Archive for October, 2012

How to refresh your wardrobe without buying new clothes: In three easy words

Tired of your wardrobe? Want to know the secret to reviving your closet without buying all new clothes?

It doesn’t involve Plato’s Closet, or raiding your sister’s closet, starting store credit cards you don’t really want, or shopping at Goodwill. Read on, my friends, and you will discover the secret to an entirely new wardrobe is really quite simple.

I can even sum it up in three words: Meet new people.

Yes, meeting new people is the secret to making your old clothes new again. Because new people don’t know you’ve worn that red button-down to work at least once a week every week for the last six months. And new people have no idea your favorite turquoise track jacket was new circa 2002.

New people have no way of knowing your blue Chucks date back to middle school, or that you were wearing your favorite sandblasted jeans when you found a note in your locker asking you to sophomore year homecoming.

Yes, the complete wardrobe-history oblivion of new acquaintances, friends, friends-of-friends and love interests is one of their most promising yet under-appreciated traits.

Think about it.

When you’re spending time with someone new, your eight-year-old rock concert T-shirt is not so much a tired repeat as a possible reason to talk about music taste and awesome mosh pit scenes of the past.

Your Illini Pride 2006 hoodie can bring back a welcome flood of collegiate memories.

And you can even relive the fun of wearing that $12 H&M v-neck shirt – you know, the extra low-cut one you usually pair with a tank top – out to the bars.

See, new clothes aren’t what you need. New people, who aren’t yet as tired of your old clothes as you are, will do the trick. Plus, people are far more fun. They can, after all, carry on a conversation.

So, how do I meet new people, you might ask?

Check back for further updates.

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A is for Adventure

Greetings from the middle of a California adventure!

I’m writing you from a coffee shop 2,000-plus miles from my Chicago apartment with great blended drinks and a cool, almost-oceanside location. I’m on vacation and I hope your next getaway isn’t too far in the future, because our twenties is a great time to explore and embark on adventures.

The greatest thing about adventuring in our twenties is we can design the entire experience ourselves. It’s not like a family vacation when our younger sister refuses to go to any museums (even awesome ones about surfing or famous basketball players) and our brother disdains any water activity, from ocean kayaking to hotel-pool swimming.

In our twenties, we and our travel companions can decide where we want to stop for food, where we want to stay, what we want to see and how much time we want to spend there. We can use services like couchsurfing.net to find free places to stay with awesome people who know the non-touristy but amazing spots in their hometowns. Better yet, we can take advantage of our relatively young age to couch-surf with friends we travel to visit or family who happen to live in the area (Thanks, by the way, for hosting!). We can choose cheap motels and laugh at their “character,” drive for hours on end just because we feel like it and hit up any interesting diner, donut shop or pizza joint along the way.

The freedom to explore is enlightening, and the places we can explore are expansive. It’s us and the open road, baby, and it’s time for an adventure.

My California adventure so far has included a close call at O’Hare in which I sleepily threw away my boarding pass in a Starbuck’s garbage can and had to dumpster-dive a few minutes later to retrieve it; a mountain drive in which mist and night-time construction lights combined to make the highway look like the surface of the moon; another mountain drive in which my hybrid-driving self accidentally put a borrowed Acura into M for sorta-manual mode instead of D for normal drive; a 10-mile running race along the ocean complete with a brief rain shower at mile 7.5; and two hours of surfer-style stand-up paddling, known in Cali as SUP.

It’s been an adventure, alright, and the best part is it’s totally suited my interests and personality.

Twenty-something adventures can take us to study-abroad semesters in Milan, Italy; Versailles, France; Beijing, China and truly anywhere else on the globe. These adventures can include college roadtrips to Madison, Wis. for rowdy football games or middle-of-nowhere Iowa for water skiing tournaments. They can even take us to Wheeling, West Virginia to drive around for the day, to Morris, Ill. for a wedding and some drunk food at a 24-hour IHOP, or back to our college town for a homecoming alumni event.

With all that time to explore, see the world at our own pace and gain perspective from everything we observe, the benefits of adventuring are endless. And I truly believe the best adventures are still to come.

As long as we’ve got the ability to save money, save vacation time, pick a destination, and make it happen, a new and amazing adventure can always be ours.

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The Golden Rule and the dating game

Can we all start applying the Golden Rule to dating? Please?

Treating others we’re dating how we want to be treated would save so much heartache, so many tissues and even a few impromptu angry runs around the neighborhood or self-pitying pints of ice cream we use to deal with stress.

The Golden Rule (treat others how you want to be treated) is so simple it really should be applied to all areas of life. Yet oddly enough, so many of us in dating relationships end up – purposely or accidentally – treating people like shit.

Some of us lead people on. Others cheat. There are those who lie about their intentions. Those who are seeking nothing but sex, but aren’t open about it. Plenty of gals and guys play hard to get – for no reason. Just as hurtful can be playing any type of “games” at all.

Those are all pretty lousy ways to treat another human being, whether you’re dating the person or not.

And really, if we just stopped and asked ourselves “How do I want to be treated?” and then made sure to treat our dates that way, a lot of these uncomfortable, unfortunate and frustrating situations could be avoided.

Sure, we’d still have to overcome the hurdle of people’s different preferences for how they want to be treated.

Some prefer chivalry, others tough love. Some like old-fashioned romance, others go for new-school equality in relationships. And of course, some really don’t know what they want.

I’ve got to hope that general factors of compatibility, like shared interests and similar lifestyles, will point us toward others whose dating preferences mirror ours. That way if we treat our boyfriend/girlfriend/partner how we want to be treated, we’re actually matching how they want to be treated, too.

As for me, I’m all about honesty, because a lack of honesty is at the root of all those times we forget to treat others how we want to be treated.

I want honesty because it brings thoughts out into the open, into the real world where they can be dealt with.

If a guy’s not interested, I want him to tell me, straight-up.

If I’ve treated him unkindly, made up problems that don’t exist, I want to know about it. If he thinks I’m cool but wants to be friends (the kind without benefits), even if I weirded him out by blowing spit bubbles off my tongue (a real, stupid-human talent I have), I want him to just tell me. I can handle it. Even if it’s bad or slightly hurtful news, I can take it.

I value honesty so much in dating that it’s become my No. 2 rule (after, of course, the Golden Rule in the No. 1 spot).

It takes guts, but in my twenties, I’ve become more confident in my ability to tell it like it is. Helping me gain that confidence has been the ever-present reminder in the back of my head about how I want to be treated: With honesty.

If more twenty-somethings were guided by a goal of treating those we’re dating how we want to be treated, we might end up with fewer unbelievable stories of hurt feelings and dating mishaps. We might have more mental energy to devote to other causes. We might even be happier.

Then we could all get our laughs somewhere else and move on to solving more important problems like salary inequities between men and women, or sexual abuse, or America’s debt crisis, or nuclear weapons and the threat of terrorism.

Someday, there may even be world peace. And all it takes to get started on this path is the Golden Rule – applied to dating.

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Life lessons about learning life lessons

Optimism: You can learn something from everyone.

Realism: Many of us don’t learn much from anyone, even the people paid to teach us stuff.

So what now?

On my word-powered crusade to change the world (or at least inspire and motivate my fellow twenty-somethings, and occasionally make them laugh,) I’m aiming to fix that problem – the problem of not learning from each other.

We’ve all heard about the wisdom of elders and the importance of learning from experience.

But usually, we only consider elders to be grandparents or octogenarians. And all too often, the only experiences we learn from are our own.

C’mon, twenty-somethings, we can do better than that!

To a 22-year-old fresh out of college, a 26-year-old who’s been working three or four years has a lot of career-world knowledge to offer. A 29-year-old who’s been living on his own in the city for five years has just as much to offer to a 24-year-old itching to get out of mom and dad’s place for the first time since college.

With a little thought, twenty-something med students can learn from twenty-something law students (even though they’re both too busy learning their doctor and lawyer stuff to have time for much else).

Learning from each other? It’s not that hard, really. All it takes is a willingness to listen.

And luckily, as a journalist, listening is exactly what I do.

I’ve listened to and learned from twenty-somethings who spend their time fixing iPods or studying speech language pathology, working in a lab or serving in the Navy. And I know I’m a much more well-rounded person because of it. So now it’s time to share.

It’s time to start learning from ourselves.

I make no promises (that’s one thing I’ve learned), but I invite you to read on. I bet you’ll hear the time-tested version of lessons I’ve learned from twenty-somethings who have been there, in all kinds of situations. Just read, laugh and remember – you can learn something from everyone.

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Welcome to the “Real world”?

Let’s face it, people: the whole world is real.

When you’re 2 years old and toddling around pulling all the books off the bookshelf or all the socks out of the sock drawer, even though you’ll never remember it, you’re part of the real world.

When you’re in first grade and your biggest concern is whether you’ll get to be line leader at school tomorrow or if you’ll have to be the caboose, even then, you’re part of the real world.

So when you’re in high school and college trying to A) Find yourself; and B) Prepare for a career that fits you, obviously you’re part of the real world.

But somehow, for those last two phases of school at least, other members of the real world forget you’re a part of it, too.

I’m not sure how or when high school and college became part of a world other than the real one, but I certainly don’t support that view.

All of life is real because you’re always on your first and only shot at it. At no point do you get to go back and try again. Pretend you’re Mario or Luigi or even Jigglypuff and just decide “I shouldn’t have died right there, so I’m gonna go back and replay that last part.”

Nope. Extra lives aren’t part of this game.

All of life is real because we feel it – emotionally, physically, with all our senses. We experience reality nonstop. There’s no escaping it.

So people should be more specific when they talk about the “real world” after college.

The defining difference between the time after college, and the time during and before it is education versus employment. So if a job – or better yet, a career – is what separates the supposedly non-real world from the “real world,” why not say so?

I write this from what I call the career world. That time of your life after college when you’re working in the field you studied, and, at least to some extent, it satisfies you. Your employment doesn’t have to be perfect, your dream job, per se, for you to join the career world. You just have to be gainfully (or, as some would say, painfully) employed in something you studied and/or at least somewhat care about.

Not everyone goes straight from college to the career world or even from high school or trade school to the career world, either. Some make a pit stop in the job world, where employment’s only real benefit is money, and never enough of it. Where you may or may not give a shit about what you do every day and it may or may not take any real effort, smarts or skills to do it.

The majority of 20-somethings are either in the career world or the job world, and guess what? – they’re both real.

But for those 20-somethings still in the world of education/college/grad school, the rest of us haven’t forgotten about you. Your world is just as real.

And that’s the point.

Everyone’s world is real, and this is the only shot we’ve got. It’s time to live it that way.

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