Walking at your own pace: Why your life is going differently than others’ and why this is a good thing

“So, how’s life going?”

If this question gives you anxiety, you should probably read on.

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives – facing the fear of our life going differently than expected, hoped, planned and/or dreamed. Facing the fear of moving forward way too slowly or not moving at all. Facing the fear of “life passing us by”. Your little sister got married before you? Your best friend got promoted before you even settled for a career path? You often feel like you have absolutely nothing to show for? The way you feel is more common than you think. So let’s talk about what the problem is, where it derives from and how to handle it when it starts messing with your head.

The problem

We live in an accomplishment-driven society. Life often feels like a stairway, where each ‘step’ is a life goal we’re aiming to accomplish. What these goals are, depends on various cultural, historical and social influences.

In our western culture, the ‘stairway’ looks something like this:

You graduate from high school ➡️ You go to college/university ➡️ You find your dream job (and still have time to travel the world, duh) ➡️ You get married to the man/woman of your dreams ➡️ You buy/build a house ➡️ You start a family ➡️ You live happily ever after (whatever that means)

One of the (many) problems with the stairway metaphor is that it implies a very one-dimensional way of thinking. If life’s a stairway, what exactly is on top? Is it really the same thing we’re all aiming for? Is it really even the same stairway we’re all climbing? The answer to those questions is obvious, yet complex.

Us human beings love to have our lives structured and goals are one way to do this. Setting goals throughout life is our way of assuring we’re using our time on Earth wisely. So, goals are not the problem. The problem is, we tend to blame ourselves when things don’t go exactly as planned. This is especially true for millennials, as we’re often referred to as a generation of grinders with a tendency to perfectionism. (I recommend reading Anne Helen Petersen’s essay “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation”, she makes some really good points!)

Where the problem comes from

The power of social conventions

Our dreams and expectations of how our lives should go are influenced by the culture and society we grow up in, the moral principles and values that guide us and the experiences and observations we make early on in our lives. In some way, we are being taught what to strive for in life before we even know what it really means. Eventually there comes a point in life where we ask ourselves why we even wanted this in the first place.

More often than not, our ideal life is slightly different than what society expects it to be. Why? Because we (western societies) have the freedom to be whoever we want to be, do whatever we want to do and go wherever we want to go. Social conventions still exist, though now we actually have the choice whether to follow them or not. We have the opportunity to build our own stairway with our personal goals along the way. Figuring out what these are requires a certain amount of self-reflection and most of all, it requires time. Self-discovery is a lifelong process, so the least we should expect is having our life figured out by the age of 25. So what’s the rush?

A never-ending race

Let’s get back to the stairway metaphor. You’ve just reached a new step. Yey you! You’re all excited and proud of yourself… until you see someone else standing higher. How did they get there so fast? Are you that slow?

We grow up in constant comparison to others. That kid that learned to walk before us, that kid that got higher grades at school than we did, that colleague that works longer hours than we do. It’s almost “natural” to start comparing ourselves to others in other aspects of life, too. We are so busy keeping track of other people’s accomplishments that we forget to account for our own.

How to deal with it

Keep your eye on the ball

What’s essential here is learning to give yourself credit for what you’ve accomplished so far. Don’t just consider “milestones” like graduating from university or landing a job, but also look at smaller, even daily accomplishments, as they too are a part of the bigger picture. You’re leading a healthy lifestyle? It means you’re investing in your health and well-being. You received positive feedback from your boss? It means your devotion and hard work are being recognized. Sometimes, small steps can get you a long way – or at least keep you going. So, instead of focusing on what you haven’t accomplished yet, try using it as a motivation to keep working and improving.

Walk your own (stair-)way

It’d be easier to just tell you to not compare yourself to others, but I know oh too well that it’s not as easy as it sounds. The truth is, it requires actively working on your mindset and your self-perception and it’s an ongoing process. Start by internalizing the fact that no life is perfect. Every single person you meet carries their own baggage and fights their own battles and just because their life broadly fits your definition of perfection, it doesn’t mean it fits theirs and chances are, they themselves are struggling with it. Once you realize this, comparing yourself to others becomes less “attractive”.

That being said though, comparing yourself to others isn’t a bad thing, as long as you don’t let it bring you down. Whenever you feel like someone’s “ahead” of you, use it as a motivation to keep going and eventually get there yourself. Let the success of other people inspire you to do better. Your younger sister getting married is not a wake up call for you to find somebody – take it as a sign that true love does exist and you’ll eventually find it. Instead of blaming yourself for not having settled on a career yet while your best friend is already being promoted, try to see it as a chance to learn from someone with more experience than you. Keep an eye on your own accomplishments and always remember – you’re not going slow. You’re just walking at your own pace.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How do you deal with this type of feelings? I’m thrilled to read your opinion on the topic!

Cheers

Milena

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2018: Yearly review

Cheers to growing (up).

Here we are again – it’s the 22nd of December and like every year, this means two things: First, I’m getting ol.., erm I mean wiser by one year (happy birthday to me, yay!) and second, yet another year is coming to an end. Therefore, this day is always a nice opportunity to look back and evaluate what did and didn’t happen in the last 12 months and what I can learn from it. The twenty-third year of my life has been the most turbulent one so far and I feel like it deserves a decent review. 

I left 2017 with a feeling of relief. It was an emotionally devastating year, in which good things only happened to emotionally prepare me for the bad ones. Last year on my birthday, my husband proposed to me and my beloved grandmother died the very same night. This day kinda summed up the whole year in a way. That’s why I was pretty sure that whatever came in the new 2018, could only be a step up for me.

I didn’t really know what to expect from 2018. I was still new in town (we had just moved to Oldenburg from Cologne), I had just gotten accepted for an internship position (so I wasn’t fully employed) and I really had no idea where I would be by the end of the year. I also didn’t really have a plan – I just let things happen. That’s where I was WRONG.

Possibly the most important lesson that I learned in 2018 is that you shouldn’t just wait for things to happen, you have to make them happen. Good things happen to those who wait. Great things happen to those who act.

When I didn’t get offered a job after the internship, I felt crushed and naturally blamed myself for not being good enough. At that point, it was essential to me to build back my confidence as soon as possible and not let myself drown into self-pity and anger. I never told anyone, but what actually helped me a lot was the series Suits (yes, you’re reading right). You know, the one where Gabriel Macht aka Harvey Specter walks the streets of New York like he owns everything and everyone? After binge-watching all 7 seasons of Suits (I was unemployed for a couple of weeks) I actually started noticing a difference in the way I talked, thought and acted. It wasn’t forced, it just came somehow. So when a really good job opportunity presented itself, I went into the interview and just showed the people in front of me, in a very natural way, that I was the only person they should ever consider for the job. And guess what – they heard me. I consider this a milestone in 2018 not just because I finally got my dream job, but because I actively changed my mindset in order to get it. What I didn’t see back then but definitely see now is that sometimes you have to fall in order to get back up stronger than ever – and that you’re the only one who can give you a hand and pull you back up. 

Keep an eye on the things that matter. 

Yes, 2018 has been good. I accomplished a lot of goals, but I still have a long way to go. My 2018 resolutions were to read more books and to travel more – and I did both, but not as much as I would’ve liked. Somewhere along the way I got distracted and didn’t really take the time to do those things. I need to work on being more consistent and really focusing on my goals, however small they might be. Consistency and hard work are the keys to long-term success. 

My biggest goal for 2019 is to keep growing personally. I need to learn to think more and feel less, or at least not to let those things interfere with each other when it comes to me making a decision. Maybe I’m just being harsh on myself – after all, I’m still just 24! – and maybe these things take time and a lot of life experience, but I’m going to do my best to become a better version of myself and keep improving. 

2019 seems like a good opportunity to “make things right” and I’m excited to see where I’ll be standing one year from now. 

What was your personal highlight in 2018? Did you accomplish all the goals you set in January? I’d be happy to hear about it – tell me in the comments below!

 

Cheers and a very merry Christmas to all,

Milena 

 

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4 ways living abroad has changed my life

Most of us have lived abroad at some point in their life. In many western countries, it’s common for students to take a semester or a full year abroad and it actually counts as valuable experience in your resume – and I of all people know why. I left my home country Bulgaria 5 years ago at the age of 18 and it has been the most life-changing experience I could ever imagine.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance and make a change.

Early on in my life I knew I didn’t quite fit in my culture. Although I had never been abroad at that point, I knew I was a citizen of the world and it wouldn’t be long till I packed my things and left. After graduating high school, I got accepted to the University of Cologne in Germany and in September 2013 I left home with 2 suitcases and no idea what I had gotten myself into. It was my first time ever in Germany and even though I spoke the language, everything was really new to me. Experiencing something so defining at such a young age changes a person faster than they can imagine. Here are four ways in which living abroad has changed my life:

 1. I’m a part of an entirely different culture

You probably all know this feeling of travelling to a country you’ve never been before and facing an entirely different culture than yours. It’s always a magical experience, isn’t it?

Even though I migrated within Europe, western culture was really new to me. People’s habits were suddenly different, their manners and their thinking, too. I was faced with the challenge of assimilating this culture with all its positive and negative aspects.

Integration is an ongoing process and it’s vital when you live abroad. If you don’t learn the language, if you don’t follow the rules and if you don’t get to know the people and their habits, you might as well just pack your things and go home, because you’re never going to be a part of their culture.

2. I have to fight a harder battle

Before I explain this one, I have to underline that this has nothing to do with discrimination (at least not directly). Germany is very welcoming and tolerant to foreign people and in most aspects of life, EU citizens have the same rights as their fellow German neighbors. That being said, I’ve been to a couple of job interviews where my abilities were questioned out loud, just because German isn’t my mother tongue. Or I had to pay for services upfront because companies didn’t trust me as a credible client. And if you think reading Karl Marx and Pierre Bourdieu in your own language is though, try reading them in a foreign language. Yeah, exactly.

As time passed by, I learned not to let things like this bring me down, because I know: The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

 3. I learned to take care of myself… by myself

This was one of the toughest things I had to go through, especially in the beginning when I only knew a handful of people. Everything that had to be taken care of, I took care of myself – from paying the bills to struggling with different institutions (trust me, Germany has quite a few) and handling diverse daily-life-problems. Though this is actually a part of growing up, it is a lot harder when your trusted ones are far away and couldn’t help you even if they wanted to.

 4. I found a place where I belong

I actually know a lot of people who have left my country and have wished to go back ever since. I have never been homesick (missing the people is a different thing) and I guess that’s a sign that I made the right decision to leave in the first place. I like the people here, I like the order (that’s probably why Germans like me too, lol) and I like the fact that everyone can make it here, no matter where they come from – as long as they work hard, obey the law and respect the other members of society.

My home is not only a part of my story, it’s a part of who I am.

My life may have changed a lot here and I may have changed, too – but I haven’t completely lost myself and I hope I never will. I kept my maiden name along with my husband’s, because it’s a part of my cultural identity that I’ll always carry with me. I’m emotional and quite short-tempered, I like saying what’s on my mind and I still think Bulgarian cheese is the most delicious kind of cheese in the world. Yep, I’m very much Bulgarian. And I’m very much proud of it.

Have you ever lived abroad and had similar experiences? If yes, how did they change you as a person? Tell me your story in the comments below!

Cheers,

Milena

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#startyourdayright: My daily morning routine

Your alarm goes off, you open your eyes and reality is staring you in the face: Outside it’s still dark as sh*t and your bed is about a 100 degrees warmer than the rest of the room. How the hell are you supposed to get up?

To me, organized life is the perfect life.

This is pretty much the everyday reality of us 9-5’ers, and yet there’s something nice about having a daily morning routine – at least for me, since I’ve always liked having my life organized. This can be quite tricky sometimes, because at my office we have flexible work hours and I can pretty much decide for myself when I want show up for work. So the first step towards creating a morning routine is deciding when to start the day. I try to get to the office between 8:30 and 9 am, so my morning routine starts at about 7 am.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not exactly a morning person and on most days I’d rather just roll out of bed and into the office, but since that’s not an option, here are a couple of things I like to do to start my day right:

 1. Planning my outfit the night before

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this. Planing my outfit always costs me sooo much time and if I do it at the last moment, I either end up being late, or I end up wearing something I don’t like, which is an absolute mood killer for me. Planing my outfit, including shoes and bag, saves me up to 30 minutes in the morning (yes, I’m that slow) and gives me the feeling of having some control over my life.

Coffee? Yes, please!

2. Coffee first

This isn’t new to any of you coffee lovers out there, so you probably understand well why it’s a part of my morning routine. Even on the busiest mornings, I try to take 10 minutes of my time to just sit quietly, read the news and drink my cup of coffee. There’s just no better way to start the day!

3. Taking my time while getting ready

I usually need approx. 1 hour to get ready in the morning (given that point 1. has been taken care of ;)) and I like to make the best of it. I put on some morning tunes or watch a show on Netflix while doing my hair & make-up. It puts me in a good mood right away and it takes away any negative thoughts.

4. Setting goals for the day

Writing check lists is nerdy and pretty old-fashioned considering the digital world we live in, but I still LOVE it. As mentioned before, I like having my life organized and being able to check accomplishments throughout the day is very motivating to me. Admittedly, I don’t do this quite as often as I would like, but it’s something I’m working on. I usually have a to-do list at work, but I really want to start writing one for ‘personal’ daily goals such as how much water to drink, what do cook for dinner, what chores to do when I get home etc.

5. Cycling to work

I’ve already talked about why cycling to work is the greatest thing ever, so I’m not going to elaborate on this one again. Being able to cycle to work means that I’m feeling fit, that I’m generally healthy and that the weather outside is decent at worst and sunny at best. What more could I wish for?

What I should definitely work on is making time for some kind of breakfast before work. I have been ignoring this since forever because it always feels like a huge waste of time to me. With some preparation the night before, breakfast will hopefully be a part of my morning routine in the future.

Here’s to setting goals and making it through another Monday!

 

Cheers,

Milena

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Why I choose cycling to work every morning and why you should too

Cycling has a different level of significance in different parts of the world. In Germany, bikes are very important means of transportation and in ‘bike cities’ (german: ‘Fahrradstädten’) like the one I live in, it’s not uncommon to even experience traffic jams on the bike lanes.

Admittedly, I wasn’t always a biker, partly because back home in Bulgaria we only used bikes when we were kids and we had no cars to drive around in (kinda sad when you think about it). I only discovered my love for cycling recently, when I got my late mother-in-law’s bike and started cycling to uni and back.

No matter the season, me and my bike are inseparable.

I live in the suburban part of town and my office is approx. 6km away. It takes me around 20 minutes to get there, given that I’m actually pretty fast. During the warm months of the year I cycle every day and in the winter around 2-3 times a week, depending on the weather conditions (if the weather’s really bad, I take the bus). I’ve never even considered trading my bike for a car and here are some of the reasons why:

1. I save a LOT of money.

Anyone who owns a car and pays for it themselves will know what I’m talking about. Having a car can cost you a lot, especially if you use it in the city. Bus tickets are pretty pricey out here too, and even though I do buy monthly tickets in the winter, the rest 8-9 months of the year I manage to save those extra 60€ a month.

2. It’s like 20 minutes of meditation before and after work

Sure, saving money is a nice advantage of cycling, but it’s not even the main reason I choose my bike over a car. Cycling to work gives me 20 minutes out on fresh air, with the wind blowing in my hair and my head just all cleared out (I do still pay attention to traffic though!). The ride home after work gives me time to calm down, leave any stress behind and just sort my thoughts out.

3. It’s GREAT cardio

I. hate. cardio. On most days I’d rather pull a truck with my teeth than run a couple of miles. I sometimes tend to forget that, but cycling to work and back provides me with 40 minutes of fast-paced cardio a day, which is enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And the best part? No need to do cardio after a workout, haha!

4. I’m more flexible in the city

A well known problem with driving a car is never knowing where to park (not to mention having to pay for parking). By bike you’re far more flexible – you can drive and park practically anywhere. Not to mention getting from A to B much faster than by car.

Those are my 4 main reasons for hopping onto the bike every morning. What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you a fellow biker or is this not really your thing? Maybe you have another innovative way to move around? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Cheers,

Milena

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3 reasons why losing your temper is rarely a good idea

We’ve all been there – that moment when a fight is about to escalate and you’re at the point where you have to choose – should I step back, or should I lose my shit?

I definitely used to do the latter. As the drama queen that I was, fighting, provoking and yelling used to get me through every fight I ever had with anyone. And I had quite a few. No drama no fun, right?

Thankfully, over the years I have grown into a more rational, balanced person and have come to realize that just because I have something to say, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to say it.

I know that this isn’t something everyone is able or willing to do. I know people who are even quite proud of their temper and consider themselves “honest and upfront”, but here’s the catch: these two aren’t the same thing. The key is to be diplomatic in your actions and words – meaning that you remain calm and polite but still make yourself very clear. It’s a tricky and often very difficult thing to do, but it pays off – and here’s why.

1. Damage control

Fights are ugly and more often than not, they involve people and relationships we really care about. Before getting into a huge fight (and saying that one sentence that would really trigger it), ask yourself: What are the consequences to this? Is me losing my temper going to solve the problem that started the fight? You all know the 10-seconds-rule, right? Before saying something you might regret, take a moment and really play it in your head. Think about how the other person would respond to it and how it would make them feel. Think about what kind of impact it would have on your relationship, especially long-term. Does it still feel like a good idea?

The point of this is: You can’t change the past, but you do have control over the present and sometimes, 10 seconds is all it takes to make a difference.

2. You’re more likely to win an argument when you’re calm

Arguing has one sole purpose and it is to convince your opponent that you’re right. Like in a real-life court room, all you have to do is present your arguments in the most convincible way possible. Have you ever seen a lawyer lose their shit during a trial? Probably not – and that’s not a coincidence. When you remain calm, you give yourself more time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. You’re also less vulnerable and exposed to intimidation. Not to mention looking confident, which is already a victory in itself. Being emotional is not a bad thing, but if you constantly let your emotions rule you, you’ll never be able to take control of situations.

3. You’re losing energy

As cliché as this may sound, it’s true. Energy invested in a conflict is wasted energy – simple as that. No one needs bad vibes, right? When negativity builds up and you feel like exploding, steer it in another direction. When I’m mad, I tend to squeeze stuff with all the power that I have. True, sometimes things break (accidentally of course!), but this still helps me get my aggression out on something that’s not a person. At that moment, what your body needs most is an energy outlet. Try some rapid movements like running or jumping. After a while, you’ll notice how your energy has been redirected and you’ll literally be too tired to fight.

Okay, this sounds easy, but where’s the catch? Real life does not come with a step-by-step guidebook and behaving rationally is a hell of a hard job to do. Most of the time, though,  what really stops us from stepping back is our ego. For a lot of people, stepping back from an argument means admitting defeat and showing weakness. Arguing for the sole purpose of asserting dominance over the other person won’t really make you look strong either, because standing your ground is not much use when you have no ground to stand on. So, every once in a while, take a deep breath and say “You know what, I do not want to have this fight. Let’s get some coffee instead!”

I know some of this stuff is hard to follow and admittedly, there will be times when you’ll just need to lose your temper in order to function normally – after all, we’re all just human, aren’t we? It’s important to remember that stepping back doesn’t always mean you’re walking away – it’s just means you’re trying to see the bigger picture.

 

How do you handle fights? Do you have any additional tips on that topic? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Cheers,

Milena

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The „What?”, the “Why?” and the “How?” of this blog

Having mostly written university papers in the last 4 years, I can’t help but start this blog by giving you a classic, methodical overview of what you should expect from it. The Digital Diary, as clear as that name might be, doesn’t quite tell what kind of content its readers might have to come in terms with. I’ve divided this introduction into 3 main questions, so let’s start with the “What?”.

The first and most important step towards creating a blog is admitting to yourself your ideas are worthy of sharing with others.

What is The Digital Diary?

The Digital Diary is a personal blog that doesn’t serve any commercial purpose. It’s the creative outlet of an inspired twenty-something girl in need to let her thoughts out into the world.

Usually one can tell a lot about a blog judging by its name. In case of the word “diary”, there are two main aspects that characterize its concept. First of all, a diary is a journal of personal experiences and thoughts. Keeping that in mind, The Digital Diary in not a diary per se, meaning that it doesn’t contain day-by-day remarks of events, people or any personal information that usually belongs in a diary. However it does contain thoughts – and in that regard, it is a journal of my life in a less obvious, “dear-diary”-y way. The second aspect of a diary is its legacy. A diary is what a person leaves to the world in terms of views, thoughts and beliefs. Very few of us are born to be great thinkers and change the world (I personally don’t consider myself one), but we are all capable of affecting others. By sharing opinions we push ourselves to reflect, discuss and ultimately, to grow as people. So if anything I write ever leaves you thinking even for a moment, I’d consider this blog a success. Because, the truth is – I’m doing this for you as much as I’m doing it for myself.

Why did I start The Digital Diary?

The idea of a blog is not new to me in any way, because I’ve always had a talent to put my thoughts into words and the urge to share them with the world. Back in 2010, when Facebook’s Pages feature was still the hottest shit in the digital world, I created a page called “Sunlight”, on which me and my best friend wrote short notes reflecting on our lives, on love, friendship and everything that a girl goes through during those wonderful years known as puberty. And we had it good! The page grew to proud 9000 followers and we received amazing feedback from our friends. It was our first and quite successful shot at content writing. Come to think about it, I should probably put it in my résumé. No?

In the following years, I was busy with university papers and my only creative outlets were photography and Instagram. But the need to write was always there. And writing overly long captions on Instagram was never really my thing.

So why now? Over two months ago, I saw a giveaway on Instagram promoting a newly launched web hosting company which offered a full year of free web hosting and a domain for the winner. I said to myself as a joke – “just participate, you’re not gonna win anyway. And if you do, then that could be your blog. LOL.” And I did win. Because life’s funny like that. So, for the next 2 weeks I was brainstorming blog names, concepts and content ideas in the hope that any of them could contribute to a readable blog. Rule number 1 for starting a blog is finding a niche and this is one of the reasons I hesitated for so long. If you don’t have a niche, you’d be all over the place and no one would really read your blog, they say. Be that as it may, I have always found it difficult to categorize myself in any way. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of music I listen to, because I listen to EDM in the morning and jazz in the evening. My point? – I am all over the place. But that’s okay, really. Why do we always feel the urge to label everything?

Things that inspire me: music, coffee and a blank sheet of paper.

How is The Digital Diary going to work?

A fairly obvious question you’d say, though I would like to explain how this blog is going to work and why I chose to run it this way. First of all, as you may have noticed already – the content is in English. For those who don’t know me all that well, I’m Bulgarian born living in Germany. Therefore, it doesn’t make much sense to write in a third, non-native language – but I will, for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I feel very comfortable expressing myself in English, as does nearly every citizen of the world nowadays. My daily life requires me communicating (and thinking) in three different languages, so for this project, I had to pick the one I’m most comfortable with. (This doesn’t mean it’s the one I’m best at, so don’t judge me for any mistakes – it’s still a foreign language to me.) The second reason I chose to write in English is my potential audience, which is shaping to be a rather colourful mixture of many different nationalities. So, whichever of my “native” languages I choose, it would lead to one or more groups being left out. And last but not least, I asked my Instagram audience in a poll a couple of months ago if they’d rather read a blog in English or German, and even though these polls are not as statistically representative as one would wish them to be, the result was still clear: over 75% voted for a blog in English. So… there you go!

At the beginning of this post I had mentioned something about non-commercialization and I would like to follow up on that. I know that a lot of bloggers are using their blog as a platform for monetizing their content, which I’m more than fine with. Here, however, I’ll try my best to stay away from anything that could make it more of a business than a blog. This is not because I’m a “special snowflake” that riots against media commercialization, but rather because I don’t see it fit in my blog’s concept. That being said, I cannot and will not promise there’ll never ever be any collaboration-based content – there might be. I just won’t let it affect your perception of my blog in any (negative) way.

Last but not least, I assume (and kind of hope) that 1 year from now, this blog would be a lot different than I present it today. Change is inevitable and much needed for every individual and as I change, my blog will change with me.

So let’s grow (old) together.

 

Cheers,

Milena

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