#Blogtops Challenge: Dear Fei and Dave
Who knew that Diet Coke vs. Coffee debates would stir up such controversy? My only regret is that I did not spend more time building an excellent case for my favorite heavenly beverage. Kudos to Dave on his far superior blog post.
Since it seems that posts that show diverging options and views on the world tend to be the most enticing to you all, we thought we’d continue the trend this week with some #advice. That’s right, for this week’s #blogtop some lucky advice-seekers get two sets of advice for one! We’re not trying to sell ourselves as experts here, by any means. But, we figure, with two of us, at least one of us is bound to be helpful right? The question is, who’s advice will you take: his or hers?
“Dear Fei and Dave,
It’s nearing the end of the semester and I have NO motivation! I’m so checked out of school! How can I stay focused?”
– Kirin, 20 from GA
Oh, girllll I have been there! I remember so many times during college when I’d be sitting around in my dorm room, just watching YouTube or procrastinating by walking to the cafeteria and then finally sitting down at around 12 a.m. to write a paper that was due the next morning. Not sure when November became the “end of the semester,” but I digress…
I think that sometimes when don’t feel motivated, it’s really just our little defense mechanism saying that we are overwhelmed by the amount of work we have in front of us. Instead of buckling down, we tell turn to apathy because it protects us from the terrible truth: F.I.N.A.L.S or Fuck, I never actually learned (this) shit.
This is inaccurate since that child is clearly Asian.
My first piece of advice is to be honest with yourself. What are the things that are most likely to distract you from the work you need to do? Remove them. If your laptop has fun games and stuff, go to the library and use their computer. Do you get distracted by some roomies aka bad influences? Get out of the dorm and go down to the coffee shop.
It also helps to surround yourself with an environment conducive to getting your work done. If you keep getting distracted trying to study at your dorm desk with music, don’t keep trying it. Mix it up! Try different places and techniques until you find something that works. My senior year of college, I finally settled on studying in the student union building in a giant booth to myself with a box of Wheat Thins and a Diet Coke. A conducive environment also includes people who motivate you. Ditch those distracting friends and find some who also are trying to buckle down and create your own personal work commune.
Finally, make a schedule for all the work you have to do, break it up into manageable chunks and then reward yourself once you complete those chunks. “Once I write a 2 pages I can go get a snack” or “Once I get through these flashcards I can watch a YouTube video.” Keeping the tasks small will help you to keep the motivation.
Above all, my favorite mantra to tell myself is sometimes: “Either way, tomorrow/that test/the end of the semester will be over soon.” If things are tough, remember that in the grand scheme of things you will make it through!
“Dear Fei and Dave,
I need some tips on how to keep my home clean and organized.”
– Meagan, 26 from MN
I have a confession. I know exactly who wrote this question and the fact that she is asking ME for advice on cleaning and organization is truly laughable, particularly when my apartment currently looks like this:
Replace the tiddly winks with cat toys and the stuffed animals with shoes and this is pretty accurate, down to the stack of papers hiding under a frog toy.
I have a fairly busy lifestyle and don’t really have the time or desire that’s required to keep a pristine living space that I’m barely in. That said, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
The best thing I’ve found is to keep lots of containers. Document boxes, hampers, jewelry trays, fabric bins galore! To me, they are the happy medium between uber-organized filing and labeling and the total absence of a system. Something that I’ve found helpful is making each container be associated with the action that you have to complete with the items inside, rather than the actual item. Think about your kitchen, you don’t have a whole drawer just for spoons or a whole cabinet just for flour. The drawer is, “shit that I eat shit with” and the cabinet is “stuff I use to bake stuff.” This same strategy can apply to your whole home. For example, my hamper becomes “crap I need to clean,” one document box may be “crap I need to deal with” and one might be “stuff I should save.” For me, it strikes a good balance because I’m not spending forever labeling or creating a new place for something.
Another helpful tip is, as much as possible, digitize any important documents that you need and then shred the hard copies. I’m sure Boomers and even Gen-Xers would probably shudder at this but, you’re a Millennial! Do you really think all those huge companies are saving the hard copy things you send them? If electronic things are good enough for them, why not you? Credit card statements, bills, and other stuff can all be stored on your computer and eliminates yucky paper clutter. Plus, if you upload to an online saving system, you can have those things wherever you go. So, if someone steals your credit card on vacation you can have all the info you need to cancel it on your I-Pad or smart phone.
I happen to know that the person who wrote this question is fairly recently cohabitating with a partner and is likely dealing with the headaches of merging possessions and living habits. Sit down and figure out a system that works for both of you. Maybe you pick out 2 days a month where you order pizza, turn on Netflix and get cleaning. Put it on a calendar, because if it’s not on a calendar it’s easy to forget or plan over. Maybe it works better for both of you to do a half hour “power clean” each day after work. Either way, figure it out together. It’ll make it feel like the space feel TRULY yours and avoid the feeling that one person is bearing all the burden.
“Dear Fei and Dave,
How do I handle the stress that comes with being broke?”
– Bill, 25 from IL
This question really hits home with me, friend. Make no mistake, I know that even when I was collecting unemployment and working at a coffee shop I was nowhere near as destitute as I often felt. Still, I remember crying looking at my heating bills in January, trudging to the bus stop at 5:00 a.m. in a blizzard to avoid paying for parking, and on top of it all having to PAY when tax season came around.
My first piece of advice is that it’s ok to freak out sometimes. Just know that the fact that you are freaking out means that you are actually thinking about your situation and being careful with your finances.
That brings me to my second piece of advice, which is to create a budget for yourself and know your numbers. When money is tight, it’s imperative that you know how much you have for certain aspects of your life. First, figure out how much you’re taking in after taxes as income. Next, determine your essential fixed costs, which for me, are things that I know I will have to pay, in-full, come hell or high water. For me, this is rent, essential amenities (heat/electric/water/stuff not included in rent) a cellphone, insurance costs (car, medical etc), and student loans (if you have them).
Then, determine the categories for essential variable costs (in my mind, things that you need, but can finagle by using cheap substitutions, going without, and using creative solutions) such as food, clothing, savings, laundry and gas. Then, if needed, brainstorm ways to bring these costs down . Finally, determine categories for not-so-essential costs like cable, internet, other entertainment.
Again, what goes into each category may be different for you. For example, maybe you need an internet connection to do your job, which would make it an essential fixed cost for you. However, keeping the categories is what’s helped me to feel like I know where I stand. Knowing your numbers will help you feel like you are armed with the information to make good decisions. Think of it as a money diet—you can make healthy choices most of the time and then cheat every once in a while when you plan it out.
Which leads me to my last piece of advice, strike a balance between cheap entertainment and calculated splurges. Nothing makes you feel poorer than sitting in the dark and staring at a wall while your friends go out to the bars and drink the night away. Entertain yourself cheaply by renting Red Box movies or researching cheap/free activities in your neighborhood to do with your friends. Are any local colleges or universities hosting lectures or meetups? Sometimes those things have free food and you can actually learn something! And, if you do that enough you’ll have extra to spend if you do decide to go the traditional route of hitting the town.
It’s all about the Lincolns, baby!
Most of all though, don’t lose sight of and feel like you can’t have the things that make you feel good and spiritually rich. Chase those feelings and not the material things you think you need to achieve them. Do you love gorging yourself on extravagant dinners? Go on pinterest and learn how to make some yourself! Do you love the feeling of putting on some new duds? Host a clothing swap with some friends. Get creative! You could surprise yourself.
“Dear Fei and Dave,
How do I know if I love someone of if it’s just lust?”
– Bryan, 25 from IN
Dang, these questions are getting hard. How does Abby do this?
My stock answer here is that everyone’s different, and ultimately what determines what you feel for someone is sort of defined by how you feel about people before and after that.
I’ll use myself as an example. When I was in 6th grade I was CONVINCED that I was in LOVE with Michael Knutson. I did all of that creepy girl shit that you do when you like someone that I won’t repeat here because we’re FB friends and OMG what if he reads this?!
At the time I was SURE it was love because I’d NEVER felt like that before. Since then, I’ve understandably had my fair share of relationships of different kinds. So, while my 12 year old self may have been in love as she defined it, through my worldly and wise 27 year old eyes, it was really more like puppy lust. In other words, it’s really about context.
When you think about this person what do you think about? Do you fantasize about how they look or what they might be like in bed or do you think about what your life might look like together? My guidance for you might surprise you when I say that both of these things are lustful thoughts: one for the person and one for the life you might have.
I know it’s not as fun to do but imagine all of the not-so-fun stuff about being in a relationship. Financial troubles, whiny kids, and weird and creepy relatives. Do you still see this person standing next to you through all that or does the thought of being with them become really unattractive all of a sudden? If that’s the person you see supporting you through all the yucky stuff, to me, that is love.
The other thing I want to bring up is that I sort of feel like the love that happens between romantic partners involves a give an take and a true understanding of one another. While I think it’s possible to lust after someone physically as well as emotionally from afar, I think that love really needs two people to work. I think that’s why, at least for me, I have a history of falling for my friends, because there is a constant back and forth of emotion and sharing of one another that builds over time. The trouble I think comes into play when people have differing definitions of what love looks like.
Remember though, labels aren’t really that important. If you enjoy someone’s company and they make you feel good, then who really cares what it’s called. Only question when your feelings start to turn sour. In other words, call it whatever the heck you want, but don’t call it late for dinner.
“Dear Fei and Dave,
I just turned 25 and I feel conflicted. I feel young at heart, but I don’t want to resist the transition into actual adulthood. How do I know when I am ready? I like being young, crazy, and single. But I also like the idea of marriage, starting a family, buying a home, and all of that. I’m afraid I will regret moving too fast. Is anyone ever “ready?”
– Stephen, 25 from CA
I mean, I feel you. And, I think that a lot of us #quarterlifers feel the same way. Like, if they didn’t nobody would be reading this blog.
I do think that as #quarterlifers, we sometimes struggle with finding that balance between our old party selves and our more adulty selves. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the energy to drink the night away each weekend. And, when I look at the people around me I just feel out of place and even when I manage to keep up with the kiddos I just feel empty and like it doesn’t hold the same mystique that it once did. At the same time, when other people talk about car seats, and bottles, and whatever else, I can’t stop myself from getting bored as heck. (Shout out to all my mom or soon-to-be mom friends out there. I love you, but just can’t relate).
At this stage of our lives though, I think it’s important that we not view ourselves as “in transition” and as waiting for the next big milestones in our lives. We have to work to carve out a social niche for ourselves. Being a #quarterlifer isn’t just your pit-stop on the way to adulthood. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.
To find people in your same boat, meet-ups and young-professional groups work well. Don’t see something you like? Make your own! Travel! You may never have this same freedom again! Now’s also the perfect time to throw yourself into excelling professionally because you’re young, teachable, and have energy and skills. Nobody’s waiting for you at home, so stay late and climb the ladder so that you can feel comfortable when you want to make those choices to settle down later on.
Don’t forget, though, to make time for yourself to do all the things that make you feel alive. I think that sometimes, it’s easy to mistake things that sort of numb us out (alcohol, junk food…) for things we actually enjoy. What excites and exhilarates you? What ignites your passion for life? Spend this time, when you have nobody to answer to, exploring those things and looking for people who are energized by those things as well.
I don’t know that you are ever really “ready” to grow up. I remember when I was a youngin’ the thought of one day being in HIGH SCHOOL was unfathomable to me. All those LOCKERS! And other kids! And DANCES! When I was in High School, it was SO hard for me to imagine being in college. The key was, these milestones happened, regardless of whether or not I was ready.
It’s important to keep future things in mind if you want them in your heart of hearts, but not at the moment. It’s also totally find if you don’t want them. In my experience though, life choices will find you regardless of whether or not you’re looking for them. Just remember to avoid making choices out of fear. Don’t turn your back on a potential future, because you’re afraid to let go of your more youthful self. At the same time, don’t rush into having a family and things just because you see other people doing it and feel left behind. Unless you look around one day, and find yourself the 40 year old trying to party it up at an 18+ night you don’t really need to worry. Ultimately, whatever time those choices find you will be the “right” time for you to make them.
“BlogTops” are weekly blog posts that myself, my good friend Dave, and hopefully you will join us in discussing topics that we feel the majority of millennials are dealing with or have dealt with in their lives. To keep it creative we pick one specific word for the weekly topic and then we are letting our imagination and creative writing take our blogs in whatever direction we so choose. It could be anything from generalizing the topic, to specific memories, to something serious, or funny. It’s anything goes! If you want to join along tag your posts with BlogTop on Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, etc. and we will be sure to promote your blogs on social media!