Adultastic Adulting: Lessons Learned

           I stink of sage and summer and progress. Things have changed, but the plans, the goals, the vision remain. Above all, my living situation is different. Due to requests for privacy I will not be explaining why, but there is less conflict in my immediate household and I think everyone has the chance to grow and better themselves independently as a result, though impetus was not a pleasant. Regardless of what the rest of my family ultimately does, I have chosen growth. But the first step of growth is in the planting and recognizing what is and isn’t fertile soil. In that act of sowing seeds, you must also accept that they take time to grow, and longer still the bear something worth reaping. All this is a long and fancy, bombastic way to obfuscate the simple truth: I am not moving yet, but I am improving.

           Circumstance changes, which again, for the sake of others involved, I will not be addressing, but they have made leaving now even less practical than before. So, yet again, I’ll be revisiting the issue in six months and assessing viability. Until then, I am doing the “grow the fuck up” and “get disciplined” things. That being said, I thought I would impart some of the lessons I’ve learned over the last couple years or so about adulting (given, ya know, that was the original intention of this blog):

1.) Filling Tires

           Those fucking pumps at the gas station are comically bad. I lost a quarter pressure in one tire trying to fill it. If you can, get a pump, or borrow one. The design on the gas station attachments is asinine and archaic. It took me so long I eyeballed the trucker refilling the gas station and almost went over like, “Help. I am exactly what I look like and can’t do this.” But I did not. I succeeded with frozen fingers and much profanity. I have no other tips for this and don’t look forward to the winter pressure drop requiring me to do it again.

2.) Laundry

           To be honest, I am still figuring this one out. I’ve completely and officially taken over doing the laundry in the household. Dad helps a little, but mostly it’s just me. I also have really sensitive skin, so I’ve switched to a hypoallergenic, dye-free, natural detergent (Seventh Generation). I can tell there’s a difference in the clothing’s texture afterward, and it wrinkles a little more easily, but mostly it seems softer and nice. Though I also think it might be fading the clothing a bit, which is a major concern (I deeply cherish and often revel in my wardrobe), so I’ll keep an eye on it. But that being said, I do have some insights and observations.

                      A.) My mom came up with this one years ago. Get some small, plastic clips. Like plastic clothes pins. Then find your socks in the dirty laundry and pair them, clipping them together. This makes it easier to fold them after they’re washed and dried because they’re already mated. To save even more time, keep the clips by your hamper or dirty clothes pile and clip the socks as soon as you take them off.

                      B.) Folding laundry will dry your hands out. I’m still not entirely sure why, but they will feel parched as fuck when you’re done, so have some lotion at the ready. Also, folding laundry sucks but if you wait on it, the clothes will wrinkle, so pop the basket in front of the tv and fold while watching something.

                      C.) Hand washing clothing is necessary in a diverse wardrobe. I still have no real clue what I’m doing with it. I fill the sink with cold water, I use some detergent, I pull on gloves and I awkwardly rub my clothing together. My guess is there is a better way to do this. If I figure it out I’ll let you know. But until then, rub-rub-rub, rinse until the water is clear of suds, wring out, and lay flat or hang to dry.

                      D.) Speaking of drying, keep wire hangers with you where you wash stuff or in your bathroom to hang dry certain items. If the clothes have different fabric, feel delicate, or are fancy, you probably need to read the tag and will likely discover special instructions for care. Follow them if you want to preserve your clothing.

                      E.) CHECK YOUR POCKETS BEFORE YOU WASH. Seriously. I glittered my darks load because I had a fatty hunk of mica in my hiking pants that I totally forgot about. I admit it was kinda cool, but you can easily destroy important items, stain or fuck up your clothing. Get in the habit of emptying pockets before you put them in the hamper, but also double check as you’re sorting the clothes.

                      F.) Change your linen more often in the summer. You are sweaty and gross. Okay, this depends on the person, their location, and how often they changed it before. Really, I am talking to me. I leave my linen way too long, but it’s summer again and that is no longer okay. I’m thinking every two to three weeks now, though I change my pillowcase every four days.

                      G.) Finally, just in case it isn’t obvious, please sort your clothes: whites/tans/light grays, blacks/darks, colors. This will keep them happy and stop bleed/staining. The washer has different settings for a reason. Also do your towels together with jeans as they’re both pretty dense. Jeans and things with zippers can also tear thinner clothing so it can be a good idea to do those separately as well.

3.) Dishes

           After you finish cooking your food, or if possible while you’re cooking, toss some water and/or soap into any pots, pans, or cooking utensils that have residue that may need soaking. This lets the dishes loosen before they have a chance to congeal, but also lets you eat your food hot instead of doing the dishes first and getting a cold meal. Now, I was told it isn’t good for the pans to do cold water when they’re still hot. I admit, I kinda ignore that these days and haven’t seen consequences yet, but you may want to use hot water to be safe. Then when you’re done eating, do the dishes immediately before you can procrastinate. Once they pile up, it’s a strain to want to do them.

           On the flip side, I’m the primary cooker in my family. My parents do more pre-made meals or leftovers from eating out. So, when they’re gone, I may not wash the pots or pans for a few days depending on what I made. Like if it was mac’n’cheese, I’d definitely wash it, but if it was just noodles, I’d rinse the starch and leave the pan because I’m likely to use it again. This saves me time, but likewise, can create a psychological burden as the pans mount and take up equal parts counter and head space.

4.) Going to the store

           When I go to the store, I always have a list, though often I get more than is on it. That being said, I recommend adding an item to the list the moment you know you’re running low. In our house, we try to have a back-up of things that aren’t fresh food. So one bottle of ketchup in the fridge, one in the cupboard. When we finish the fridge one off, ketchup goes on the list. That way we’re never out of staple food stuffs. Dad thinks it’s silly (though he complains and is frustrated when we’re out of things), but mom and I think it’s essential and time-saving. I enjoy shopping, but not the time it takes, so I usually buy a few of non-perishable foods that I use often so I don’t have to go back for a month. But I’m starting to realize I may need to accept the time hit and go more often because we just do not eat the produce fast enough, even when I buy less. Really, the issue is I’m almost the sole consumer of produce and it’s difficult to buy produce for less than two people. I’m thinking meal planning for the week would be a good way to go about fixing this, but I’m not quite there yet. So, I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

5.) Planning

           Do not put more on your plate for the week than you can hope to reasonably accomplish. I highly recommend finding a planner you like and using that, but once you do, gauge your energy level, what needs to get done, what you would like to get done, and how much work that will be with your standing commitments like work, family and school. Don’t schedule things that you know you probably aren’t going to get to. That just sets you up to collect a defeat, which is psychologically damaging and reinforces the narrative that you cannot succeed.

6.) Multitasking

           When you’re trying to be productive and multitask, remember not to mix similar task types. For example, if you’re writing something, don’t get into a messenger conversation. Those tasks both use the same part of the brain for language processing, meaning every time you switch you derail yourself. But if you’re cleaning and talking on the phone, that’s viable because you’re using different parts of your brain. For example, I always workout while watching tv.

7.) Prescriptions

           This country is a shit show right now with insurance, so I’m skipping that as I have no good advice and lots of anxiety. However, with prescriptions, it is helpful to know that pharmacies often have a recording system for starting a refill. So you can start your refill without going out or talking to a person (good news for introverts) and you can do it in the middle of the night (good news for vampires). Also, GoodRx is a free service that you can sign up for on your computer or phone and it’ll tell you where you can get your prescription the cheapest.

8.) Learning to Cook: Recipes

           Go to a bookstore and browse through the cookbooks. Used bookstores have a lot too. Find one that has a fair amount of things that look good to you and buy it. Then start cooking your way through it. I recommend making notes each time you make a recipe as you’ll find things they failed to mention or that you needed to know or didn’t like. Adding these will improve the recipe for the future. Even little reminders like “Gather all ingredients before you start!” can help with timing, which is a major factor in the kitchen. It’s also why I should not talk while I cook. I will inevitably fuck up the timing and things will finish in weird orders leading to part of the meal burning or being cold.

9.) Learning to Cook: Spices

           As my brother says, just play around with spices. You know how to do stirfry but you’re bored with the same seasoning? Sniff around your spice rack or buy a new spice at the store. You won’t ruin a dish unless you add too much, so just go slowly. You can always add more, but you cannot add less.

10.) Being on Time

           Set a cutoff time the night before so you get to bed with plenty of time. To figure out when that cutoff should be, time your average bedtime routines and cut off with the amount of time they’ll take plus 10 to 30 if you’re like me. I need about two hours but rarely give myself that. This leads to sleep deprivation and I am still working on that. Also, do everything you need to do for the next day, that you can accomplish the night before, before you cutoff and start your bed prep. For example, I prep my breakfast shakes, put my morning pills in my purse, pack my backpack, and lay out my outfit on school and work nights. This prepping means I can have a quick morning: get up, do Morning Pages (new addition and definitely more time consuming), meditate, get dressed, make tea and the shake, then go. It also helps to know where you’re going, how long it takes, and what parking is like if you’re driving. The less you know, the more time you should give yourself. Also Google Maps is a life saver. If you know you are always late, put all calendar, planner and phone reminders in a half hour before you actually need to be there. That way if you’re late, you’re actually still early. However, if you are late, notify those involved. It’s rude as fuck to keep people waiting without notice, so if you can, shoot a text or call. Honesty makes a better impression than excuses.

11.) City Driving

           I did it. I drove in the city. Several times. It sucks. Every time it sucks. But I’m doing it. I still can’t parallel park and when my friend did it for me, I love-tapped the car behind me trying to get out. I suck at spatial orientation. The biggest saving grace here is, again, Google Maps on my phone. We were never able to get my Jeep’s nav system fixed (apparently those systems are the biggest complaint Jeep gets; they’re not made by Jeep). But I bought a vent mount for my phone. This drastically reduced my driving tension when going unfamiliar places. If you use your phone to navigate, please get one. Holding it is not safe and is illegal in a lot of places. Because the location feature kills my phone’s battery, I have it charging while I’m navigating, ensuring I have a moderately full battery when I arrive. Charging it in advance also helps. I definitely recommend checking the route traffic before leaving and using the “switch route” option when it pops up, particularly if traffic gives you the jitters (yo). While I have no advice for the nightmare of people not letting you in, blocking your lane, or parallel parking, Google did add a parking tracker feature so you can pin your parking location and find your car in unfamiliar areas. Assuming you got where you were going in the first place this is neat. Back to timing, if cities aren’t your thing, leave extra early and if possible avoid rush hours. Also breathe. A lot. Deeply. Slowly. You will be fine. Smile. It won’t last forever. Just be in the moment and the anxiety will melt.

12.) Cleaning: Dusting & Swiffering/Sweeping/Vacuuming

           The final point is another domestic one. I dislike dusting and swiffering. Or rather, I dislike the idea of needing to do it. But here’s the thing: I feel better once it’s done and it’s not actually that difficult to do. There are two methods I use to get myself to start. The first is calling someone. I have a headset and put my phone in my pocket. Then I can dust and swiffer while I talk. It’s easier to do mindless physical activities when distracted mentally. The second is music. Music makes everything better, so if there’s no one to call or you don’t want to talk, pop on some tunes. I recommend, weather permitting, opening the windows before you start dusting. It makes the process feel less claustrophobic and brings in clean air to help you breathe easier. Also, if you have an air purifier and/or ionizer, it’s good to turn that on while you dust too. Regarding when to dust, I recommend doing it after you’ve done the linen and laundry, and after you’ve put your clothing away as all of that makes more dust. You also want to dust before you Swiffer/sweep/vacuum because inevitably you will not get all the dust and some of it will settle on the floor. The thing I do like about dusting is that it is a chance to move and handle all of your possessions and reevaluate whether or not they should be there, or even remain in your possession.
           
           I do a lot of tidying while dusting and rearrange and relocate things. It’s great for hitting that step and activity count. I am currently trying to get myself to dust and swiffer bi-weekly, as it is much easier when it doesn’t even look like it really needs to be done. But I know doing it weekly wouldn’t happen, so I’m happy with twice a month. One last thing: You will itch. Dusting is super itchy. And I think Swiffer products make it more so, but they’re really effective so I opt to suffer. If you shower at night, this isn’t a big deal, but if you don’t, you may want to make an exception on cleaning days, or at least rinse off and throw your clothes in the hamper.

***

            Tada! Adulting wisdom transferred. In the future, I plan to not do this in bulk again, but rather dedicate a post to each insight as I come across it, but for now, enjoy blogzilla and hit me with any questions or advice or whatever in the comments. Cheers and happy (or at least productive) adulting.

-L.

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Still Broken (but under repair)

It’s been four years. Ow. Four years, and by my own definition, I’m still broken. Still here. Still hopelessly at home. It’s difficult to know what to say. If you’d asked me, as I published my last entry on the Passenger Mentality, where I would be now, the answer would not have been at home, or at least, not at my parents’ home. It is both painful and embarrassing to admit it. But here I am.

This blog was designed initially to spur accountability, though as every failed blogger knows, one must first be accountable to themselves before seeking external pressure. Or at least that’s how it works for me. The opinions and pressures of the outside world push me deeper inside when I’m a mess, and motivate me once I’m cleaning things up solo. So, consider this me trying to clean up again. This time will be similar to the last, though perhaps a bit more casual and less planned. I want space to stretch and breathe, to relax my mind and unfurl the lessons without pretension. And honestly, perfectionism is a poison. It erodes my willingness to work because I know there will be more work. Again: ‘casual’ is the watchword.

I still plan to dig into things and philosophize and interrupt myself (don’t know that I can stop). I also still plan to document the steps I take toward becoming the adult people tell me I already am. Admittedly, few of those people see me sitting here on a yoga ball, bound in an Alice-in-Wonderland hoodie and Dark-Side Darth Vader pj pants, musing over my failings and successes since last I wrote whilst idly bouncing and listening to unnervingly eclectic music. So…failings and successes…

The short list is: I’m officially a freelance editor and I have a day job at a community college tutoring Communication (and previously writing); I have my associates degree and am pursuing a second over two semesters, which will be followed by a Bachelor’s in Communication (and possibly writing); I drive places I don’t know aided by Google maps and my phone (but I still can’t parallel park and refuse to go into the city); I’ve successfully maintained a five-year relationship; I’m learning how to actually cook and working through a recipe book; I meditate daily; and I’ve managed to deal with a lot of my mental baggage. On the flipside, I still don’t know how to handle my finances, deal with my medical paperwork (let’s be real: any paperwork), or make remotely enough to support myself; I have minimal accountability or discipline; my body is a mess; I’m high strung; and, of course, general life skills are still seriously lacking.

But hey, I’m not exactly where I used to be. Just…close.

So here we go. Again.

Broken Boomerang Learns to Fly: Act I (The remake)

 

Changing Choices

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

                                                                                                      -Winston Churchill

Change happens like a clockwork calendar, days ticking by, indifferent to life’s little turbulence, weeks moving steadily into months until eventually, bloated by the gathered time, the year breaks open and births the next and we’re left reminding ourselves to write 13 instead of 12. One number takes the place of another and the days go by without a thought for those that came before, save for the small smudge where we erased the old date and deepened the new, denying the mistake.  But change isn’t always so simple, it isn’t always this to that; sometimes it’s this and that, sometimes change is gaining and growing without giving up what came before. Sometimes change is progress, an evolution into more that sacrifices only what hinders, what is no longer needed. I often speak of change and progress, preaching their power like a hypocritical zealot who believes in but does not bow to the doctrines of their religion. This fallacy can no longer sustain me. As trite as it is, the time has come to practice what I preach.

In the beginning, I told you that this blog was conceived to motivate me on my mission to be better, to break the cycle of the Boomerang Generation and to gain the skills to claim independence. But I failed to specify how. Recently I mentioned an epiphany, a revelation about the direction of this blog, the focus that would help me, and maybe even others, find my way. After the ado of absent attention, I offer now my intention to change.

Starting today, I am going to channel the Zeitgeist of the New Year, the spirit of resolve and resolutions that comes with the new, that comes at the beginning. Every two to four weeks I intend to learn a life skill that will ready me for battle with that repulsive monster known as “real life.” From changing my oil to taxes and tracking expenses, I am going to train in the trades of adulthood. Every time I accomplish one of these tasks, I will report the experience and offer advice on it here. The weeks in between will be filled with progress reports and the same types of posts as before, thoughts on the present and past and how they are woven into a transparent tapestry of my future-to-be. I welcome any and all comments, suggestions, and questions on the endeavor or anything I might bring up. It is my hope, that eventually this will become a community of Boomerangs and those who would guide us.

I have yet to decide what my first learned life skill will be, but once I do I’ll post an announcement and my thoughts on the topic before tackling it. And given that driving constitutes a life skill, a milestone of maturity, I’ll be posting my long-awaited adventure at the DMV sometime in the next few days. For now, I’m going to crack and peel my way out of last year’s battered skin, cleaning off the wasted wants and broken promises, the items uncrossed on too many to do lists and procrastination pushed too far, in favor of trying on something new, something sparkling with dids instead of didn’ts, something stained in what I will learn and sewn to witness the changing world and what my Will will make of it.

Background: Building & Breaking a Boomerang

Rather than Tarantino-ing it, I’ll start my story with a bit of background otherwise known as the Beginning. If we were to take a glance as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, from birth I would be placed on the third tier, which deals with belongingness and social needs. I never wanted for food or safety. My parents toiled amongst technology and the top-secret, building a better life for themselves and their babies-to-be. They met and worked together at Lockheed Martin in California building a career, in my father’s case, which eventually led us to Colorado. With their accomplishments and persistence came means and with those means, I was spoiled.

It began in part because I was the baby (my sister is ten years my senior) and in part because of how my parents were raised. Both teachers, my father’s parents raised him and my uncle in a world of scholastic achievement and discipline, instilling in him the value of hard work and the pride of a self-made man. My mother in contrast, was the baby of a bigger and occasionally turbulent family, at the head of which was my exactingly touch-the-TV-to-make-sure-it’s-cool-upon-arriving-home strict Grandfather. In both cases, my parents took to heart the things they lacked and sought to provide them to their own children whenever possible. A couple of months back, whilst discussing some of the topics that spawned this blog from their bilious depths, Dad said, “My greatest weakness is that I want my children to be happy.” It struck me with the blunt force of epiphany, embedding his wince-inducing expression of resignation and disappointed acceptance on the wall of my memory, a permanent monument to my codependent failures and yet another reason to overcome them. My Mom shares a similar fault to his: she has always been compelled to wrap us in a world-blocking blanket of affection—both emotional and material—vowing to never repeat the mistakes of her own parents. Alas, it is from these good intentions that a monster comprised of equal parts gluttony and guilt was born.

I was a horrifying brat from birth on through the better part of High School. Some would argue that I still am. I discovered at a very young age my propensity for logic, arguments, and typhoon summoning temper tantrums. The word “No” was temporary at best, a weak-willed obstacle in the way of my constant overindulgence and unearned demands. My parents found it easier to clear the clouds and wipe away my tears with wants than to stand their ground and weather the wailing storm. Unfortunately, this instilled in me a sense of profound entitlement. What need did I have of work when my desires were so easily gratified through battles? This belief extended to my academic career as well. In elementary school primarily, but even on through high school to a lesser extent, my Mom held my homework-hand, guiding the pencil with her own, giving answers wittingly and otherwise. In terms of chores, they were optional and my Dad consistently paid more than their worth. Cleaning the dog run alone was $20 task completed in half as many minutes. The truths of this past taunt me.

I do not condone the benefits of my privileged life; they have prevented me from living one of my own, on my own. Yet my awareness of the issue should not be mistaken for a condemnation, it is merely an analysis of cause and effect. Sadly, my parents do not understand. Despite how many times I explain it, my parents think I blame them. No amount of carefully cultivated words, levelheaded reasoning, psychological references, or frustrated, “No that’s not what I mea—“s will make them accept that it is not blame. It is an inference, it is the logical deduction that led me to lap up the bounty of bread crumbs, following them back to the kindness-caressed but ultimately careless child who dropped them. As my mom says, “It is what it is.” No parent can predict the path their actions will pave for their child. Maybe they’ll eventually grasp my guilt, my understanding, my shared responsibility for what happened. After all, it’s not as though I’m free of fault. My eyes never closed on the light of my selfishness, they never turned from trials I put people through, from the unnecessary force exerted to obtain trivialities and avoid work. Choices were made (often in the form of mistakes) and ultimately, the consequences are mine to bear, and mine to best. I love my parents and appreciate what they’ve done and continue to do regardless of the outcome, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix what I’ve broken and better what I haven’t. With a will repurposed towards working my world into what it should have been all along, into a place where I pull my weight and continue to push forward, I’m going to take the first step.

It all starts here, with a blog, a brat, and a bit of hope.

Collecting Dust

A friend once told me that they—the experts-that-be—call my generation “the Boomerang Generation” because after moving out, we’ve all ended up back home at least once. Clearly, I’m just more efficient than the others because I never left. I jokingly (and sometimes dismissively) defend my failure to launch by citing a lack of need to, the availability of familial support, the economy, and of course, free room-and-board. But the truth lies between the logic.

I’m a collector. I collect stories, dreams, words, knickknacks, pens, hats, corks, clothes, people, and phobias. The latter is the only one that happens both unintentionally and effortlessly. I’m terrified of “what-ifs” and haunted by what has yet to come. Burglars, fires, car crashes, and even creeping crawlies compel me to mask my mortification beneath the guise of grownupness and a gratitude for the familiar, for family and the memories firmly affixed to our home. The world, the thought of being in it alone, yoked by independence and trudging up the treacherous mountainside of adulthood, staggered by a 9-to-5 and whipped with the worries of continued existence (rent-food-light fixtures-leaky pipes-noisy neighbors-the needs of a car-a knock on the door at midnight) on top of the weird weather patterns sparked in the bipolar blend of chemicals and synapses science calls my brain, is…too much. It stays the first step and steals breath when the notion of the last lingers too near.

But to say that the worst of what-could-be awaits me only out in the world is an overgeneralization of the threat, one which overlooks a narrower needle, a needle that pierces deeper for its perpetual presence. At home too, I feel fear. It’s muted, muzzled by the dogs who bark at the slightest shadow on the walkway, decreased by those who sleep (but could wake with a well-placed scream) upstairs during my nocturnal sojourns through laptops and televisions. It’s never worse than when they leave, when my parents head off to Arizona once a month, and move the dogs to the vet’s kennel because my ever-changing sleep schedule makes tending to them impossible. When they’re gone, I’m here alone, left to survive in a jungle of houseplants and cavernous rooms, hounded by every unknown sound at night, every flicker of maybe-movement twitching out of sight. The plight is worsened by a writer’s mind, an inventive mind that tracks down every possibility, every cause of every concerning occurrence, lessening my odds of survival with worst-case scenarios.  By the third day, fear finds in me a breeding ground and readily propagates, hunting my heartbeats for sustenance until each must skip to survive, racing over ribs and repelling reason that would slow them. I carry a pencil for protection (a weapon few would worry about if a woman held it loosely in hand). I realize how outrageous this sounds to saner people, to those who have only occasional moments of weakness, to those who were forced to overcome childish fears to win the trophy of independence. Yet these are the walls I’ve built around me, they form the box that blocks me from a life I could and should lead.

I hold no satisfaction with the state of things. I hold no desire to continue to dwell amongst fear-emboldened excuses, to cleave to the support inherent in an age I’ve long since outgrown. It’s not enough for me, it’s not enough for my parents. I want to gain the skills, the bravery necessary to claim independence. Unfortunately, I’ve been saying that for years, to the extent that it’s become a mocking personal moniker, an empty slogan. So what makes this declaration different?  This does. This blog, you, my theoretical readers. It’s my hope that the outside pressure and expectations will push me beyond the borders of the self-sewn apron strings that bind me and into something better, someplace endlessly bigger. It is clear to me now that change must come from without as well as from within. And change must come. After all, no good story is static, and as a writer, I would hate to disappoint.