How I Survived Being 24

It’s that time of year again. You know, the time of year somebody somewhere decided we have to reflect on time past? This year is apparently even more special because it has us reflecting on the past whole decade. 

Though I try, I cannot escape this reflection activity (especially since I love thinking about myself), SO as I was reflecting on the 2010’s I realized it’s actually kind of crazy to do a decade reflection as someone who is (now!) the ripe old age of 25. I was 15 (!!) when the decade started. I was in the middle of my sophomore year of high school (gross). So in the past decade, I graduated high school, attended Pepperdine University in Malibu California, lived in Shanghai, China for a year and worked at an investment firm for part of that, I then graduated university in three years and started a software consulting job while living in LA. Following that, I moved to Calgary Canada for a relationship, said relationship ended, and now I live in Chicago doing a different consulting gig. 

In the past decade, I’ve lived in 4 cities. I’ve visited 13 countries and 15 states. I’ve had 2 graduations, 3 internships, 2 full-time jobs. I’ve had four boyfriends, been on numerous dates, and met countless amazing people.

Even this year by itself was a rollercoaster from start to finish – let’s recap real quick, shall we?

In January of 2019, I was living in Calgary while my long term relationship deteriorated under me. I was traveling to San Francisco every week for work, which was a double-edged sword because travel for work is exhausting but I did get to see some friends all the time which was so nice. I also crashed a ski trip to Big Bear with some of my best friends from University.

By February my relationship was over and I was still traveling all the time from Calgary. Spent some extra weekends in SF to avoid Calgary as much as possible while I figured out my move. 

In March, I moved out of Calgary, put all my stuff at my parent’s place in the suburbs of Chicago and effectively lived nowhere, mostly traveling for work and staying with friends on weekends. 

By April I had accepted a new job and had given notice at my old company. 

By May, I had ended my old job, did a leisurely trip visiting friends and family in LA, celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday and spent 3 weeks in Japan. 

In June, I started my new job, moved into a new apartment in downtown Chicago, and was dating again. 

In July, my LA friends came to visit me and I started making more connections while starting my first client at my new job. 

August brought a lot of strides for my personal projects, I finally got all my furniture delivered, and my wonderful friend Grace came to visit. 

September was all about work but I squeezed in a quick trip to NYC to repay Grace’s visit from the previous month. 

In October, I delivered a talk about adapting communication styles and did a huge girls trip to Spain and Portugal with my college friends. 

November was a lot of family time between my mom’s birthday and squeezing in a last weekend with my dad and sister before they departed for Europe, and then Thanksgiving’ of course. 

And now it’s December! And I’m 25!! PHEW – did you get all that? I sometimes get whiplash if I think about it all at once. 

A LOT changed this year. Let’s break it down —

2 jobs – went from traveling every week in an isolated culture, to a stable location surrounded by people all the time

3 living scenarios – went from living in Calgary mostly alone, to living nowhere, to living alone again in downtown Chicago

3 U.S Cities – Visited LA, San Francisco, and New York this year for fun and friends

3 Countries – Visited Japan, Spain, and Portugal for various vacations/trips

Because this year was kind of all over the pace – so was I. There were lots of ups and downs, not only emotionally, but also in my pursuits. Because breaking up, moving countries, and trying to build a new social life are so time-consuming, many of my other projects sometimes took a back seat to my emotional work. But then my emotional things would settle down for a moment and personal projects would ramp up again. I started formally dating which I had never really done so that’s been a different kind of constraint on my schedule. I changed my fitness routines, changed my skincare cycles, changed the types of media I consumed (hello anime, nice to meet you), did some of the best writing I’ve ever done, learned new recipes, drank way more alcohol than the rest of my prior years combined. I made a lot of new friends and learned more about which old friends I wanted to prioritize. This year, I’ve spent the most time alone, as well as the most time surrounded by people.

I feel like I went backward, stayed the same, and took giant leaps forward all at the same time. It was a weird year and an even weirder decade, but I think the most important thing I’ve learned in the past ten years (which was specially reinforced this past year), was how to analyze my life and make choices. I can look at myself and notice the things I want to keep the same, and the things I want to change. Not only that, but I know how to change them – and really what other skills do you need in life?

PC: Marketa Benedetti


The Perfect Gift Isn’t That Hard to Find

The holiday season is in full swing which means every single company has abandoned all shame in an effort to snag that sweet end of year surge of sales. I enjoy presents like pretty much everyone on the planet, but I enjoy giving a great gift equally as much. 

It’s easier to buy for people you know well, but I also know that some people struggle no matter what. So if you’re still stuck on finding the perfect gifts for some of your loved ones – check out some of the rules I swear by in my shopping —

  1. Do a quick list of what this person’s ‘things’ are. Are they obsessed with working out? Coffee? A sports team? Organization? Reading? Beauty? Whatever those categories might be – use them as your guide. Remember, you are buying something for someone else, not for you so don’t buy someone else something just because you’d love it yourself (unless of course, you have the exact same level of interest in a topic)
  2. Gift Giving does not have to be too expensive, but people love thoughtful gifts. If you have $20 to spend on someone, think about the highest quality gift you could get for that money. Quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. It could mean the funniest, the most thoughtful, or the craziest. Something that will speak to that person. Don’t fall into the trap of buying a ton of little cheap things just because it feels like more. Keep the thoughtfulness despite the cost. Even something like baking cookies for a couple dollars shows more care than a bunch of nonspecific trinkets from a novelty shop. 
  3. Don’t fall for the gift lists. Every year – every blog and store release gift lists. Must-haves for the woman in your life blah blah blah. These can be great as inspiration but so often they are built merely to sell specific products so be careful putting too much stock into any of them. I recommend building your own for the people in your life using tip number 1. 
  4. Experiences almost always win. Experience gifts can be pricey and should be handled with care, but they almost never fail. A boyfriend loves a certain band? Concert tickets. Your dad loves a certain basketball team? Game tickets. Movie tickets. Massage voucher. Free ice skating. Your friend has always wanted to go paintballing? Make a reservation and take her. I’ve gone so far as to book plane tickets or spa treatments as gifts. These don’t have to be expensive, but it shows direct thought and experiences are so much more fun than things. 
  5. Lastly – if you’re really a planner, keep a running gift list throughout the year for the most important people in your life. Every time you’re out with them and their eyes light up about something, you can make a quick note and BAM, you know exactly what to get them when the holidays or their birthday rolls around. This can be hard to keep up but if you have a partner or close friends you see all the time, this can come in handy. 

Christmas is exactly one week away and I’m sure Amazon employees are being worked to the bone as we speak, but I wish you all the best of luck in your holiday shopping. I, of course, am insufferable and am already done with mine 🙂 

Photo Cred: Marketa Benedetti


Present Me is Always Looking Out for Future Me

As I’ve been going through and writing these recent productivity articles, I realized that all of my ideas about personal effectiveness can be condensed down into one idea: Present me is always looking out for future me. 

This means that I am always planning for the future whether that is just this evening or a few years down the road. I plan as far in advance as I can and do everything in my power today, to make life easier for who I will be tomorrow, or in ten years. The reason I’m able to find the motivation to stay organized, disciplined, or try new things is because I want life to be easier and better for the person I’ll be later on. 

In small ways this manifests itself like this – I never procrastinate on homework or work assignments. If something comes up at work that would take me five min or less like walking to someone to get a question answered or responding to a quick email, I do it right away – less on my to-do list later. I put things back where they came from which makes them easier to find later. I plan my to-do list and outfit and meals the day before which means I don’t need to waste decision time on the day. By doing these little things – I make the following hours or days easier because I’m consistently organized. I rarely lose things or spend too much time deciding what to do or how to structure my day because I already thought ahead for myself. This habit is so strict that I literally make myself this little kit (actually fits in this bag) when I go on dates that has my contact solution, skincare, and makeup in it because I hate sleeping with my contacts in and makeup on so much that if there is even a TINY chance I don’t sleep in my own bed for the night, I need to be prepared. Future me is always thankful.

In larger ways it manifests itself like this – I work out and try to eat and sleep well every day so I can stay healthier for longer, don’t run into issues with new activities, and don’t get sick very often, I practice language so that I can improve brain function and for when I actually need them, I read to make connections to concepts or ideas in the future, I take classes and boot camps for future job opportunities. I travel to learn about new places and put myself outside my comfort zone. I study investing and have several accounts to plan for unexpected things and to aim for early retirement. Even though I may not know what the future five or ten years may hold. I already know I want to be healthy, and ready to accept any opportunities or incur any failures that may come my way in that time and I prepare as such. The larger actions prepare me for all the unknowns of life. 

I like this way of living. Very few things catch me off guard, I am almost never unprepared, and rarely take long to make decisions. However, it doesn’t come without its cons. Chiefly that living this way usually means I have trouble truly living in the moment. If I go out with friends I’m constantly thinking about how this will affect my sleep schedule and if I’m drinking too much to feel like working out the next day. If something doesn’t work out as planned (which to be fair, is pretty rare for me since I usually also plan for the unknown), it is quite possible my brain shorts out and I freak. In the past, I’ve also said no to opportunities that could have been great simply to comply with all of my own routines and habits. 

I realize there is a balance to be found somewhere in here but so far I still err on the side of planning and it’s gotten me pretty far. So if you’re ever wondering if you should do something, just ask yourself if future you would appreciate it. If the answer is yes, it’s probably a good idea.

Photo Credit – Photography By Marketa

My Dad 10/10 Would Recommend

The year is 2001 and I’m about 6 years old. We’re eating dinner as a family, I am chowing down, my little sister has set up all her plastic animals around her plate, and my dad turns to me – 

‘Hey Melina’ 

‘What?’ I say through a mouthful of food

‘I love you’ my dad replies. 

I scowl at him, but he just looks at me with a smug smile because he had just won the game. 

The game was simple. The object of the game was to say I love you first. If I had been on the ball that day – as soon as he said my name I would’ve said ‘I love you’ and then I would’ve won. 

This might be the simplest game on the entire planet, but I’m only beginning to realize now how important it was that I played this game with my dad specifically, from before I can even remember. 

See, the thing is, the older I get, the more people I meet, the more families I hear about – and unfortunately, the more examples of terrible fatherhood I am exposed to. 

Don’t get me wrong – mothers can mess it up too – but fatherhood seems to be more commonly treated as optional. Must be the whole ‘didn’t-actually-grow-the-baby-inside-you’ thing but every time I hear one of these stories – I’m almost reduced to tears out of gratitude for my own father. 

That game we used to play is a perfect example of why I appreciate him so much. My dad has never really been shy about sharing his feelings or opinions. When I was younger, this manifested itself into numerous fights since apparently, we are of exactly the same temperament, but as I grow into early adulthood I’ve realized just how influential his expression of emotions has been for me. 

He was never shy about telling me he loved me, that he supported me, or even that he was frustrated with me. And he didn’t just tell me – he would show it too. He picked me and my sister up from school almost every day when we were little. He would set boundaries for me when I was out of line. He made full-on sausage McMuffin sandwiches from scratch for my whole varsity swim team when it was my turn to bring breakfast in the morning. He’s the reason I have such an insatiable travel bug.  But maybe most importantly – he always believed in my ability to do absolutely whatever I said I wanted to do and has always been there for me when things didn’t work out.

Somewhere around age nineteen, my dad even became the person I would go to for advice on guys/relationships. I can call him for everything from a mid-crying jag breakdown over something silly all the way to how exactly I should break up with a guy I’m just not feeling it with. He is a man, after all, I honestly don’t even know why it took me until age nineteen to start listening to his perspective – he hasn’t really been wrong yet.

But it’s not just guys – he’s really there for me no matter what. I have many an existential crisis and he’s always willing to sit with me and help me through it.  Toxic masculinity who?

Maybe it’s a European thing. Maybe it’s just my dad’s brand of being a dad. His birthday is coming up this Friday and even though he’s in Greece per usual this time of year – I still wanted to go ahead and type this out because I’m so so grateful for him. You don’t get to choose your parents, and sometimes that can turn out less than ideal, but with every single passing day – I’m so thankful I ended up with mine. 

Attachment-1 (3)
Me and my dad from this past summer when he FINALLY came to see one of my adult apartments 😉