I just turned 23 a couple of days ago, and even though it may seem a perfectly ‘adult’ age, I still feel 18. However, it’s been 5 years since I turned 18, and I’ve grown a little. There were some lessons I picked up on the way, and I wanted to share with you 23 random things I learned by 23.
1. You don’t need to have your whole life ‘figured out’
At 18, I had my life planned. I was supposed to graduate at 23 and go to work in a large engineering corporation. Instead, now I am self-employed, blogging, starting a PhD and honestly have no idea where I’ll be this time next year. You have to learn to adjust the plan, or live without one entirely. Because life almost never happens as you plan it, anyway.
2. Good hair = confidence
For me, taking the 10 extra minutes to do my hair, or spending a bit more on a good hair product always pays off. On good hair days, I feel almost immortal. I still wouldn’t run in front of a truck, but I feel I can pretty much achieve anything else.
3. Confidence comes from taking action
I used to think I’ll wake up one day and feel confident. Unfortunately, that still hasn’t happened, but I’ve found another way to grow my confidence. It’s about taking small steps and putting yourself out of your comfort zone. I used to be terrified of public speaking, so I signed up for a class where we would give presentations in front of a very small group. Later, I volunteered to lead open day tours. And slowly, I’ve managed to feel confident enough to give my first ‘lecture’ in front of an entire class without running away panicked.
4. You can have more than one home
As the saying goes, ‘home is where the wi-fi connects automatically‘, so if you take that, I have at least 3 homes. One in Varna, one in Edinburgh, and one in Poland. And even though sometimes it can feel like you belong nowhere, it’s a privilege to feel at home in more than one place.
5. Work doesn’t always mean 9-5
I always to believe that you needed a ‘normal’ job to make a living. So when I was no longer able to work part-time in engineering, I panicked. How would I make ends meet? And then Wojtek suggested I worked for myself for a while. And I did it. I opened an eBay shop and I’ve made a pretty decent income from there for the last 10 months. I’ve managed to pay rent and even go for a three-week holiday. And more importantly, I’ve learned to work on my own terms, which is almost always not 9-5!
6. You’re not entitled to anything
Realising that the world doesn’t revolve around me was harsh. Realising that no one owed me anything was even harsher. As a generation we tend to be entitled and expect to be praised just because we make an effort. But guess what: it doesn’t work like that. I’ve learned to expect praise only when I’ve outdone myself, and when those moments happen it’s incredibly rewarding.
7. When it comes to friends, quality > quantity
During high-school I always thought having more friends equaled having a better life. Now, I can count my true friends on my hands. Think about the people you’ll call when you feel bad. And more importantly, the people who you can call with good news. Because the true friends are the ones who support you and are genuinely happy for you no matter what.
8. Social media is not real
You never know how fake social media is until you start taking it seriously. There are so many apps that can whiten, shred, cut, elongate and tan you so you look like a 2.0 version of you. I’ve done it myself, and it only made me feel worse, because I could never compete with the girl I pretended to be. And also, I would never post an ‘ugly’ photo, and neither will any of the people you follow. So don’t compare your normal life to anyone’s highlight rail – it’s not real!
9. The more you give, the more you get
I’m pretty sure the Bible said it better, but anyway. You can’t expect to receive anything without giving something first. Like last year, when I was chosen to be a tutor for a course, I didn’t just ‘do my job’. I tried to go above and beyond for the students, staying up later and trying to help in any way I can. And this year, I was offered three tutoring jobs without even applying just because the people appreciated the value I gave.
10. It’s perfectly possible to be both intelligent and interested in fashion
For almost whole my life I struggled to combine my interests in Maths and fashion. It seemed that I could either be a well-dressed airhead, or a serious student who was beyond fashion’s vanity. But in the end I found I could be both. I could still get awarded for my academic performance, while not looking like I rolled out of bed. And with everything I do I want to encourage girls to be both intelligent and smartly dressed, because what matters is both on the inside and outside.
11. Travelling is the best teacher
It will help you appreciate everything you have back home. Travelling is about the places you visit, the people you meet, and the times you don’t do anything special but just chill. During my travels I’ve tented, rode a motorbike, swam in a mountain lake, hitch-hiked and slept in strangers’ homes. It most definitely put me far away from my princess-y life, but I’ve come out inspired and eager to travel even more.
12. Never take hot water for granted
On the note of travelling, never. ever. take hot water for granted. Or water in general, to be honest. It’s only after not showering for a week because the water is too damn cold that you start appreciating how hot and strong your home shower is.
13. People will try to take advantage of you
I’m a bit of a Pollyanna when it comes to seeing the best in people. Honestly, it takes a lot for me to start hating you. Unfortunately, because of that, there have been people who’ve tried to take advantage of me. Sad part is, it’s kind of my fault for allowing it. With the help of my friends I’ve learned to stand up for myself, get rid (or limit) toxic people and grow thicker skin for all those people who just can’t wait to talk behind my back.
14. You can never have too many shoes (or bags)
Since high school I’ve been known for having excessive amounts of shoes and bags. I’ve tried to limit it, I’ve tried so hard and failed. Now I’ve accepted that it’s ok to have 5 pairs of seemingly identical black shoes just because they are all so different. Am I alone?
15. It’s ok to have a favourite movie…
..that you watch when you need a no-brainer. Going to sleep? I play ‘Mean girls’, because I know the plot. Having a bad day? Cady Haron had it worse. Lying in bed with cramps? Hearing ‘you go, Glen Coco’ always helps. I’ve stopped trying to get into ‘classics’ and serious movies, and accepted my taste in cheesy rom-coms. It doesn’t make me a bad person, so why should I deny myself what makes me happy?
16. There’s no ‘perfect’ relationship
I used to think that once you’ve found THE one, you’ll never ever fight, or have any problems. That you’ll understand each other with just a look. In reality, you have to work for it! Perfect relationships don’t exist, but the more time and effort you put into it, the more ‘perfect’ it gets!
17. People care less than you think
Ugh, people pleasing is still something I struggle with. I almost didn’t publish this post because I was worried of people not liking it. But in the end, people have their own life to think about, so even if they don’t like it, they’ll just forget about it in 2 minutes. So whenever you feel worried that people are gonna judge, yes some of them will. But the majority won’t even care, so go ahead and do it!
18. If you never ask, you’ll never get
If there’s one thing I could go back and tell myself, it would be to ask. Ask questions, there’s nothing shameful. Ask people to coffee, because friendships are born. Ask teachers for help. And for work opportunities. Being a go-getter (when you’re not pushy and arrogant) can honestly open so many doors. I wouldn’t be doing half of the things I do now if I haven’t asked.
19. I can’t give up chocolate
Just like with shoes and bags, I’ve tried giving up chocolate. It didn’t work! There’s just something so good about a piece (or two), it always picks me up and makes me happy. So if you’re a chocolate lover yourself, please don’t try to give it up completely. Life’s too short not to enjoy a little chocolate, so grab a piece and relax!
20. There’s nothing shameful about buying second-hand
I do it not because I can’t afford new clothes. It’s a conscious choice to be a better consumer. Second hand is good for the environment because you’re not wasting new resources. It’s also great for your wallet, because now you have more money for chocolate, travel or whatever makes you happy. And if you’re worried you’re going to look like a vintage grandma, please take a look at my Instagram. I dare say that second-hand can look both trendy and good!
21. Mental illness is not a joke
If you’ve never had a panic attack, consider yourself lucky. I used to look down on people who had ‘anxiety’ and mental problems, until I started having panic attacks of my own. It’s not something I’ve talked openly about, because there’s still this stigma that ‘you’re crazy’. I can most surely tell you I don’t think I’m crazy, but even the most rational brain can go in the wrong direction in given circumstances. So if you suffer from something, seek help from friends or specialists. And if you know a friend who has anxiety or something similar, be there for them. Offering your attention and support is pretty much the best (and only) thing you can do to help.
22. Losing someone you love leaves a mark
I’ve been very lucky not to lose many people in my life. But if you’ve ever lost a close one, you know the feeling. People tell you that time heals everything, and yes there are many days I don’t think about my grandma. But the truth is, losing her has marked me forever. She was with me for 20 years, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. And it kind of helps me to believe she’s watching from somewhere and is proud of me.
23. There’s always good to come
And if the previous point made you feel sad (because it definitely made me), please remember there’s always more good to come. On the day I lost her, I got together with Wojtek, so I consider it a blessing as well. As Dumbledore said, ‘happiness can be found in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light’. There’s always something good to come, so don’t stop searching.
I hope that this post filled with Harry Potter and Mean girls references gave you a little insight into who I am. Please share one thing you’ve learned yourself, I’m always interested to know!