I was born on April 12, around 3 PM in Shkodër, if you’d like to look up my birth chart.
Speaking of birth charts, not long ago, I sent out a potential client this email.
It was risky, sure. Someone could’ve said, wow, how unprofessional. But they replied saying they loved my sense of humor, and they’d let me know.
A few days later, I got a “Congrats! And welcome!” email in my inbox.
This is my second birthday in a pandemic, which feels strange, sure, but it still doesn’t feel as horror movie scary as one would think it would. Humans are resilient and adaptive, plus I think I hit my overwhelm limit last year:
“Every morning, while we enjoyed our lesser-than homemade Americanos, a huge military tank circulated the otherwise empty city, stating, “Do not leave your house. Wash your hands and stay at home.” After this period was over in Albania, we had to text a government number to get permission to go out. Never for longer than an hour, though, and only one family member a day.”Secret Theory as to Why Some Albanians Hate Other Albanians So Much
Here’s to hoping this is my last pandemic birthday.
In a true reflective manner, I wanted to write about the things I’m working on. Here are 14 things I still haven’t figured out at 25.
1 – Skin exfoliation
I’ve figured out sunscreen, I know it’s important (Sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancers. Also, 90% of skin aging is due to sun exposure.) and I’ve been wearing it daily for close to two years now.
But I can’t seem to be able to exfoliate regularly like a normal person who cares about her skin would. I bought The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution which is supposedly the best thing since sliced bread. It’s a blood-colored liquid you put in your face, never for longer than 10 minutes and never more than twice a week. It’s amazing for the skin.
Yet I can’t do it, I’ll do it for a week or two, then forget to do it for the next month or so. Oops.
2 – Not to get worked up every single time I hear non-Albanians speaking in unrespectful volumes in public in Albania.
I even wrote this in my middle of the year reflections back in 2018 as things I’d like to do, that I still haven’t done:
“I still haven’t called out an Italian (or fake Italian) for being loud and rude.”
The longer the loud offender and I are in the same space, the angrier I get.
This shouldn’t bother me and it has gotten progressively better.
But I still don’t enjoy foreigners being obnoxiously loud in public, especially when I have the strong feeling they would never be as rude and impatient in their home countries.
3 – Knowing when to draw the line with people I’ve known for a long time
High school sweethearts either grow together or apart. Degrees, jobs, relationships, money- they all get in the way of staying the same person you were when you were 17.
“Everybody look at you strange, say you changedJay Z, Kingz
Like you work that hard to stay the same”
I’ve lost as many friends as I’ve made new ones throughout the years.
While it’s easy for me to break ties with someone I’ve known for a year if they wrong me; when people I’ve been friends with for as long as I can remember do the same, I go out of my way to keep them in my life.
When these people fuck up repeatedly in regards to me, I haven’t figured out where the line is.
- If I’ve forgiven them once, shouldn’t I forgive them again?
- If we’ve been friends for so long, isn’t it for a strong reason?
- Isn’t it worth it to have them in my life despite that?
- Wouldn’t I want another chance if I was them?
- If my standards are this high, will I die friend-less?
- Isn’t one amazing new friend better than three old friends you slightly resent at this point?
- Can I keep close relationships, where no matter what happens, I’m not so extremely invested in them that I lose sleep over them and break my own heart in the process?
I don’t have definitive answers to these questions yet. I’m working on #7 and I’m proud of my progress, despite its bittersweet implications.
4 – Getting in conversations with strangers
Yeah, this is textbook dangerous behavior, especially as a woman, but as you might’ve noticed, I believe people are inherently good. I also believe in the power of good conversations to inspire, make someone’s day, create positive change, and most importantly, be fun.
Sure, I compliment strangers on their nails, outfits, or hair, and I wouldn’t mind asking a stranger what’s the name of the delicious-looking cocktail they’re drinking.
But I think I’d enjoy going beyond that, and I don’t. Haven’t figured it out.
5 – Writing down things that happen to me immediately after they happen
Does The Universe bless me with stories worth telling because I’m a writer? Or am I a writer because I see stories everywhere?
I’ve been journaling regularly for a while now. Look, I’m not that superstitious, but every time I mention how long I’ve been journaling for, something happens that makes me fall off track. I won’t mention how long. Besides journaling, I’ve been writing every Sunday for a whiiile, and I’m also, you know a full-time freelance writer.
But I’d love it if I was one of those writers who always carries a notebook with her. You know, the sad-looking, brown, old notebooks with coffee stains and chunks of pages falling out.
Maybe if I had one of those, I’d write everything down as soon as it happened and remember everything in detail even years later.
I’ve started writing down stories, encounters, quotes, jokes soon after they happen, but I often forget to. I have many stories left to tell that I haven’t written down as they were happening, that I’m scared to uncover for fear of finding the mere resemblance of a memory.
Unrelated, but now is a good time as any to remind you that depression and trauma heavily affect memory. If you’ve struggled with either, I hope you’re being kind to your memory and your self.
6 – My hair
This is almost too painful to write, but we do have an honesty policy on The Inner Dolphin and I do have “Honesty simplifies things” tattooed on me so I’ll mention it.
I used to have the healthiest, shiniest, most beautiful and bouncy curls. Now, my curls stress me out, despite me paying so much more attention to them now than I did when they were literally perfect.
The Curly Girl Method (known as CGM) is an extremely popular method to handle curly hair so that it’s at its best. Thousands of women stick to CGM rules, of which there are many (no silicones, no sulfates, no heat, and many more), and end up with the most beautiful curly hair you’ve ever seen.
CGM kind of ruined my hair. Now I’m paying back my gut for not listening to it and referring to YouTube videos instead.
My guir (gut+hair): Girl, this isn’t working.
Me: Oh, this is the transition phase. A lot of people on YouTube talked about this. It’s completely normal.
My guir, months later: Girl, this is NOT working.
Me, stressed out: Haha…
Hopefully, my curls will fully forgive me this year.
7 – Not feeling bad for turning down opportunities that aren’t right for me
As a full-time employee for someone else, you don’t have to worry much about which projects you choose or turn down. You literally don’t get to choose, unless quitting is a choice or if you’re a senior contributor who gets a say in that kind of stuff.
That’s one of the reasons why many people start their own companies or work as freelancers. They can set their own schedules, rates, and rules. Some people crave this, others prefer the numerous other benefits a full-time employee position entails.
At this point, I’m in this incredible position where I can choose what I work on and who I work with. It’s amazing and I’m so grateful. I refuse to work with unethical companies, people with questionable morals, or on industries like tobacco, leather, Forex, fossil fuel, NRA, native ads.
Yet, whenever I have to turn down lucrative opportunities that aren’t right for me at the moment (or ever), I can’t help but feel guilty.
I like to think that I don’t say no to honest money. If I’m offering a service and someone’s more than willing to pay for it, and I decide not to move forward with it, it may seem like I do.
But this isn’t something I’m willing to compromise on- I won’t say no to honest money, but I’ll say no to gigs that will make me question my honesty and self-awareness.
Still, I feel slightly guilty for a day or two afterward. I’m working on it.
8 – Not finishing my coffee
My boyfriend loves “making fun of me” for this. Usually, I order an espresso, which will either take me an hour to finish, or I won’t finish it at all.
I’m (still) reading Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman and I learned we’re supposed to leave one cookie on the plate?!!
“In 1998, Keltner and his team had small groups of three volunteers come into their lab. One was randomly assigned to be the group leader and they were all given a dull task to complete.
Presently, an assistant brought in a plate containing five cookies for the group to share. All groups left one cookie on the plate (a golden rule of etiquette), but in almost every case the fourth cookie was scarfed down by the leader.
What’s more, one of Keltner’s doctoral students noticed that the leaders also seemed to be messier eaters. Replaying the videos, it became clear that these ‘cookie monsters’ more often ate with their mouths open, ate more noisily and sprayed more crumbs on their shirts.”
Well, another golden rule of etiquette is leaving a sip (or two) of espresso. Just made it up! You’re welcome.
9 – Keeping a dream diary
Just like humanity is too comfortable with talking parrots, we’ve commodified dreams. We direct movies in our sleep, we’re in them, they show us things about ourselves and others, things we sometimes don’t even know yet? We can fly in them and sometimes control what happens? Isn’t this some magical type of shit? It is, right?
Yet, I don’t write down my dreams.
- Still haven’t figured out a solution for my History and Geography knowledge gaps. Geography was never my strongest suit, but I got it done, and I always got A-s in History. I don’t know what happened after high school.
- I still don’t have a real homepage for The Inner Dolphin.
- Not 100% sure what I want to do for graduate school, still.
- Still haven’t figured out LinkedIn.
- I’ve worked on my long-term patience, but my short-term patience (queues; waiting for someone to pick me up; etc.) is still terrible.
The photo is from my birthday celebrations last year. This year, I’m in Istanbul! I’d love to know what you still haven’t figured out (and your age).