21 Things I Learned in 21 Years


Hey loves!


I recently celebrated my 21st birthday. Four years ago, I did a post about 17 things I learned in 17 years and I would like to do an updated version of that post today.


Breaks over Productivity Trends

Many motivational videos will usually talk about sacrificing free time and sleep for working/studying, but I personally find that a rather counter-productive strategy. I am someone who needs to take breaks, read a little bit for fun, draw a little bit here and there (even though it usually turns out terrible), and just think about things that are not part of her degree. Even though the productivity trends are often going towards less sleep and free time and just more work, I find doing a healthy amount of work instead to be the way to go.


Photoshop is Fun, but Not Real

I love experimenting on photoshop and turning boring photos into something more interesting and fun. But as someone who has become more and more familiar with photoshop and other editing programs, I also know that it is very easy to give into the temptation to edit every picture you take of yourself once you know how easy it is to get rid of a few pimples and some hair that did not fall like you wanted it to. I realised that I had become quite uncomfortable in the middle of the year with how I actually looked in photos because I tended to edit all of them. When I started doing lives on Instagram, I initially only used the glitter filter I often use because it also does a great job of hiding little skin imperfections. I have taken time to think about that and re-made my peace with how I actually look in pictures. I still love photoshop, but I find it important to see it as a creative outlet and not as a way of creating a fake reality. None of us have the perfect look and that is perfectly ok.


An Hour with a Book over an Hour on Instagram

Do not get me wrong, I love social media - otherwise, I would not spend that much time creating content for it. But it is also incredibly easy to waste time scrolling through Instagram or watching a few TikToks. At the end of such an hour, I usually do not feel refreshed. But after reading a book for an hour, I feel more awake and like I can go back to work. That is why I like to use my free time during my more productive hours for reading and other things and I tend to go on social media at times where I am not planning to go back to work anyway and where I also feel too tired for reading. Setting time aside for social media (and intentionally setting a time limit for how long you stay on your social media apps that day) can be helpful if you find yourself wasting time on social media.


Shut up when You have Nothing to Say

This is something that I find particularly important as a content creator. What I mean by that is that you should not put out meaningless content because you do not have any ideas. Do not waste your audience's time. Some weeks, I honestly do not have new ideas. And then I just take a break. There is no point in just posting something for the sake of having put something out there - quality over quantity for moi!


Check in with Yourself

This is something I definitely did not do enough in previous years, but I have made an effort to consistently do it this year. The idea is to sit down with yourself at least once a week and just ask yourself whether you are ok. How you are really doing. What upset you over the past few weeks. What you are currently overthinking (if anything) What worries you. What you are looking forward to. Personally, I do this through writing a diary. I am someone who tends to focus more on the length of her to do list rather than how the list makes her feel and so intentionally checking in with myself has helped me realise when I need to take breaks and writing things down has also made it so much easier to process all my feelings.


Make Time for Family

I moved away from home at the age of 16 to go to boarding school. Until this year, I lived abroad - and I am technically now on my "year abroad" - the only thing being that I am doing this year "abroad" in my home country and that I do not even live on the campus of my German university due to the pandemic. It has been a long time since I last spent so much time with my family. And you, of course, get wonderful experiences from going abroad and meet amazing new people. But I think this year has also made me realise that I sometimes did not make enough time for my family. It has made me value this time so much more and highlighted the importance of it.


Backup your Data

Ok, call me stupid, but I used to never back up my data. And I mean literally never. And then I lost all my data from my editing computer when it decided to die on me. I then went onto Amazon, bought a flash drive, and I have been religiously backing up my data ever since. I lost a ton of work and also many memories when my editing computer stopped working and I am just so grateful that it did not have any classwork on it. But would absolutely not recommend that experience, so back up your data somewhere.


Set Reminders for Tasks

(No mention of any apps sponsored - unpaid ad) Some of you may still remember the good days when Wunderlist was still around. I loved that to do list app. Unfortunately, they ended it and so I had to look for a new app that would send me emails about my tasks at the right times. I ultimately settled on Todoist. The app has functions that are very similar to Wunderlist and it sends you emails reminding you of your task at the time you set. That is exactly what I need and I would highly recommend scheduling reminders like this for tasks, especially if something needs to get done far in the future. You can of course just write it down on a to do list, but it is easy to forget about it over time and a reminder will help you keep track of your tasks.


Apply even if you do not Fulfil All Criteria

I used to think that job descriptions described the bare minimum candidate, but they are usually thought of as an ideal, perfect candidate. So even if you do not fulfil all the criteria but seem to fit the profile, go for it. I felt incredibly bad doing that when I applied for the research assistant position which I currently hold at my university, but it worked out just fine.


Put Yourself First

Even writing this now, I still feel like it sounds incredibly selfish. But it is such an important thing to do. Your mental health matters. A lot. And you deserve to say no to people who do not make you happy and "because I do not want to" is a valid answer. This is something I am still learning at times, but I have become more unapologetic about prioritising my own happiness. This does not mean that you should never do things that you do not like - I also do not always enjoy sitting down at my desk for hours of studying. But it means to not do things you do not have to do for people for whom you do not want to do them.


People Don't Have to Like Everything About You for You to Like It

I used to be (and still sometimes am) a big people pleaser. I want to make people happy and I sometimes felt like I needed to change little things about me for people (and myself) to like me. Like my music taste: I absolutely love German rap (check out my playlists here), but many people do not like that type of music which is perfectly fine. But just because others laugh about the music I like does not mean I cannot like that music - and I certainly do not need to change my music taste to please anyone. And whether people like something about me does not and should never define whether I like that thing about myself.


Being Alone and Being Lonely are Different Things

Personally, I do not mind being alone. In fact, I need a lot of alone time. I am just very introverted and my social batteries do not have a big charge. But when I was stuck in my university dorm for only a few weeks with no in-person classes or student gatherings in sight (which was, of course, very good since it was the safer way to go), I realised what being lonely felt like. I did not really get to know the other students since we were meant to reduce our contacts as much as possible. I literally looked forward to going grocery shopping because it meant seeing other people. I was incredibly unhappy with the situation and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go home and be with my family instead.


Not Everything Needs to be a Side Hustle

I feel like this idea that everyone needs to have some successful side hustle has taken off recently. Any hobby seems to have to be turned into a money-making machine. I never monetised this blog. I once considered running Google Ads on it to pay the cost of keeping this website up, but I ultimately decided against that because I want this blog to be like an online diary - not some ad-filled space. Never doing a single sponsorship for this website is one of the best decisions I ever made about my content. Do not get me wrong, working with brands can be great and it can help finance your equipment and running costs (which is what I use it for on YouTube), but some things can also just stay a hobby. I have realised over this year how much my YouTube channel has taken on a business aspect. It still also has that hobby aspect - I am, at the end of the day, just a girl that makes random videos in her bedroom about studying. But I now also get multiple emails from brands every week, negotiate contracts for sponsorships and I have to live up to my contractual obligations. I have learned a lot from this business side of my channel, but I am also glad that this blog does not have one. Sponsorships are work at the end of the day and then it sometimes feel less like a hobby and more like a job. Some things are good as hobbies and it can be good to maintain that feeling by not monetising some things.


Keep a List of Your Achievements in Your Notes

I am pretty big on imposter syndrome and so I often tell myself "you are not good enough." A few months ago, I told a friend of mine that I felt I would not be good enough to apply for something and he literally just sent me a list of scholarships, awards, and other achievements of mine and went like "you mean that girl is not good enough?" And honestly: that is the attitude you sometimes need. This does not mean that you should brag about whatever you achieved. Instead, keep a list of things you already achieved and when you doubt yourself, take a look at that list. It is so easy to talk yourself down, but it can also be pretty easy to remind yourself that you have already come a far way.


You are Allowed to Fight Back

My channel grew a lot this year and with over seventy thousand new subscribers, I also had to really deal with hate comments for the first time. I wrote "really deal" with them because while I had one or two hate comments before then, I got over 6 million views this year and that meant that my content also appeared in the recommended sections of people who did not enjoy it. I am more than happy to accept constructive criticism and think about it, but I also had someone create a Twitter account dedicated to posting hate tweets about me (yep, that really happened). I also had some people send me sexualised and objectifying messages about which I can only say that they absolutely disgusted me. I ended up reporting these people to the police. Some people told me that I am overreacting "over some harmless comments", but all I can say to that is "no." I am allowed to expect to live without being harassed - in real life and online. And I do not have to smile and be silent about being harassed - I am allowed to talk about it, report it, and call it out. We do not have to be silent when someone mistreats us.


This Nail Polish

From serious lessons to something super light: nail polish. I honestly cannot remember the last time I left the house without painted nails. This year, I found a colour that I absolutely love and which, in my opinion, fits almost every outfit. So if you would like a nice, rosy pink, here is my recommendation (not sponsored/unpaid ad): Manhattan's 120 "Spring Crush."


Live your Priorities

This sounds very general, but what I mean by this is that you should not waste most of your time on things that are actually relatively low on a scale of what matters most to you. Make a list of your priorities - order them according to how much they matter to you and go back to that list at least every few months and check whether you are actually allocating most of your time to what matters most to you.


Find a Scheduling System that Works for You

Some people are big on calendar blocking, others prefer a big to do list and decide what to do when on the day - whatever your preference, make sure you have a system in place for scheduling your time that works for you. I experimented with digital planning and paper planners (ultimately went digital) and I use a bit of calendar blocking but no longer as excessively as I used to. But trying out a few methods and finding one that worked for me helped me not waste time on finding ways to remind myself of meetings and deadlines.


Ask if You are Unsure

As someone who is very shy, I used to find it very hard to ask for clarifications in class and I just always felt like my question might be dumb or annoy the teacher. But when you do not ask, you do not learn. So I have started giving myself a "confidence voucher" - basically, I pretend I have enough confidence to ask the question and then I just ask it. In the beginning, it was really hard to do it, but by now, I no longer need the vouchers - I just ask because I want to know something.


Listen to People whose Views You Do Not Share

I do not mean by that to listen to people who hold beliefs that are just absolute no-gos (e.g. racist or homophobic ideologies), but if someone proposes a different solution to a political issue or thinks something needs to be approached differently, there often is room for debate. It is important to get out of the bubble you have with people who have similar views as you and to have your views challenged and to also see what other people are proposing - you may learn something about their point of view and you may also adopt some of their ideas.


It is Ok Not to be Ok

No one is always happy and it is completely fine to be upset sometimes. It is okay to cry and it is perfectly fine to say that you are not okay when someone asks you how you are doing. We often do not want to put the burden of our problems on others, but I believe that our honesty is much more appreciated than our lies and endless empty "I'm fine"s.


And that is some of what I learned in 21 years.


Lots of Love,


Elena


P.S.: The title picture of this post was taken by Assunta Montesinos.

Other posts 
Recent Posts