the experience is ultimately a good one, even if at the time it wasn’t.

To me, what is the point of being here if not to absorb as much as we can? To develop and challenge ourselves, always seeking more and never growing comfortable with the idea that we actually know anything at all. I suppose that’s life in your twenties: despite feeling more “adult” you have to keep reminding yourself that you still have a lot to learn and that’s okay!