Things I wished I knew at 16

After the age of 25, cells begin to deteriorate at a faster rate than they renew. Basically, you don’t start to die until you hit that age. I concur that despite the immense amount of knowledge I’ve yet to acquire, and all the wisdom I’ll never know, I do know a little something.

Every sociologist worth his or her salt begins their political essays with the sentence “Ours is a time of great change”. Granted, everyone alive feels the world spins faster just for them, but in our case in the 21st century, it’s kind of true. Technical evolution reaches boundaries previously dreamed of in science fiction, and information is spread globally at the click of a button.

The world is strange. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I can, however, boast living pretty successfully with some sense of purpose, control and balance, as well as with a fundamental understanding of not only my own mind, but my surroundings both physical and virtual.

Despite the high standards of Finland’s public education, nothing I remember from the school books of high school helped prepare me for real life challenges and issues. You have to learn by doing. If you still feel like a child with a drinking permit, this post is tailored for you. I’ll help you adult.

Organizing your home

Always carry chapstick, a bit of cash, and a working phone charger. A snack, a water bottle and an umbrella is not a bad idea, either. Clean out your backpack/purse every once in a while, there’s all kinds of crap fermenting in there.

Make cleaning into habit. You don’t have to put in great effort every day, spread out tasks so they’ll seem easier to complete (the human brain is silly like that). Wipe dust on Monday, vacuum on Tuesday, change sheets on Wednesday, and so on. Go over your cabinets and drawers on a regular basis and throw out expired products. Vacuum and dust wipe once a week. The oven, microwave and refrigerator also needs cleaning, don’t forget them.

Keep tabs on your possessions; what you really use and need, how long it takes for you to run out. If you want to make a budget, this helps when you plan it. You might also want to save your receipts for a few months just to check how you spend your money.

Open a savings account. The sooner, the better. It doesn’t have to boast a lot, but put aside a small amount whenever you can. It will prove itself useful one day, trust me.

If you ever find yourself unable to pay a bill, call the company and ask them for an extension. Most places are very helpful and will work out a deal with you, and your credit won’t get blown. Be responsible with your money. The world won’t run out of it, but if you don’t have any, you don’t really have much control of your life.

When looking at apartments, ask questions. Are you allowed to paint the walls, hang pictures? Where goes the garbage, emergency exit plan? Are pets permitted, who do you contact if you need something fixed?

Take note of your spending and living habits. Just because your mother had five different types of hand towels in the bathroom doesn’t mean you have to. Tailor your home to look and work like you. I urge you to learn how to cook; at least your own favorite dishes. Also, you don’t have to be innovative in the kitchen. Figure out 5-10 recipes you really love, and rotate them.

Eat your veggies. Your tummy will thank you, and your brain too, once you get a bit older. Cut down on red meat, too, it’s not great to eat it a lot. If you go vegan, that’s great, but keep in mind that it means you have to eat a lot (and this comes from a girl who takes three helpings at buffets), so you might have to spend more on food. Do your research and make sure you get all the minerals and vitamins you need. B12 is essential for your brain, for instance.

Do laundry once a week. Wash at least your underwear and socks (this way you don’t have to buy dozens of pairs). You don’t need fabric softener, it tears out the fibers in the fabric. If you own clothes with elastane in it – that’s plastic – get a protective bag and wash them in it. This will prevent microfibers of plastic to get into our oceans and pollute our waters.

Recycle as much as possible, and be careful of how you sort your trash.

Declutter. Be it your wardrobe, your kitchen cabinets, or your email. Unsubscribe, recycle, reuse. Don’t let stimuli hang around like old dust.

Clothes and aesthetic

You’re supposed to spend your youth figuring out who you really are and what you really like by trying out new things. This can become expensive, though (over the course of ten years, I’ve spent over hundreds of euros on stuff I can’t remember I’ve bought). Whenever you can, try to shop second hand. There are Facebook-groups and second hand stores in your area (typing key words like “vintage”, “second hand” and corresponding words in your native language into digital maps will be helpful when searching for new places), as well as online second hand stores. Depop and _Shasomething are excellent, too; Etsy sports made-to-order items directly from the manufacturer.

Keep an eye on your surroundings. Note what you like, what catches your attention. Try to gather that feel and energy you feel connected to, and bring it home with you. I use Pinterest and Tumblr to refine my tastes, and it’s been very helpful.

Please don’t shop fast fashion. The fabrics aren’t made to last; they’re usually made of poor quality, and the workers making the garments are terribly mistreated. Most brands found in malls are produced under horrible circumstances that drain and break not only the environment but the people who make the clothes. Think twice before shopping fast fashion.

Try to invest in good quality items whenever you shop, whatever you shop. Be practical, though. A good laptop that costs a lot is a fine investment if you need it for work, but 200€ jeans? Come on.

And while you might want to focus on timeless items (what timeless means for you is your definition), don’t be afraid to change your mind. Our styles and selves evolve and change through the course of our lives. You have no obligation to keep on liking the things you once worshiped strictly because it seems like an obligation and expectation.

You are under no obligation to not change for the sake of other’s comfort. Do you.

Clean your sneakers with 1:1.5 parts of baking soda and detergent. Scrub with a toothbrush, let sit for a while, rinse and put in the washer. Once they’re dry, add baby powder.

School and work hacks

Carry a water bottle with you at all times. Talk to some of the people in your classes – I’m a hardcore introvert, but it’s really helpful to be on a first-name basis with people. It helps tune your networking skills, and people do need socializing to stay healthy.

Feel no obligation to go to parties or events if you don’t feel like it. Push your limits, but don’t do it on the expense of your mental health. Extroverts get energy from being around people; introverts charge their batteries alone. If you want to go out, do ahead. If you want to stay in, curl up. Don’t feel guilty either way.

Start papers early. As soon as you get the assignment, write down a quick sketch of how you might do it. As with homework, do small pieces at a time. Marathons are non-productive and draining, don’t do that to yourself.

If you have a specific school email and digital work platform, make it a habit to check it once a day. If you have a tendency to forget (I know I do), write it down. Hell, write everything down. Just in case.

For research

  • Google the topic followed by “filetype.pp” for powerpoints or a subject/textbook followed by “filetype.pdf”; or use Google’s own
  • Always list your sources. Always!

About essays: if you’re not into writing, essays are a shitty thing to do. At the beginning of your paper, write “okay motherfuckers, I’ll tell you the epic tale of my topic and you sissies just might have to buckle your seat belts for this one and enjoy my couldn’t-give-a-fuck, mandatory-topic caffeine-induced extravaganza”. (Just remember to erase before you hand in the paper!) Also, if you can’t imagine dropping your mic after your conclusion, it needs to be stronger. Recharge, regain, rewrite.

Always do your research before beginning writing your essay/article/report; if possible, contact an expert in the field to get some kind of statement of why it’s important or relevant. You won’t do work in vain, and you might get a new spin on the topic at hand.

If Word crashes, you can recover your unsaved files. Newer computers automatically store unsaved documents, and if yours doesn’t, just click File – Info – Manage Versions – Recover Unsaved Documents. Make it a habit of saving once every five minutes, though.

Group projects and teamwork is a pet peeve for a lot of people, yours included. Just try fine-tune your communication so you’re all on the same page. Don’t be afraid to delegate work or ask for help. If the group is assigned a mutual grade, don’t be afraid to be the bitch who pushes people to put in a greater effort, especially if you’re in university where the education is voluntary.

When writing formal emails, follow the formula below:

Dear Person I am Writing To,

This is an optional sentence introducing who I am and work for, included if the addressee never has corresponded withe me before. The second optional sentence reminds the person where we met, if relevant. This sentence states the purpose of the email.

This optional paragraph describes in more detail what’s needed. This sentence discusses relevant information, like how soon an answer is needed, what kind of answer is needed, and any information that the other person might find useful. It there’s a lot of information, it’s a good idea to separate this paragraph into two or three paragraphs to avoid a Wall of Text.

If a description paragraph was used, close with a restatement of the initial request, in case the addressee ignored the opening paragraph.

This sentence is just a platitude, usually thanking them for their time, because people think you’re standoffish, unreasonably demanding, or cold, if it’s not included.

This format is making me extremely uncomfortable, but it will be impeccably professional. Add closing salutation,

and signature.

There you go.

Health and lifestyle

Start. Using. A. Calendar. Personally, I get overwhelmed with mass-produced calendars, and I’ve never really gotten around to use them anyway, but I still need a way to organize my schedule, and I don’t want to always rely on my phone. Bullet journaling is the perfect solution. Not only do you get to doodle and play around with colors and themes (a step further in refining your own aesthetic and excellent therapy), but you get to exclude everything you don’t need. Again:

tailor your life to suit your needs.

When it comes to physical health; get up and stretch. Walk some more. Drink enough water and eat your veggies. If you get easily overwhelmed, figure out calming techniques and what your triggers are. Therapy is always okay. When you cry, take your time, but once you’re done, drink more water (tears dry out your muscles and the ache is horrible). Reward yourself when you’ve done something hard/difficult/draining. Treat yo’ self!

Self-care is one of the most important skills I’ve ever learned. Skin care and exercise is all good, but don’t forget the hardest part: learning to accept yourself, warts and all.

Don’t let social media get to you; you don’t have to look like an Instagram model to be a radiant, wonderful beauty of a person. It took me years to accept the body and countenance I have. You don’t need foundation, mascara or any other makeup, unless you want to use it. The cosmetic industry lives on belittling the natural beauty of women. Don’t use makeup to cover up your natural face.

Your boobs will sag, your cellulite will grow, you will get pimples, your belly will bloat and you’ll still be gorgeous. If you have a differing opinion, I don’t want to hear it.

Skin care is oh so important. It’s the largest organ of the body, and it keeps all these valuable and cool things that keep you alive safe inside. Cosmetic brands are making billions on selling you pastes and cremes with chemicals in them – not necessarily harmful ones, but definitely not ones you need. You’ll get by on a few household items:

  • Sugar, both brown and refined, work excellently as body scrubs. You can mix them with honey and different oils if you want some specific scent, but plain sugar will exfoliate like sanding paper. (In a good way)
  • Coconut oil is to date the best moisturizer available (don’t use it too much on your face though, might clog your pores with excessive use).
  • Aloe vera will mend a lot; it’s great for face masks, moisturizing or cooling irritated skin (Greek yogurt is excellent for that, too). Never eat aloe unless you want to shit like a toddler on Prozac.
  • Massage shampoo into your scalp, not the ends of your hair; conditioner works the other way (it will oil your scalp). Try not to wash your hair more than twice a week; you’ll dry out your scalp.

Pretty is not the rent you pay to be a woman.

Glennon Doyle Melton

Skin care is the easiest way to induce a little everyday glamour. It’s the bodily equivalent of sleep; it’s the pillar on which you build the rest of your daily routines.

  • For blackheads: mix half a spoon each of cinnamon and honey, cover and massage for three minutes, then rinse with warm water. Can make sensitive areas pink for a while
  • Target breakouts: 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon honey. Gently apply (don’t scrub) onto your face, leave for 15 minutes, then wash of
  • Egg white and lemon juice face masks will tighten your skin and invigorate it

When it comes to the inner workings of private and person life, the logic of both head and heart can become muddled. When the ambiguity becomes overwhelming, resort to this formula;
“If it’s meant to be, it will be”; friendships, relation ships, people coming into your life, dealing with rejection.
“If you want it, work for it”; goals, aspirations, work and work ethic, changing your life (diet, exercise, economy etc).

Make your own comfort a priority. Though it’s great to push your boundaries, you don’t and can’t have to do it all the time. Make your home a safe haven where you can go to recharge. Replace with your “I’m sorry’s” to “Thank you” – instead of apologizing for being late, say “thank you for waiting for me”, and so on. You never need to apologize for existing.


Don’t be afraid to cut people out of your life if they don’t make your existence better somehow. Toxic people are a thing, and some people you’ll never get along with anyway. In healthy relationships, the people you interact with hear you. They listen, they respect, they take your side of things into account. This is true for all kinds of relationships, and if they don’t look like this – get out.

“No” is a complete sentence.

Jane Fonda

You can always say no to sex or any other physical contact, no matter who you’re with. Family members, friends and possible partners are not entitled to your body. Your partner should be your unquestioned equal. Think of him/her as part of your buddy system;

  • If your buddy is sad, lost or scared, hold their hand
  • Check on your buddy, make sure they’re okay
  • Don’t be mean to your buddy
  • Ask help from your buddy when you need it
  • When your buddy wants to look at the lions, you be their buddy and go look at the lions with them. Afterwards, you might go look at the giraffes you like
  • Anything you can do for your buddy, your buddy can do for you
  • Be a good buddy, and if your buddy isn’t good to you, ask the teacher for a new one

A romantic partner should feel like a best friend. If you catch yourself thinking “I can’t cut my hair because my boyfriend would get mad”, think again. The basis for relationships are communication and respect.

The two things relationships need to work are chemistry and timing. Timing’s the bitch, but you can’t force anything. Eventually, the pieces will fall into place. Even if you don’t believe it right now, one day you’ll wake up next to the love of your life, you’ll make pancakes and coffee and make silly dances in the kitchen. It will all be worth it, and everything will be okay.


if you need help, ask for it. Send “thank you”-emails after job interviews. Don’t rush things, you probably won’t accomplish much in your twenties, most people don’t, and you still have the rest of your life. Pets demand a lot of time and attention, seriously consider before getting one. The same applies to kids. Learn to forgive, but you don’t need to forget.

Everyone you meet is just a person: the people who seem to judge you, the intimidating interviewer, the jury judging your presentation. Don’t forget they’re people. High school doesn’t really matter later in life. Get off your phone more, take off your headphones. Read books. Look people in the eye when they talk to you.

Be kind, be good, but don’t take any shit.


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