Steal the Little Things

I’ve realized over the past few years that I am a highly adaptable person. I’m not sure how I turned into this person since I distinctly remember being a nightmarish, stubborn goblin as a small child. But I have to believe this started early because I know I started to steal little things from people as early as age nine.

I don’t mean stealing material things (although my collection of different post-its was BOMB), I mean stealing little habits or tricks that I thought would make my life better. For example, the earliest memory I have of this is seeing a girl in one of my classes in fourth grade write a capital letter ‘E’. Up until that point, I had written it using one vertical line and then tacking on three horizontal lines one by one. But this girl (S/O to Emily Yuill) wrote hers as if it were a backwards three. I suppose this is also the cursive way to write it, but at that moment it seemed so fluid – one motion, smooth and unique. I decided I liked it, and I’ve written my E’s that way ever since.

Although that’s the earliest example I have, I can remember adapting all sorts of things – especially when it comes to ways of speaking and certain phrases. It’s been very helpful when I’m in a new environment to sound as alike to others as possible. I’ve become rather good at mimicking cadences of speaking and picking up common phrases in certain circles whether it’s a foreign country or a work environment. While this is helpful in my day to day life, I end up sounding quite strange when I’m speaking in a casually since my style has now become an amalgamation of many.

This also might be the reason I am obsessed with the daily routines of pretty much anyone. Those morning routine videos on youtube are like crack to me (a close second are packing videos). I am constantly searching for little tiny things that I think are more efficient or more helpful that I can add to my life. And it’s worked quite well for me, pretty much everything from my morning routine, speaking style, travel habits, and work behavior is a collection of tiny things I’ve noticed on others, adapted to myself.

I suppose this systematic collection of behaviors is basically what growing up is, but I’ve always been pretty aware of it. As soon as I see something I like, I immediately switch over to it to try it out. Not everything works though. For example, cold morning showers – HELL NO. I’ve tried a lot of things, sometimes too many things at once, and now I’ve amassed a whole swath of habits that I can trace back to a specific person, article, or video I’ve encountered.

This cultivation of activity is something that I’ve realized I love doing. I love looking for things that improve my life and recognizing them in others. Are there any behaviors you’ve adapted over the years? Think about it for a quick sec and see what things you do now that may have been appropriated from friends or family. You’d be surprised what you’ve collected.

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

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How Not to Overpack (You know you’re guilty of it)

Let’s start by running some numbers:

  • Seven Weeks Vacation = 1 40 liter backpack
  • Two Week Vacation (Colder climate) = 1 40 liter backpack
  • One Week Island Hopping = One medium sized tote purse
  • Three Weeks to visit home = One standard roller carry on & small backpack
  • One Week Business Trip = One standard roller carry on & Laptop Purse

I think you get the picture. Over the past couple years I have become a MASTER packer. I know there are people out there who are even more streamlined, but I’m improving all the time. I refuse to take any more than I need and if I am flying somewhere, I’ll be damned if I have to check my luggage. Therefore, I’ve learned how to take exactly what I’ll need, fit it all in a small space, and have much smoother trips.

First tip: As I stated above, try to plan with only carry-on luggage to work with. You’ll automatically reduce the amount of things you can bring since you just won’t have the space to fit all of it.

Second tip: Research the climate of your destination, then make a list of all the activities you’ll be doing while there. If this is a business trip, you know you’ll be indoors working. But if you’re on vacation, will you be hiking? Swimming? Skiing? Once you have all your days planned, you can start working out how many clothes you’ll really need.

Third tip: EVERYTHING you pack needs to go with one or two pairs of shoes. Shoes are heavy, bulky, and are the biggest culprit when it comes to overpacking becuase they take up so much freaking space. For example, if I’m going to a warm climate, I pack a pair of sandals and a pair of trainers. For a cold climate, a pair of heavy boots and a pair of light boots. For business, I pack a pair of heels and my workout shoes.

Fourth tip: Ok, once you know what you’ll be doing on your trip, and which shoes you’ll need, you can plan your clothes. Since you have all your activities noted, you know exactly what kinds of clothes you need, and since you have your shoes picked, you limit the clothes to what goes with those shoes. The key here is to only pack MAXIMUM one outfit per day. I say maximum because I rewear pants, bras, and shirts (if I don’t sweat), and it’s actually surprisingly cheap and easy to do laundry on the road. Don’t sit there and say “well I want options for each day”. You’re killing me. You’re gonna bring all this crap and you’re gonna end up wearing the most comfortable outfit anyway. My only exception to this is that I like to have one reasonably nice outfit to wear just in case of a party or nice dinner. (The shoe rule still stands though!).

Fifth tip: Lay out all your clothes on your bed to make sure you’ve got everything, including socks and underwear! Then, to make everything fit in a small space, I recommend rolling all your clothes. I’m sure you’ve seen this tip before, but it really does make a big difference in space saving. If you’re an even bigger packing nerd like me, roll your clothes by category and put them all into packing cubes to stay organized (example ones here).

Ok you’ve got clothes and shoes but here are some other things you’ll want to bring no matter what:

  • Pack Towel (lightweight towel)
  • Toiletry kit (make sure all your liquids fit according to TSA rules) & toothbrush!
  • Comb or Brush
  • Headphones (but bring earbuds, over the earphones are bulky)
  • Book, journal, or Kindle.
  • One set of sleepwear (if you really need it)
  • Scarf (light or heavy depending on destination)
  • Travel necessities – passport, wallet, phone, medicine, etc.

The feeling that most overpackers suffer from is fear of the unknown. The what if’s. It starts with: what if I spill on this nice shirt and need another? And then get’s crazy: what if I get invited to tea at Buckingham Palace? There are always situations that will arise that you didn’t plan for but packing too much stuff will just make your life harder. If something happens along the way, just buy what you need at your destination. If you know you love to shop, pack even less to be able to fit your new stuff and wear your new stuff as you get it. For souvenirs or gifts to bring back for friends, I opt for jewelry or small prints that lie perfectly flat against the back of my bag and take up little space.

Overpacking means you’ll literally be dragging a bunch of stuff you don’t need to a new destination and just lugging it all back home again. Next time you pack, I want you to pick up each item and justify WHY you’re packing it. If you start you’re reasoning with “what if” or “something could come up”, then leave it behind. I promise you’ll be ok without it.

If you have any tips to prevent overpacking, please share! I love travelling light and am literally always scouring packing and travel lists to make trips as streamlined as possible. Happy travels!

 

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A peek into my business trip suitcase. Something I always bring? My massage ball since I always get kinks in my back.

 

 

 

 

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Yes, I took these photos at the Calgary airport…

 

 

For Business or for Pleasure?

This year, January will end up being roughly 4 1/2 weeks, and for 2 1/2 of those, I will be travelling for work. The nature of my job means that I usually work from home, but about twice a month (this month is more than average), I have to travel to visit clients. Business trips intimidated me quite a bit at the start of my career since I was never quite sure what to bring or how to act, HOWEVER, I’ve been on enough of them now that I think it’s safe to say I have them on lock.

Step 1: Prep

Travelling is already stressful, but once you add in the fact that you’re seeing a new office or new client site that you’re not familiar with to do your job, then you can really drive yourself into severe overpacking mode trying to prepare. If this is your first time visiting this place, bring all the tech you’ve got*. Every HDMI cord, adapter, charger, extension cord, etc. because you might not have the leisure of walking into a modern facility. My clients are split on this, some are very modern and can provide all these things, and some barely even have a conference room, let alone wifi connection.

In terms of personal items, obviously bring business clothes, but try and limit your outfits so that they all go with one or two pairs of shoes. Shoes are the real culprit when you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on. Also, try and bring one casual (but still classy) outfit for dinners with colleagues or if you want to do any exploring on your own (this is usually my travel outfit). For toiletries, start keeping a stock of deluxe samples and small bottles to use on these trips since hotel toiletries can often leave a lot to be desired.

Step 2: Logistics

As I alluded to above, I recommend travelling with only carry-on luggage. I may one-day change my tune about this, but today is not this day. First off, travelling with only a carry-on means you can’t overpack too much, and secondly, it means the airline cannot lose your luggage. I do not trust the airlines to handle my bag and I cannot imagine anything worse than arriving on a work trip with none of the things I need to do my job.

Other logistics are pretty straightforward. Unless you work for a HUGE company, you probably won’t be getting picked up in an Escalade and staying in five-star hotels. So if you are responsible for your own bookings, Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott affiliates are usually safe bets for accommodations, and you can probably get away with booking Economy Premium flights at most.

Step 3: Arrival

Alright, you’ve arrived at your destination safely, and with all your stuff, so how do you act the first time? This obviously depends on why and where you’ve travelled, but the biggest tip I can give for this is to walk in the front door with confidence and start introducing yourself to everyone right away. It honestly took me a few trips to work up to this since I was so scared to do anything wrong I would wait until my boss introduced me. This is fine but it did not do my credibility any favors. Like always, confidence is absolutely key.

Step 4: Small Talk

You will inevitably have to make small talk. Whether it’s right at the start, at lunch, at a break, it WILL HAPPEN. I absolutely LOATHE small talk but you have to find some way to make it work for you. Because I work in a field where almost everyone is substantially older than me, I will either ask what they do for fun, or I will ask about their kids because EVERYBODY with kids loves to talk about them. If you can get the other person really going on a topic, it is less work for you!

If you can make the four elements I’ve listed here as breezy as possible then you are home free! Oh wait…you still have a job to do right? But honestly, that is the easy part. You already know how to do your job, the hard part is doing it in a new place surrounded by new people. If you can make the travelling and transition as easy as possible, there’s really not much else to worry about.

If you have any questions about business trips or any tips of your own, please message or comment below! I am always looking for ways to make these less stressful!

 

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PC: The ever judgmental Kiki Moussetis

 

*Unless explicitly told what tech to bring beforehand

Not So Lazy Sundays

Lazy Sundays. When did they become lazy? Why do we use Sundays as days to sleep for way too long and accomplish absolutely nothing besides dreading Monday? I used to treat Sundays like this. They were finally my day to myself where I could “relax.” But inevitably, I would feel groggy and lethargic spending my days barely moving in front of the TV.

In college was when I really started making Sundays a ‘productive’ relaxation day. This didn’t mean that I worked, or studied, or necessarily accomplished anything in the traditional sense, but it did mean I actively took care of myself and my hobbies. My favorite thing to do as a freshman? I walked to the beach and just spent hours out there by myself reading and swimming. Totally refreshing. So if you’re one of those people who’s Sundays always end up ruined by your own insistence on ‘doing nothing’, here’s a couple ideas to help your Sunday get off on the right foot.

  1. Get up before 9am. Notice how I said GET UP. Not just wake up. Because we all know that right after waking up we can literally spend hours on our phones doing fuckall. 9am is a great parameter to set for myself because it still allows me some freedom in sleeping in if I want, but I also know that if I stay in bed past nine I will already start to feel like I’ve wasted the day.
  2. MOVE. Sunday is my rest day, however, I do need to get my blood pumping at least a little bit so I will either go for a walk to pick up a coffee, or I will do a quick 10-15 minute stretch just so my body doesn’t feel groggy.
  3. Make yourself a proper breakfast. I’m pretty good about this on normal days, but I know a lot of people aren’t. A lot of people skip the first meal of the day by virtue of sleeping too long. On Sunday’s, treat yourself. I will either make a full omelet with fruit and toast, or I will make chocolate chip pancakes! Either way, making a more elaborate breakfast already makes me feel accomplished.
  4. Dedicate some time to your hobbies. Sunday can be a day to spend time working on your passion projects or things that make you happy. I typically do most of my blogging on Sundays and a ton of reading (currently reading Titan by Ron Chernow). I also use this day to spend a little time on self-improvement. I will dedicate a little time to practice my languages, as well as research personal finance which has become increasingly interesting to me. The best thing is that I can spend as little or as much time on each activity or hobby as I want!
  5. Friend time! I know we typically go out on Friday and Saturday nights, but Sunday brunch didn’t become a thing for no reason. Sunday can be the perfect day to do something relaxing with friends. Go for coffee, go shopping, or duh, go for brunch! I typically reserve my most low-key activities for Sunday since I do want to rest up for the week but it can still be a great day to spend the day out and about with some great company.
  6. Make a Plan. This one goes along with all of the above but is important that you set some goals for yourself even on Sundays. Even if those goals are only going to yoga and going to brunch. By making a plan you are mentally committing yourself to those activities. By no means should your Sunday goals be as ambitious or numerous as your weekday goals, but if you set some, you will find yourself feeling way more relaxed and accomplished.

I know a lot of this sounds like overzealous wellness practicing, but using your weekends productively is one of the most important things I’ve learned over the years. While time to veg out is great, for the most part, you should be taking part in things that actively make you feel accomplished or happy on weekends. They don’t have to be big or time-consuming, but those small changes can do wonders for your state of mind throughout the week.

Read it and Weep

What was the last book you read? Did you choose to read said book by choice? Or was it for something else like school or work?

When my sister and I learned to read, we didn’t just read them, we DEVOURED THEM. I remember most of our Christmas gifts would be books and by the time Christmas break was over, we would have finished a good chunk (if not all) of the books we had just received. We would read everything! We read novels, fantasy, science fiction, history, historical fiction, and nonfiction.

My sister and I are, unfortunately, increasingly rare specimens of people. In an age where consuming information at hyper-fast speeds is becoming more and more important, many people claim they don’t have the time or the attention span to sit down and read an entire book. We favor online articles and social media to consume information, and to be honest, real life has gotten so ridiculous (American politics anyone?) that it may feel like you’re viewing fiction every time you check the news.

But I still think reading full on books and immersing yourself in a story is important. The majority of books I read are nonfiction or science fiction/fantasy. And I think there is a huge benefit to reading a wide range of books for personal growth and development (and to be one of those pretentious show offs at parties). Below, I’ve outlined how I divide the books in my library and why reading books from each of these categories has more benefits than you might think.

Nonfiction books have obvious benefits. They usually fall into two categories: self-help or history/biography. There is much to be gained by reading these types of books. You can learn techniques to directly help your wellness, success, or productivity. Or, by reading history and biography books you can learn about events and people that have shaped the world into what it looks like today and can increase your understanding and perspective on your environment. I know people think these can be boring or cheesy, or like reading a dry, boring history textbook, but some of these are dynamically written and just as gripping as that tabloid article on that celeb that did that thing (you know the one). My personal favorites in this category:

  1. Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi)
  2. How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams)
  3. Blink (Malcolm Gladwell — actually everything by him is great)
  4. GirlBoss (Sophia Amoruso)
  5. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)
  6. The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris)

The next category is novels. I define novels as fictional stories that have realistic characters and settings. This category of book is important because it increases your thinking and perception about your world. Even though the stories told in this category are fiction, the struggles of the characters are usually very real and tackle topics that relate heavily with most people. This category of book resonates with me because it helps with my empathy and understanding of people. Going on a journey through a character’s life helps you see things through their eyes, and even though they are made up, that skill can transfer to your own, very real, life. My personal favorites in this category:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
  2. Fates and Furies ( Lauren Groff)
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ( Stieg Larsson)
  4. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini – this guy is a powerful writer ok?)
  5. The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchinson)
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
  7. Rich People Problems (Kevin Kwan, a guilty pleasure but a fun read nontheless)

The last important category in my repertoire is fantasy/fiction/sci-fi etc. I define this category as stories about things that are completely made up. The setting, circumstances, characters, and story are all completely fictional. These differ from novels because the setting is not real. This is my favorite genre because reading these books is kind of like watching a film for me. They tell these fantastical tales that my own brain can’t imagine and immerse me in a world that doesn’t exist to tell a story that ends up being highly relatable. These books are also my favorite because not only are they the most entertaining for me, I feel like they combine the best of the first two categories into one. Their characters are still intensely relatable which adds the empathy element found in novel studies, and they also encourage outside of the box thinking. In order to truly enjoy a fictional world, you have to understand the fictional rules and workings of that world and that thinking forces you to expand your mind and think about your own world more creatively. My favorites (I have so many here so I’ll only list a few):

  1. The Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling, this is a classic)
  2. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  3. Enchanted (Orson Scott Card, honestly I’ve read all his books)
  4. Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin, another expected one, but the books are honestly amazing)
  5. Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
  6. Queen of the Tearling (Erika Johansen)
  7. The Selection (Kiera Cass)
  8. The Veldt (Ray Bradbury, this is a short story, but I love it)

I have been a reader all my life. I LOVE books, I’m such a nerd for all kinds of reading so I might be a bit biased, but being a strong reader definitely carries over into other elements of your life. Many people don’t want to spend the time reading or they claim school ruined reading for them, but reading should never be a chore and there are MILLIONS of books out there so there is something for everyone. Reading novels and books not only offers the benefits I described above, but it also drastically improves your thinking, writing, and vocabulary skills. I know I sound preachy, but there is literally NO downside to reading more books. Comment if you can think of one and we can have a lively discussion on the topic!

 

 

Bare Necessities

I’ve lived a pretty typical middle-class young adult life. I graduated high school, went to college, and now I have a job and am contributing (?) to society. However, because I went to a university across the country, studied abroad on the other side of the world, and now live completely on my own, I’ve realized that there are a few skills that I learned along the way that everyone should really know by the time they reach my age.

And obviously, as a plucky 22-year-old, I have TONS of wisdom to offer, and everything I say should be taken completely seriously. SO, with THAT said, the list below encompasses things you should’ve been figuring out how to do before you could even drink in this god-forsaken country.

  1. Cooking: I don’t care if it’s pasta, steak, or the meanest grilled cheese ever, you should know how to make yourself a quality hot meal. Extra credit: You can make more than one, and have a few go-to dishes for yourself and when you’re trying to impress! Look at you, you overachiever you.
  2. Skincare: Once again, this doesn’t have to be fancy, but so help me, if you’re not moisturizing your face and body then you are just asking for flaky lizard skin, not to mention, PREMATURE AGING (it’s ok to start screaming, I know it’s terrifying).
  3. Haircare: Get a hair cut regularly. Just DO it. You know it’s the right thing to do, and your hair feels so much better afterward. Also, don’t forget to shampoo AND condition.
  4. Shop for Underwear: You’re not a kid anymore and isn’t it just embarrassing to have your mom do this? You should know by now which kinds you like and what brands to invest in. People with boobs: if you so choose to wear bras, get fitted by an expert, it helps.
  5. Favorite Books: I know reading books for school sucks, but reading is good for you. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. You should explore some genres and find a few books that blow your mind, the kind you’d recommend to others. A couple of mine: Ender’s Game, Perfume, and Never Eat Alone.
  6. Know how to change a tire: I actually fail on this account, but I know it is something I should learn. You never know when you’ll be in a tight spot with no cell service so your parents can talk you through it.
  7. Set a Schedule: I know this is EXTRA boring (unless you’re a planning fanatic like me) and I know you can set whatever hours you want since you’re an adult, but all that extra freedom is precisely why you need to learn to set your own schedule so you don’t turn into an ambitionless lump that has to peel themselves off their couch every Monday.
  8. Fitness: You knew this was coming didn’t you? I don’t care whether you walk, swim, yoga, or whatever. But pick something, and do it regularly.
  9. Traveling: Traveling alone can be stressful, you should know how to navigate airports, baggage issues, and how to get around in new places without your phone. Traveling is an unparalleled learning experience, and remember what I said earlier about knowledge and power? Yeah, exactly.
  10. Cleaning: Chances are, you have your own space by now, whether it’s a dorm room or an apartment. Being a slob is just unacceptable. Learn to pick up after yourself and how to clean different surfaces properly. There is no excuse for this. Don’t be nasty. Extra Credit: Doing your laundry without shrinking or ruining anything.

And there you have it, in my obviously learned opinion, these are the top ten things you should have figured out by the time you are a budding adult…there is literally no good way to classify this period of our lives is there? Young adult? Young person? Millenial? Comment the best way to classify those in their late teens/extremely early twenties because I have no good ideas for this…

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PC: the AMAZING Clara Yu

 

Living Up to Your OWN Standards

Every time I read an article about a twelve-year-old who sold an app to google, I die a little inside. Replace that twelve-year-old with a teenager who started a successful company or a young twenty-something who has already achieved millionaire status. It seems like everywhere I look these days, there is somebody younger than me who is vastly more successful and that reminds me just how little I have accomplished in my short twenty-two years on this Earth.

I say to myself ‘what have you been doing, Melina? You could have invented something, made a bunch of money, started a company, saved a species, if you had only tried harder, earlier’ I feel an enormous sense of failure having not done anything that anyone would describe as ‘remarkable’.

This kind of exposure can be tough to take. With social media, you can hear about every hyper-successful up and comer around the world. It is easy to be jealous of their success and to become filled with self-doubt that you’ll never amount to anything because you missed your window or because you believe these types of people are exorbitantly more intelligent or driven than you are.

I suffer from this A LOT. I feel intensely inadequate and like a straight up bum when I read or hear about these kinds of people. Consequently, I’ve had to develop a method to cope with this instead of just giving up on life because I wasn’t a pubescent tech genius.

I’ve boiled it down to the fact that I’m not jealous of these people because they’re successful, rich, famous, or smart. I’m jealous of them because they clearly had a direction. If someone is a world class pianist at the age of 11 or they made a million by 18, they didn’t get there by accident. They believed in a path of life so powerfully that they acted on it and gave their all to it. Those kinds of accomplishments don’t just take hard work and intelligence, they take devotion. To reach the highest echelons of success in a particular area, one has to be devoted to it. And THAT is what I’m jealous of.

For example, I have this friend who is currently finishing up an aerospace engineering degree at MIT. In short, her goal is to be an astronaut. But what is so astounding about her is that she has had this goal FOREVER. She is twenty-one years old, and as far as she can remember, she has had the goal of being an astronaut and has done everything in her power to achieve it. She has direction.

I, on the other hand, don’t have a direction. Sure, I have a great job, hobbies, and friends, but there is not one direction where I would feel comfortable and productive devoting myself to. And that is the part of these peoples’ success that I find myself being envious of. I wish I had a direction for myself because I know that if I had a clear idea of what I wanted to become, I would probably be successful at achieving it. Innately, I realize that aspiring to accomplish the same things as other people is not what I actually want. As cliche as it sounds, I want to be the best version of myself in the end.

In simpler terms, a basketball player would never be jealous of a successful gymnast because they know they have different directions. The basketball player wants to be the best basketball player, not the best at any other sport.

By the same logic, I cannot compare myself to these people I read about online because we don’t have the same goals. I can’t compare myself to the five-year-old boy who performed at Carnegie hall because it was never my goal or direction to become a world class musician. I can’t compare myself to the twenty-six-year-old billionaire founder of Snapchat because it was never my goal to be a tech billionaire (although I wouldn’t say no…). And that is how I have to think. I have to learn to be ok spending this time figuring out a direction and to learn to rely on the idea that when I find my own direction, I’m going to kick. its. ass.

 

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Smile to keep from dwelling on the confusion of your own life.