Dear 2015: You Suck, I’m Moving On

Dear 2015: You have been the worst year of my life so far. I should have known that was going to be the case since you started with the death in the family of my, back then still, boyfriend. I was optimist enough to believe it could only go uphill from there. But, over the course of you, I have lost everything I have loved and let go of everything I had built for myself. Over the course of you, you have made me doubt myself in more ways and to more depths than any other year before you and there were few victories that did not come at a price.

Sure, you are the year I traveled to Hawaii, stood up on a surfboard for the first time and saw the magical fireworks show in Disneyland. You are the year I fought my fear of flying, saw my best friend twice and visited cities and states I never thought I would ever see. You are the year I got to enjoy countless breathtaking sunsets and dozens of beach walks. At your best, you are the year that made me realize, once again and this time for certain, what I want all years of my life to look like.

But you are also the year that leaves me with no certainty in any aspect of my life. You are the year that is making me start all over again. You are the year that has turned me into the ghost of a girl that I want to be most, to the shell of a girl that I used to know well… Heck, now you are even the year that makes me quote Christina Perri lyrics! You leave me incredibly scared of the future and pessimistic that things are going to get better. You leave me stranded, insecure and feeling like an idiot.

You might be the year I will look back at some day as the one that taught me the meaning of fighting, of not giving up, of growing. As the year that will pinpoint a remarkable change for the better, a year that will impact the rest of my life in hauntingly beautiful ways that I can’t even see from where I stand right now. But, until then, forgive me for hating you, for despising you and for impatiently waiting for you to be over. 2015, you suck, I’m moving on!

Dear Diary,

Today, I went through my old diaries. Jeez. I think you all should meet High-School Ari:

High School Ari was awkward. VERY awkward. Her biggest issues were having neither boobs nor a boyfriend. Naturally, both these things kept her up at night. She would use phrases like “utterly handsome” to describe Robert Pattinson (here’s to all these moments she would pause Twilight only to be able to zoom in and gaze at Robert’s face in Aaw…). She would write things like “I am really slacking in school, I’ve been bringing home nothing above a B+ lately, that needs to improve” … and actually be serious about that. She would crush on a guy for 1.5 years but he ignored her and fell in love with her best friend instead. Still, she would fill her diaries with daily entries á la: “He is still soooooooooooo …. x1.000… oooooo cute. I need to make a move soon before he has a girlfriend!” I never made a move and he never became my boyfriend.

High-School Ari would also be very self-critical and much more unhappy than I remember her to be: “I am kinda the biggest loser in class. I wish the kids would stop bullying me and actually become my friends, but that’s okay. I will get good grades and make it.”

And while I felt sorry for the 13-year-old girl who wrote those lines, I mentally high-fived her, too. Because I did achieve just that. I moved abroad, I am fluent in English. Hold and beware, I even have boobs AND a boyfriend. But these past days, I also realized that these things don’t come free to us. I began to understand the trade-offs we always have to accept when going our own ways and making life choices. I am grown up now. There’s no point denying that. As much as I would like to just stay home a little longer, spend my days playing guitar, laughing with my brothers, getting fed by my granny, drinking wine with my parents, I can’t. Because there is a life waiting for me, there’s responsibilities and people relying on me and promises.

When I was 14, all I wanted from life was to grow up and move away, show ’em that I was right focusing on grades and dreams. But now, I kinda wish I wouldn’t have let myself grow up all that quickly. I wish my biggest worries would still be boys and when I would finally get kissed. Life might have been less exciting at 14 but it was more innocent and it involved less letting go of people and places you love. We all eventually have to accept that our childhoods are over and the sooner we let that go, the faster we can grab the steering wheel again. I lucked out in many aspects of life and I don’t want to complain. But I will try my best to teach my future children the art of holding on and letting go off their childhood!


DON’T find your purpose in life!

We have all been there. Sooner or later, you will reach a point in your life where you will ask yourself why? Why am I here? Why am I studying what I am studying or working where I am working? Why am I in this relationship, in this friendship circle, in this city?
And it will all play into the big, overarching, nagging question… THE question:

What is the purpose in life?!

When people don’t find a clear answer to that, they often despair. Or they go out search for whatever can make them complete…a partner, a mission, a religion, a certain type of job maybe?
But I believe that this is a waste of time, especially in your 20ies. When you’re 20, you don’t have to have it all figured out, you shouldn’t either. Imagine how boring it would be if you knew exactly where life would be taking you, if you had it all planned out, had all questions answered. And I also believe it is that continuous search for the bigger, better things, the greater meanings to your daily being that actually prevents you from living. Here is a daring thought: What if the purpose of life is just to live. As good as you want, as much as you can. Just that. Life is not always fair, not always rational and definitely anything but predictable. It doesn’t always make sense, it will toss you around and take you on some detours.

But, as a famous quote says, life is simply lived forwards and understood backwards.

So all of you out there who search and ask and wonder…don’t!  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you shouldn’t have any ambitions or dreams or goals in your life. I am saying that, while you’re out pursuing those, you shouldn’t forget to live. Over the questions we lie awake at night, the plans we make and the paths we travel on, we need to remember to stop every once in a while and realize the distance we have already gone. Living in the moment might be a hard skill to acquire but once you do, you will be so much happier. You don’t need one overarching goal in life to be happy, you can create your own happiness. You take the good things that are in your life RIGHT NOW and you don’t let go of them, you focus on them until they become all that your life is really about.
And yes, maybe that is a naive 22-year-old speaking. Maybe I would think differently if a loved one had passed or I got fired from a job or I was seriously ill. Maybe then all I could wonder about was why this was happening to me, how I could possibly deserve such cruel punishments. As of now, however, I believe that life is enjoyed by the minute. The other day, while sitting next to my boyfriend in the car, driving past Victorian houses in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury at night, I realized that I have already gotten so much more out of my life than I could have ever hoped for as a teenager. I don’t need to know what the greater meaning of my life is, I am creating my own meaning. And that’s the thought that helps me sleep at night…

Five Things You Should Know About Job Hunting

I know. I know.

This has basically been Ari’s blog for the past months now. I’m sorry. One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging was my internship, which kept me busy basically 12 hours a day, if you count the commute and lunch break, which you can’t very well spend blogging unless you want to be known as the antisocial intern.

Well, my internship ended a few months back, but then instead of blogging, I started writing resumes and cover letters, hunting for a position that would be both a step up from interning and a step over in the creative direction, towards Indesign and away from Powerpoint, if you will. And there’s one thing I learned in the weeks that I was job hunting… it sucks.

I know some of you have gone through this, the rest of you will once you finish your studies, and unless you’re the kind of lucky genius who a) turns a student job into a permanent position immediately upon graduation, b) has already signed with Microsoft to start working at their New York office upon graduation (yes, a friend of mine managed to do this almost two years in advance) or c) is taking over your dad’s/brother’s/grandma’s business and therefore will never worry about applications… well, unless you fall into any of those categories, you’ll be networking and cover-lettering and resume-tuning until you’re dizzy and frustrated. Even if it’s only a short time (in the end, I was unemployed for exactly a month), it will feel like forever and it will most likely make you doubt if you’re EVER going to get hired. So, I decided I’d share my grand wisdom (well, okay, bits of wisdom) in the hopes that someone will feel marginally less frustrated with themselves and their career than I did. Here’s five things you have to know about job hunting for the first time:

  1. Most of your applications will be rejected. Something like 80% of applications I sent out were ignored for a few weeks before I got a brief email stating that they’d decided otherwise. From some, I still haven’t received as much as an acknowledgement that the application got there in the first place. Initially, when this happened, I’d follow up, concerned that maybe my email actually did not get there. The most I got out of that was a brief response that basically said, “Yes, your application is here, now stop whining.” I know people tell you to follow up, always, and I’m sure it doesn’t hurt, but if the company hasn’t felt like inviting you for an interview or hiring you after said interview, then a follow-up won’t change that, either. You can cry about it (I certainly did a few times) or you can accept it and move on.
  2. For every friendly HR contact, there seems to be an HR person who doesn’t give a sh*t about applicants. Don’t waste your time with those people, it’s not even worth being frustrated about. Even if that firm was interested in hiring you, what does it say about them if the people whose main responsibility is dealing with applicants are inconsiderate or even rude?
  3. Ask for feedback. If you’re rejected from a position, send an email back and tell them you’d really appreciate if they could let you know why they decided otherwise. Again, in many cases, you just won’t get a response. I once received an answer that almost verbatim said, “Dear Judith, we do not give reasons for our decisions. Sincerely, HR.” On the other hand, once my question started a conversation with the owner of a small advertising agency. He’s now a contact in my business network of choice and who knows, something good may come of that eventually.
  4. Always, always, always find out who your contact person is. This is the number one advice you’ll find when googling “How to write a good cover letter”. After writing over twenty applications and imagining how many of these PDFs a HR person goes through on a given day – well, I can sort of imagine them just throwing out any that didn’t even bother to find out their name. Additionally, sometimes, when you have to call to figure out a contact person, you end up chatting with whoever’s on the line briefly – and maybe they’ll remember you when the application comes through, or maybe they’ll even give you a more personal email address rather than the standard jobs@… . You never know! It really doesn’t take that much effort – show them that you’re willing to go that extra mile! (More like an extra yard and a half, really.)
  5. You probably won’t see it coming. I applied to several positions that I had a really good feeling about, and a few that I had a “meh” sort of attitude towards. Around application #20, I became a robot. When I finally got invited for a job interview, it was for an application I’d submitted half-awake, barely two hours before I got the response. I had really liked the job ad, but I’d felt like I was too exhausted to write anything convincing in my cover letter. Apparently, I was dead wrong – three days later I had an interview, and a week after that I started work! On the other hand, some of the applications that I sent in feeling like there couldn’t possibly anyone with a cooler cover letter and more convincing CV… I never even heard back.
    Now, a few days ago, I even got a second invitation for an interview – this time I vividly remember telling my boyfriend that the application was “the worst I’ve written so far”. I half wanted to just go to the interview to ask what exactly they saw in my cover letter!

The bottom line is: It’s a struggle, it’s tough, but you will get through it! Just don’t give up. Just keep writing. All you need is one “YES” – and it won’t matter if you got 20, 50, or 200 “NO”s before that. So… go get ’em!

The Art of Being Nice…

Maybe I should have called this post “The art of being nice while using Berlin public transportation at rush hour”, but that would have just been a very long name for a post, don’t you think?

Maybe I should have called it something deeper, like “the art of being conscious and thinking before I act”, because that is kind of more what I want to say, but it’s also quite long.

My point is, the subject of this post is very deep. With this in mind, it’s a rather short post, because it was just something I thought about on my way home without having reached a satisfying conclusion. A thought in progress, so to speak.

I was on the tram on my way home from work, and it was much more crowded than usual. I’m guessing the tram before didn’t come, so twice the amount of people had to fit into this one. I was standing pressed against the back of a girl a few years younger than me, who was with her friend. The two of them had only one subject of conversation – how annoying it was that the tram was so crowded. At one stop, when people started getting off, the girl closest to me started actually pushing away in my direction to try to give herself some space. It caused me to almost fall and push a kid of approximately 11 years out the door… and it made me pretty angry. I told her, in the nicest tone I could muster, that I’d fall out of the tram along with the kid if she kept leaning backwards. Her response was aggressive, mine irritated, it went back and forth like that twice more and then I just decided it wasn’t worth responding anymore, seeing as she’d at least stopped pushing so much. My mood was ruined at this point though, and I did feel like following up the argument and trying to “win”… because of course, by shutting up I was essentially letting her have the last word. To refrain from restarting the argument, I checked with the kid to make sure he was okay, managed to joke with a woman standing close by, and smiled, even though I didn’t really feel like it. It actually helped and three stops down the line, when I got off, I wasn’t mad anymore, just thinking what a waste of lifetime it was to let your evening be ruined by a few too many people on your tram. I wanted to say this to the girl who had lashed out at me, but I thought she’d take it as further provocation, so I shut up and just turned that thought over in my head as I walked home.

I mean, I like being nice, and I didn’t like the person I was on that tram when the girl started pushing me. I don’t like myself when I snap at people, and God knows (actually, Ari knows), I tend to do it when I’m upset, angry or just frustrated with something, which can be fairly often. A stressful day or even heartbreak is not an excuse to lash out at your best friend, and a crowded tram is not an excuse to snap at a stranger. Especially since doing it does not even make me feel better, it makes me feel worse.

So the thought processing in my head is: How does one get to the stage of awareness I was at by the end of the tram ride? Calm, knowing that none of this is big enough to have the power to ruin my day unless I let it… and then actively deciding to smile and not let it. How do I get to this point before I say something less than friendly? How can I be in this state of centered-ness consistently? And is the answer really that I have to start getting up at 5:40 like Ari to meditate myself into a more relaxed state of mind?

I have no idea – but I’m trying to find out!

Just Breathe

You may have noticed, especially in our more recent posts, that my co-author is somewhat more comfortable sharing personal stories than I am. I shy away from it not because my personal life is boring, but rather because I’ve had trouble putting myself “out there” with anything, unless I am talking to people I deeply care for and trust.

Since there aren’t so many people I have this very close and safe-feeling relationship with, these poor selected few tend to get long messages in crisis times, usually prefaced by something like “Sorry, I know you have a lot on your plate and I don’t want to bother you, but…”. If they’re close by I’ll generally just hope that they can tell something is wrong and ask about it. I then usually say that I don’t really want to talk about it, then end up talking about it for over an hour, while my poor friend is trying to say something that is different from the other fifteen times I’ve had a crisis about the exact same thing.

The problem with these mini-crises is that they tend to be about something utterly minor that builds up to a huge and scary construct in my head. It’s one of those days today. A small thing happened and my imagination has blown it out of proportion. (While I’m writing the word “small”, the panicky voice inside my head yells that it’s not that small at all… see what I mean?).

Sometimes when this happens, I get panic attacks – not severe ones, but strong enough to cause a physical reaction. I can feel my heartbeat picking up, I have trouble breathing steadily, I’m on the verge of crying (and sometimes I do cry), and more often than not, I’ll get tension headaches and shoulder or neck pains eventually. The physical reaction scares me, even though it’s nothing serious, but just the fact that something which happens purely in my mind can make my body react this way.

My usual reaction at this point is to curl up on my bed, pull the covers over my head and stay like this until my racing mind slows down. I tend to be a mess for the rest of the day, blow up at the slightest provocation or start crying uncontrollably when I drop a spoon hours later.

I don’t know what it is that I am so scared of.

Actually, that last sentence was a lie. I know exactly what I’m scared of, and why there are specific situations that trigger this panic. But like I said before, I’m hesitant about putting myself out there and I feel that this post is going out on enough of a limb without adding in my childhood stories. Suffice it to say, certain situations trigger my overactive imagination, situations which naturally occur in the life of a twenty-something with an uncertain future, a long-distance relationship, and career plans that are vague at best. These situations mostly revolve around uncertainty, and they aren’t quickly resolved, they need time – you can’t just create a career on a Wednesday night.

Right now is a bad time for a panic attack. I’m alone.

Having someone there to calm me down is incredibly helpful and often makes the worrying stop before it has time to become an actual panic. Having just me is a panic-amplifier. I’m a very analytical person, but the rational side of my brain has no chance if it doesn’t get outside support. So what else is there to do?

I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet who gets scared sometimes. I’m sure that most of you who read this have had a freak-out over a minor issue at some point in your life. Part of the reason I decided to write this was because I’m sure it will resonate with some of you.

The other part was that I was hoping by the end of it, I’d be less scared. It didn’t work this time. But over the course of the last few months, I’ve found some things that help me. Writing is one of them. Another is hot showers. Really long, hot showers are possibly one of the best methods of releasing stress (and I know, I feel bad about long showers, too, but I don’t do this all the time, just when I really need it). And last but not least… breathe. Long, slow, deep breaths. And remember, this too shall pass.

Our Blog is Growing Up!

If you’ve been following us for a while, you might have very recently noticed that we gave the blog a complete makeover… we think it looks so much more grown up and professional now, and it’s much more “us”. So don’t be confused, you came to the right place – but we’re growing up, and so is our blog. After all, it’ll turn one and a half in October!