The case against blindly following good routines and habits

During one of the numerous pandemic-era walk-and-talks, I asked my friend how he likes to spend his free time. This may sound like a question you ask in a beginner’s Spanish class, but I was intrigued by his ability to constantly learn new skills. I knew he had transitioned to computer science from a business background without ever spending a minute in an engineering school. Perhaps he had an interesting strategy towards managing his time. My friend explained how he might fiddle with some kind of VR development program all Saturday long. …


How different generations deal with negative emotions and mental health issues

Over the past year or two, conversations with my family have occasionally ended with one or more of my family members in tears. Since my sister and I moved out several years ago, these conversations have occurred over the holidays, when we have been visiting our parents. They often start with one family member making a comment which is interpreted as rude or unnecessary. Next, each of us tries to explain why we said what we said. Then, either my sister or I bring up a painful memory tied to the comment and attempt to unravel the thoughts and feelings…


We can only see progress by looking back, but the work gets done in the present moment

When I created a YouTube channel in May 2020, little did I know the hardest part about it would be being a beginner. At the time, I had only created one video for a job application and another for a class I took during my exchange semester in Berlin. I had never thought about the parameters that produce high quality audio. Luckily, I had used Adobe programs to edit photos and graphics. But I had never noticed that my favorite YouTubers applied advanced photo editing skills to design the thumbnails of their videos.

Quite quickly I understood that if I…


Four reasons why we may become path switchers

I vividly remember one conversation I had with my mathematics teacher right before applying to high schools in grade nine. It was Halloween and our class at the Deutsche Schule Helsinki had decided to dress up for the occasion. I came to school in an outfit that could have appeared in a Gossip Girl episode had the show’s stylist leaned more towards a goth aesthetic: a red blouse with puffy shoulders, short black flare skirt and black boots. I had painted my face white, my eyes black and my mouth to appear to have been stitched together.

So, there I…


Calm conversations with our feelings may help us look beyond our fears

Recently, I saw a Linkedin update urging me to congratulate an acquaintance of mine for his new job. My natural response should have been to, well, congratulate him by commenting on the post or simply acknowledging his feat in my mind. Instead, I noticed an unpleasant feeling, a little poke in my heart.

I could have simply continued my day without paying attention to that little poke. Pushed it into the closet of my heart without further introspection and quickly closed the door. However, in the past year I have been practicing how to feel feelings. That may seem silly…


During one of my recent workouts, I found myself staying in a plank position for a few seconds longer than I thought my body was capable of. I was approaching the end of an ab routine and the clock on the corner of the workout video was ticking down from 30 seconds: 29, 28, 27… At 16 seconds, I was ready to quit. My mind was telling me: “OK, Riikka, this is enough! I can’t go on for any longer!”. But instead of listening to the voice, I wondered what would happen if I resisted the urge to let my…


I spent a large part of 2020 under the illusion that things are supposed to be easy. I am supposed to stay fit without exercising. I am supposed to be productive without having a morning routine. I am supposed to retain my mental health without seeing any friends, getting outside at least once a day or limiting my use of social media. Essentially, I wanted what I believe every child wishes for: no rules, boundaries or routines. Little did I know it would make me miserable.

Captured on film by the author during fall 2020

For most of us, 2020 stripped away our familiar structures. The commute to the…

Riikka Iivanainen

On an adventure into my own mind and being. Trying to ask better questions.

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