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Letter #26 from a Learn-it-all

6 min

Why I began, made up words, The Social Dilemma, Late Bloomers, gezellig

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from the Windy City 🌬️

This is already letter 26, and I cannot believe it! For the past half-year, I have been writing these weekly letters. To those of you reading, I am beyond thankful for your support!

So... why did I start these letters in the first place?

This was a project I began after 14 days of being quarantined where I grew up in Michigan. The slump was settling in. So much of life was changing for the worse. My locus of control was shrinking. What forced me to start was that I had taken this transformational writing class for the second time, and I wanted to keep the momentum going. I ran out of excuses why not to start. My fear to begin was the biggest hurdle.

This was not something planned out on my new year resolutions, but it is been by far one of my favorite pursuits. Inserting a pat on the back to Jen six months ago.

These letters have helped me become intentional around the content I consume and better at distilling what is valuable. I can confidently say that I am a writer and creator. I have output rather than pure input. I never thought this newsletter would have those benefits.

Since letter 1, I am proud of the iterations I have made, and I am excited what is to change in the next six months. By all means, if you have been holding back to reach out to me, please respond to this email! I'd love to get to know the 115 of you better and what keeps you coming back. I promise I do not bite.

Now, let’s jump in. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

🖊 Writing

This week I reinforced my daily writing habit and shared five Ship Its. Each of the pieces is less than 400 words. I explained my rationale behind starting it here. My favorite post was about why I journal.  It forces me to think. And to feel. To stop worrying. To acknowledge the present.

Another theme this week was reminiscing on the origin of words. I started to become interested in this after reading Frindle in my fourth grade English class. I don't think we question enough about the words we use to communicate. It got me thinking about some of the vocabularies my family uses of made-up words. I attempted to explain some of these family phrases. These include Dutchish words, slacka-saurus, and choochka.

At its core, a definition of a word is a common agreement among a group to communicate. What words do you use that most do not?

🎬 Watching

I watched the new Netflix documentary on social media usage called The Social Dilemma.

Previous design ethicist at Google, Tristan Harris, questioned how addictive Gmail was becoming. No one else was speaking up. Harris states: "If you're not paying for the product, you are the product." At age five, Harris learned magic tricks and stumped intelligent people. His audience didn't understand their minds. Harris used knowledge of the limitations to outsmart his audience and create the tricks. Harris’s example depicts the phenomenon going on with social media.

Engineers know how the brain works better than the user. They aren’t looking out for us, so we have to learn for ourselves how to safeguard.

If not used intentionally for its benefits, social media is a manipulation engine. The different platforms seduce our attention. They create models from data on past behaviors to predict our future actions. Our human brain physiology has not fundamentally changed because of social media. The hardware of the brain is archaic and being taken advantage of. While the multitude of engineers behind the screen have different goals than the user.

This documentary was eye-opening. I woke up from the Matrix without fully grasping I was in the Matrix. I realized that the rabbit holes I go down were pre-planned for me. It is alarming how social media is a simultaneous dystopia and utopia. It creates seamless magic for online shopping. It nourishes our human need as tribe animals to feel belonging. Meanwhile, depression, isolation, and addiction sneak in. My main takeaway is that we need to be clear on our goals on social media and aware of how much time we spend on it.

🎧 Listening

I listened to an audiobook by Rich Karlgaard called Late Bloomers. I originally bought this book for my cousin who was a senior in high school last Christmas in hopes it would relieve unneeded stress to bloom early.

There is abundant pressure on youth nowadays to achieve success at a young age like Bill Gates. He became a model to live out a linear path by attaining excellent high school grades, perfect test scores, top-ranked school admittance, and a stellar job. This outlook creates tension early on that paralyzes any attempt at experimenting because the risk of failure is too large. I have lived through the motions of what Kaarlgard explains as a rat race for early bloomers on the conveyer belt to early success. It is overrated.

This version of success has the underlying assumption that there is only one peak in our cognition and that potential must be realized early on.

The brain and its executive functioning don't even cognitively develop and mature until we are around the age of 25. Yet we are expected to have life 'figured out' before then. This is not fair.

The pressures are not worth it. A perfect path is unrealistic. Constantly comparing your trajectory with others on media is not healthy. No wonder there is a multitude of mental health issues (see The Social Dilemma above). We all have different experiences, skills, and potential. Karlgaard illustrates many strengths that late bloomers have are overlooked including curiosity, insight, compassion, resilience, and wisdom.

In order to fully bloom, we must think independently rather than blindly conforming, question our beliefs, and be patient as strengths surface. We all have knowledge gaps whether we are aware or not.

🖼️ Decorating

I feel kind of odd sharing my bedroom with you all, but I am really proud of how far it's come so here goes:

I can be the queen of dithering when it comes to putting things on walls. I finally put my shelves and pictures up. The permanence of screws is daunting to me. I feel like a home doesn't really feel homey until there are some pieces on the walls. It makes it feel gezellig.

Fun fact: my favorite color is blue. Cobalt blue like while looking into the abyss of an ocean. Also, sky blue like the limitless possibilities that happen up above among the clouds.

🔎 Word to define

Gezellig: a feeling of warmth, comfort, coziness, and relaxation; a compliment to a host for a lovely home; pleasant togetherness; a friendly ambiance and cozy atmosphere; spending time with a loved one; a convivial environment.

There is no direct translation to English that fully captures it, so it means many things. This is why it is one of my favorite words. Initially, I thought it was an English word because I would hear my Omi say it. My parents know me so well and got me a mug with it on it for my birthday last year.

🌟 Quote to inspire

“When we blather about trivial things, we ourselves become trivial, for our attention gets taken up with trivialities. You become what you give your attention to… If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will.” -Epictetus

💭 Question to ponder

Shifting from a problem frame of mind to a gratitude frame of mind creates a change in experience. What can you express gratitude for in a set of circumstances that you currently dealing with to help the situation?

I appreciate you reading this! If certain ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve my future newsletters, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,


P.S. if you're interested in Barack Obama having a gezellig time, watch here.

P.P.S. it's quite comical watching tourists attempt at pronouncing gezellig.

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