“Comparison is the thief of joy”

– Mark Twain.

A conversation I’ve recently had with my boyfriend, made me reflect a little on my life aspirations. I grew up in a family where the absence of money was always an issue, I saw how my parents really struggled to get us by and how it wore both of them down. Because of that, I was taught from early on to look at friends whose parents had more money and to understand that their families were happier than mine because of that.

And that’s what growing up entails! We all have experienced things in our childhood that put us down in some way or another and that have shaped our aspirations. Some of us want to earn a lot of money because we didn’t have any growing up, some of us want to break free and travel around the world because we’re sick of our parents telling us what to do with our lives. Some of us are put down by our skin color, through subconscious discrimination; boys by locker room conversations, girls by pictures in magazines.

So we become insecure, which leads to viewing ourselves in terms of others—their accomplishments and habits, their wealth and their happiness. We compare.

Well, let’s compare. On social media, I post about traveling to Hawaii for business or instagram a picture of a “casual Friday night team outing” where me and my colleagues just have a blast. Or that birthday party in that hip beach bar where we all look young and successful and accomplished. From the outside, it probably looks like my whole life is just one hell of an opportunity- I have my own company credit card, am traveling for business, am being forecasted a managerial position in the medium run. If others compared themselves to me based on the above, the conclusion might be that I am on a promising career path and very lucky. When I compare myself to others, I see them being happier, more fulfilled and more excited about their jobs and I get jealous.

I am starting to realize though that I can’t compare myself to others because: I’m not them. I don’t have their mind or experiences or life, so why should I care if I’m earning just as much money as them or wear the same clothes they have? Why should I envy them for being passionate about their jobs, for having projects that are a matter of heart not money, for living in the moment? The spectrum of my perception, experience and existence should begin and end with me. It shouldn’t matter what others do or what they have.

Sure, others have more advantages or opportunities than you, but that’s their life, and it doesn’t apply to yours. Sure, your life could be better, but anyone’s life could be better. And even more than that, things could be worse.

And so, instead of looking around me to make sure I’m “on track for the career” I should focus on maximizing my situation, and what I have been given in life.

Finally, on the question of the people you are jealous of—do they suffer? Are they happy? Everyone suffers. No one is perfect. Everyone loses both parents. Everyone sees something they worked towards fail. Living is going through pain. Everyone’s life is simply normal to them, and full of both happy moments and sad ones. We need to remember though that we are behind the wheel. Where we go, how fast we go and what route we take to get there doesn’t matter, as long as we go! And I’m gonna try to do just that, instead of complaining about not being where I want to be while everyone around me seems to.

 

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Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

Everyone Else’s Story

The following are aimless philosophical ramblings. No actual point is being made.

That being said: do you ever wonder about everyone else’s story?

I’m writing this on a semi-crowded train taking me from a Bavarian town straight to my new home in the North of Germany. Six and a half hours between the place where I taught a seminar and the place I will call home, forty square meters in beautiful Hamburg, shared with the man I love and (for the time being) quite a lot of cardboard boxes.

I’m twenty-four and I’m in love – with this guy, with a city I’ve only ever visited for weekends, with the steady movement of the train and with this moment in my life.

I can’t help but wonder: what’s everyone else’s story? If you could measure the emotion in this train car, what would you find? At first glance, most of the people surrounding me look bored. But would boredom really be the prevailing feeling you’d find? I doubt it. I’m sure I look bored to those around me, sitting cross-legged in a reclined window seat, typing away on my laptop. Maybe I am a little, intermittently. But much more than that, I am excited, ecstatic, happy, nervous, joyful and a little baffled at how amazing this sequence of events has been.

passengers on train by OTFO on Flickr

passengers on a train (by OFTO on Flickr)

So what about the guy across the aisle with the band-aid on this right thumb, swiping backwards, forwards, up and down on his cell phone? He’s dressed casually, has a small suitcase with him, slight frown on his face. Looks like he’s reading something – sometimes he’ll use two fingers to zoom in on the screen. He looks bored, too. But what if he’s just distracting himself? It’s a Monday evening, so maybe he’s heading home from a long weekend that he spent in the city his long-distance girlfriend lives in. Or boyfriend, actually, maybe. No, probably girlfriend. In that case, would he be a bit sad, maybe, to have to leave? They might have had a fight and he’s somewhere between relief and frustration. They might have gotten engaged, and he’s still trying to process the fact that she said yes. It might have been a Monday work trip, though, too. He might just be tired. Nothing much may be happening in his life right now – or everything.

I won’t know – and I won’t know what brought that couple sharing a newspaper, or the woman with the bright yellow book, on this particular train. Neither will they ever know just how excited I am. That I’m moving, right now, and for the first time in years, moving somewhere I plan on staying indefinitely. I don’t know if they’d care, either. I’d find it interesting, right now, to know what they’re up to – but it wouldn’t touch my life beyond tonight, so in the end, it will not matter to me.

And still, sitting here and letting my eyes wander around the train car, I can’t help but marvel at the unknown stories, the biographies, the tragedies and comedies around me that I will never know. The stories behind these random faces. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around just how MUCH is going on in a single train car, let alone the whole world, at any given point in time. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing to think about?

Guess whose birthday it is?

Today, the sun is shining in Berlin and the leaves have millions of different colours. It’s a gorgeous October day, surprisingly warm, and I’m happy.

I’m also a bit sad, because this is my co-author’s and best friend’s birthday and I can’t celebrate with her. So I had to come up with something else… and I decided on this blog post. After all, this blog is really our baby, our project, and I’m so happy we really started it after only talking about it for so long. When I think of her, the blog almost immediately comes to mind, so what better way to say happy birthday than with a blog post?

Of course, just saying happy birthday would be lame. So in honor of her 22nd birthday, here are 22 reasons why Ari is the coolest person in the universe and the bestest friend ever (yes, I KNOW that’s not a word).

  1. She’s the kindest person I know, and she always looks out for everyone else before she worries about herself.

  2. She’s got style. Lots of style.

  3. We’re usually the same dress size – can you imagine how cool it was to be roommates?

  4. When the sun comes out in spring, she basically overflows with excitement, it’s the cutest thing ever. It’s impossible not to be happy around her then – she can’t contain herself at all, and it rubs off on everyone else.

  5. She trusts me even when she’s worried I might judge her for something she tells me. The fact that she still opens up then means the world to me, and the fact that I can do the same makes her one of the most important people in my life.

  6. She does amazing hairstyles – and eye makeup!

  7. Getting ready for parties with her is usually even more fun than the actual party.

  8. She gets so enthusiastic about things – not just spring, but also TV shows or theater.

  9. Speaking of which, she’s a really talented actress. I’m not saying that because I have to support her as a friend, I’m saying it because it’s really true. So much comic talent.

  10. She makes me come out of my shell, not worry so much about embarrassing myself by doing really ridiculously random things, such as spontaneously dancing “Call Me Maybe” when there are at least 20 people around who might think that’s stupid. Who cares? Thanks, Ari 🙂

  11. She saved my ass by modelling for a photo shoot I had to do for class. I don’t know how I would have gotten that assignment done without her!

  12. She can walk even in the highest heels. I think it’s awesome, because it kind of forces me to wear heels as well sometimes in order to avoid looking like a dwarf. And then, of course, I look good. So that’s a great side effect.

  13. She’s the best study buddy ever. We can be super productive if we have to, and super unproductive if we don’t really care. Either way, study sessions usually involve instant noodles, diet coke and pringles. Oh, sometimes I miss college life!

  14. She is also the best Starbucks buddy in the world.

  15. And the best running buddy / motivator. I would have never done a 5k if it wasn’t for you!

  16. She makes the coolest birthday presents and surprises. Sorry, Ari, I know this one can’t really keep up with the video, or the whole “Day in Hamburg and surprise Bavarian food afterwards” thing (credit goes to the triplets as well for this). I promise, though, should we be in the same country again, I will organize something epic. And I mean truly epic.

  17. She doesn’t judge. Ever. I do some really dumb things (more so in the past but I still do). This goes with what I said about trust above, but it’s also who she is as a person. She doesn’t judge people easily. Unless they hate New York, then sorry, she WILL be judging.

  18. She’s not afraid to set me straight if I’m doing the above mentioned dumb things. She knows when to leave me to do what I feel like, even if it’s stupid, and when to actually sit me down and give me a serious no-nonsense talk.

  19. She’s the only person in the world to ever talk me into rapping for a class assignment.

  20. She ran to the store with me through a rainstorm, laughing the entire time. We came back soaked to the bones and water dripping from our clothes to the floor… it was the best thing ever.

  21. Germany’s Next Topmodel! We need to find a way to watch that together still, even if we’re so far apart. Also, that song we both spontaneously loved and that got stuck in my head from the show… aptly called “Stuck” (by Caro Emerald, if you’re interested).

  22. Because I got to #22 without having to pause and try to come up with more stuff. And because I’m sure there are a million reasons that I haven’t even mentioned yet. So I’ll just stop here, but please don’t take that to mean these are the only 22 reasons why Ari’s awesome.

 

So, Ariane, from halfway across the world – happy birthday!!

 

Summer Strawberry Happiness

Summertime!

31°C and sunshine in Bavaria. I’m loving it.

Also, I might have just gone a bit crazy in the supermarket and bought a bit over a kilo of strawberries… and then I might have just eaten about a third of those in ten minutes…

Just saying, strawberries are the best thing about summer!

strawberries summer happiness

I should actually check out some strawberry recipes for you guys, now that I think about it. Stay tuned, I’m on it!

– J.

“Love is a growing up.”

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

This quote by James Baldwin is enough to make me want to read everything the man ever wrote. It’s been my Skype status for months now. I used to change that status every time I found a new quote I liked. The fact is, I haven’t found anything that rings more true for me than these words.

Love is a growing up.

In the last year or so, I’ve grown more than I can even begin to explain. I recently celebrated the first anniversary of a relationship that has changed my life in every imaginable way. And no, it was not easy. It wasn’t Hollywood, although it began kind of like the plot for a romantic comedy. You might say, how disappointing that it didn’t continue that way, but really, when the movie-feeling stopped, the real amazingness only began.

I know there are no guarantees for anything in life, but as uncertain as the future may be, I am absolutely sure of one thing: What I learned in this past year I wouldn’t have learned alone. It’s true you should be able to live and be happy by yourself, but you do need people to come into your life and shake things up, so that whether they leave or stay, you’ve changed and grown. Before this year, I was pretty convinced that I was not really the type who had relationships. I was never sure why that was, but it was sort of a fact of life that I did not question very much. You can imagine how much it took me by surprise when someone basically fell from the sky and wanted to stay – and for that to be someone I actually wanted to be with, too! I spent the first few months in utter confusion and disbelief.

Recently, as we celebrated our first anniversary on Skype (yes, long-distance is ANNOYING), I realized that my disbelief has never quite gone away. Sometimes I still expect to wake up and have dreamed this entire relationship. Sometimes, I wait for my house of cards to crash, not quite sure I can accept the fact that someone glued the cards together in these last few months. Sometimes I’m just plain scared. And then yes, love is a battle, not so much with the other person, but with your own demons and insecurities and fears.

But it’s also a growing up. And it helps me to remember – whatever happens, I’m a different person today than I was last year, and I dare say, a calmer and happier person. That alone is worth battling some demons on the nights I can’t sleep…