Archive for February, 2014

In the ABCs of twenty-something life, H is for Health

Health was yearly check-ups and Band-Aids on boo-boos when we were kids.

It was a class when we were in high school, and it probably involved “don’t do drugs” lectures, condoms, bananas and not much else.

In college, health was something that could be neglected for pressing situations like 20-page paper deadlines or 21st birthday barcrawls.

And now, health is just one of our many important responsibilities. Gotta love twenty-something life.

H could be for health in any era of our lives, but this is the phase when we become more financially and personally liable for our physical and emotional well-being. If we’re not yet paying for our own health insurance, we soon will be, and that changes everything.

Having to pay for health care might not consciously shape our decisions about eating, sleeping, exercising and managing stress, but subconsciously, it makes a difference.

We’re more likely to eat when we’re hungry, sleep when we’re tired and exercise regularly when we not only have a little more free time than we did in college, but we also have more motivation to stay in good health. When we’re taking paycheck deductions for health insurance and shelling out for co-pays when we do need to see a doc, our pocketbooks become our motivation.

That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll stop eating junk food even when we’re full or wake up only when we feel rested (I wish!). But it does mean we’re halfway there to learning to make healthier decisions and actually enjoy them.

Maybe we’re packing fruit and vegetables to snack on at work. Maybe we’re taking walk breaks in the afternoon or doing jumping jacks during the commercials of our favorite TV shows. Maybe we’re writing in a journal or practicing yoga when we’re overwhelmed and stressed out, and maybe we’re experimenting with Greek yogurt, kale, quinoa or vegetarian recipes.

It’s certainly the case among my friends, as even the most coffee-addicted of former college newspaper staffers now are running 10Ks and scaling back caffeine consumption to only the occasional iced tea.

It’s all part of becoming more mature, more adult. It seems to happen naturally and it only becomes scary or strange when we pause to think about it.

So in the interest of mental health, that’s enough of that. And in the interest of physical health, I’m out to seize this day and make it one of a morning run, a productive work day, nutritious food and a bedtime journal entry – because that’s what good health means to me.

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An open letter to … Friends across the country

Dear faraway friends,

First of all, we miss you.

We probably don’t tell you this. We’re busy in our own lives, and in some cases, we’d feel embarrassed to admit it. But we miss you all the same.

We miss the fun and lighthearted times we shared in high school – the dirty-joke-a-thons on bus rides to marching band competitions; the surreptitious sneaking of a song with the F-word into the soccer game warm-up tape; the wandering, white-knuckle drives down the local “haunted” road. We really do miss all that.

We especially miss the crazy times in college – the midnight snowball raids at the wrong guy’s window; the first stumbling experiences with frat parties, apartment parties and the dumps of campus bars that let 19-year-olds in; and the thrill of witnessing big football and basketball victories together in a throng of jumping, screaming students just itching for a reason to drink in celebration. Hard not to miss times like these.

We won’t lie here, in this snail-mail style letter to you at your new home states away. We won’t tell you we miss the stress of three finals in two days; that one time when all four of us were locked out of our apartment at the same time; or the insane number of jerks we all managed to meet junior year.

But when we go through new tough times – work deadlines that creep up out of nowhere; the stress of absolutely having to find a new place to live by the end of our current lease; and the pressure of big decisions about careers and relationships – that’s when we miss you the most.

We miss the times when you were there to help us through the mind-numbing amount of work staring us in the face, or the intricate complexity of the most pressing decisions weighing on our minds. We miss those long talks in the hallway when one roommate was asleep, and especially, we miss the warm-fuzzy feelings of friendship, motivation and comfort you gave us simply by your presence.

We miss all that and more – we miss you.

We know this isn’t going to change. You live in Nashville or Denver or Duluth or Detroit or Columbus or a Navy base somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego, and we live, well, here.

Our lives are continuing to take us in different directions. We knew they would. We have goals and dreams and that magic ability to chase them no matter the twists and turns.

We’re not asking you to come home, at least not simply for our sake. We’re not asking for anything, really.

We already get the occasional text, Facebook post, email or phone call, and we love that. We love the updates about your adventures, and we love hearing your smiling self “speaking” through your word choice, text abbreviations and placement of smiley faces. It’s as close to the real you as we can get, without planning a vacation to the west coast, the mountains, the south or Minne-SO-ta.

So before we get all emotional here, it’s time to bring this letter to a close the same way we opened it.

Dear faraway friends, we love you, as only true friends can, and we miss you — no matter the distance.

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Twenty-something questions, mostly about chocolate

Will I ever grow out of sugary cereals? Especially Reese’s Puffs, will I ever be too grown-up for those?

Why does wet hair always make you cold?

Why are the best thoughts the easiest to forget? Do the most difficult decisions eventually make themselves?

What if we could predict the future? Would we really want to know what happens next?

How can work feel like such a grind some days, but so much fun other days? What if you were stuck forever at your first job? Or with your first boyfriend/girlfriend/partner?

Why do scarves have to itch? More like why do most fashionable things have to be uncomfortable to wear?

Why can’t most swimmers run? Why can’t most runners swim even one lap without getting out of breath? Wouldn’t it be great if swimsuits lasted longer?

Ok, seriously, why can’t I get the peanut butter and chocolate combination of Reese’s out of my head? Would my stomach stop growling if I ate something chocolatey right now? Will I get some peanut butter cups for Valentine’s Day? Will the Feb. 15 chocolate sales be any good this year?

Which holiday do you associate most with family? Friends? Candy? Drinking? Why does graduation mean you’re automatically too old for your college’s drinking holiday? If there’s still beer, does it really matter?

What do you want to do today? Wouldn’t it be nice to do exactly that? Wouldn’t life be better if we all felt rested and energized, every day?

If there was a magic “feel rested” potion, would you use it? Do you believe in magic? Or do you think it’s cheesy/hokey/fakey? Do you believe in true love? If you used to believe (in magic, or God or love or anything else) what happened? And what are you going to do about it?

Got answers? Or questions of your own? Feel free to share.

May your Valentine’s Day be happy, filled with chocolatey goodness, or at least not overwhelmingly “gag me” romantic and annoying. Because no amount of chocolate can cure that.

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In the ABCs of Twenty-something life, G is for Gender Roles

But it shouldn’t be.

Of all the things this world doesn’t need, gender roles is at the top of the list.

Haven’t we all seen enough stay-at-home dads, female CEOs; male nurses and elementary school teachers and flight attendants; and female engineers, astronauts and politicians to realize there is truly no job both genders can’t do?

Haven’t the vast majority of us done our own laundry and cooked our own food and worked at our own jobs for our own money to pay for our own cars, apartments, clothes and fun long enough to notice the division of household labor or “grown-up chores” by gender just doesn’t make any sense?

Fellow twenty-somethings, aren’t we progressive enough to recognize gender roles were created by a society that doesn’t reflect the way ours operates today, and are no longer needed?

Many of us are. We realize that deciding our destiny based on whether we were born and brought up male or female is not the right way to go. We know gender roles are sexist against men and women, and we believe there should be absolutely nothing women or men are expected to do – or prohibited from doing – simply because they are women or men. Such distinctions, rules and roles are nothing but insulting and divisive, and the world really doesn’t need more insults or division. Really.

The good thing: Many of us in our twenties are living lives based on logic, intention and what makes sense for us – not based on gendered expectations. We’re realizing men don’t have to be breadwinners, women don’t have to be mothers and sexism is stupid. And we’re acting accordingly.

Props to us. These are big realizations, and the generations that follow will be better off because we’ve come to them.

The bad thing: Not everyone is in their twenties. Not everyone sees the sexism inherent in gender roles, or just how unnecessary they are in today’s world of smartphones, flexible work schedules and constant connectivity.

We need to change those people’s minds before the goal of eliminating gender roles can be achieved. So here’s what we can do:

Change our ways of speaking, especially to those younger than us. It’s not “when you get married” when you’re talking to your little cousin who’s 5 – it’s “if you get married.” It’s not “take it like a man” when you’re talking to your kid brother who skinned his knee and “Does that hurt? Are you OK?” if it’s your kid sister.

Our responses should be the same no matter who we’re talking to. Gender simply shouldn’t factor into the equation, and we should resolve to see people as people – not boys or girls, men or women.

Most of all, we must continue living our lives by our own rules – not applying those rules to anyone else, but making our own decisions for our own reasons. If we all can do that, I’m optimistic that someday gender roles will be forgotten, and G can be reserved for things like grilled cheese, geckos, ghosts, goggles and gel pens.

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